Are Tampa Police taking note of legal settlements from last RNC?

A blog posted by Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, both producers for the Pacifica Radio program Democracy Now. That show's host, Amy Goodman, was also locked up.


Abdel Kouddous writes:


We hope this settlement acts as a warning to police departments across the nation to stop arresting journalists and, more broadly, that it sends a strong message to police that they cannot act with impunity in their dealings with peaceful protesters and individuals exercising their First Amendment Rights to document their actions.


The three Democracy Now producers and host were among the dozens of journalists that were apprehended by the Secret Service and local police around the RNC in 2008.


A lawsuit settled earlier this year between three activists in Minnesota who sued the city of St. Paul and the federal government for being detained in advance of the convention resulted in a $50,000 for those activists.


Another lawsuit saw six activists receive a $27,000 settlement after the Ramsey County Sheriff's department raiding three homes in Minneapolis and a protest-organizing headquarters in St. Paul, officers seized literature, pamphlets, buttons, leaflets and books that were constitutionally protected.


Tampa resident Kelly Benjamin, a city council candidate earlier this year, was working as a reporter at the 2008 RNC in St. Paul and says he was arrested for no reason in the same parking lot location as Amy Goodman. He tells CL his case has been filed but not yet been heard, and there have been no settlements offers as of yet. (UPDATE: Benjamin wrote to tell us that all charges were dropped against him in St. Paul).


Meanwhile, back to the Occupy Tampa event scheduled for Thursday in Lykes Gaslight Park. You can watch the aforementioned video below, but note what one member who says he's affiliated with Occupy Tampa writes directly underneath the video:


OCCUPY TAMPA DOES NOT SUPPORT THREATS TO THE TPD. TPD HAS SO FAR SHOWN ABSOLUTELY NO AGGRESSION. OCCUPY TAMPA AS A WHOLE DOES NOT SUPPORT THIS MESSAGE. THERE IS NO WAR! THERE IS ONLY PEACEFUL PROTEST! THOSE OF US IN THE ADMIN OF OCCUPY TAMPA WISH EVERYONE TO KNOW THAT WE DO NOT SUPPORT ANY MESSAGE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST ANYONE< MOST ESPECIALLY THE 99% PRESENT IN THE TPD!


  • Demonstrators arrested at RNC in St. Paul in 2008

Leave it to the St. Pete Times to miss a major social activist event, and then lead a story about the next scheduled protest by highlighting an anonymously posted YouTube video about a "threat" to the Tampa Police Department (a threat discounted by an actual member of the group leading the protest deeper in the story, we should add).

That's how it rolls with the establishment press in Tampa. But while CL was there on Saturday to cover the Occupy Tampa event, we're hoping as the city prepares for the thousands of protesters coming to town next year for the Republican National Convention, that they're monitoring some of the financial sums that law enforcement agencies are paying to individuals for their actions at the last such convention in St. Paul.

There were lots of arrests at that RNC, and you can't go too far these days when talking to Tampa officials about protesters descending into town when the RNC hits the Cigar City next August without hearing the word "anarchist" invoked.

No doubt there have been a minor subset of activists intent on destroying property or bent on committing violence at previous events like the RNC, and law enforcement must prepare for the worst, but that's all that seems to be the message coming from Mayor Bob Buckhorn on down to city staffers when addressing the issue.

On Monday it was learned that three reporters who had been suing the St. Paul and Minneapolis Police, as well as the Secret Service, for wrongful arrest at the 2008 RNC, reached a settlement that includes $100,000 in compensation paid by those law enforcement agencies.

The settlement also includes an agreement by the St. Paul police department to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public with respect to police operations, including proper procedures for dealing with the press covering demonstrations.

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