Big changes in Buckhorn's "Clean Zone" ordinance, starting with the name

In addition to the "clean zone," activists have complained about their requests for permits to march during the RNC, saying such requests have been slow-walked by city staff.


The new rules state that for parades that will take place on city sidewalks (that obey traffic signals), permits will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. The parades can now last 90 minutes, as opposed to the original limit of 60 minutes. Some council members said they thought the limit should be at least 90 minutes with flexibility to go longer. And that permit will no longer cost $50, but will now be free, with no insurance or indemnification required.


As far as protests inside the Event Zone, the new rules now say there will be a lottery process when the city receives more than one application to protest in city parks inside the Event Zone (such as Lykes Gaslight and Curtis Hixon Park). On June 11, the city will take applications for such permits, and on June 15, a lottery will take place for conflicts regarding specific parks and specific times. And there will be no time limits for such protests, as opposed to the original 60-minute limit that Mayor Bob Buckhorn said was intended to allow more groups to protest, and not to stifle groups with such a specific time limit.


The Event Zone's borders have been reduced. The western edge will now no longer go all the way out to Rome Avenue, but instead will close off on North Boulevard. Instead of the northern boundaries ending up on Columbus, they have been reduced a few blocks to run alongside I-275/I-4, as Councilman Frank Reddick had requested.


The eastern border that closed off at East 22nd Avenue in Ybor City remains the same. The southern border is now Seddon Channel and Hillsborough Bay ? which means Harbour Island and Davis Island are no longer inside those borders.


Regarding prohibited items in the entire city, which the new ordinance emphasizes applies to public property (meaning you won't be arrested in your home for having some of these items listed), the items listed below will be banned when the person owning them "has the intent to cause injury, harm or damage to another person or property."


They include: Aerosol cans; wood that is 1/4 inch or greater in thickness and 2 inches or greater in width and not filled with any liquid or metal; hard plastic that is 3/4 inch or greater at its thickness dimension and 1/8 inch or greater in wall thickness and is not filled any liquid or material; containers filled with bodily fluids; containers filled with liquid or gas; projectile launchers and devices capable of spraying and setting un-permitted fires.


In the Event Zone, items which apply only to public property and with no intent requirement include ropes and chains with tensile strength greater than 30 pounds and longer than 6 inches; frangible containers (such as glass bottles or light bulbs); portable shields; gas masks (not including oxygen masks).


In the Public Viewing Area, which will be the designated "Free speech zone" where protesters will demonstrate, coolers and ice chests, fireworks, lasers, non plastic containers, camping gear, weapons (such as metal knuckles but not guns of course), sticks, ladders, tripods and umbrellas with metal tips and "other items that present a clear and present danger" will all be banned. It should be noted that the city has yet to announce where that area will be - and probably won't announce it until the perimeter is establishing separating those who are credentialed to get inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum. That isn't scheduled to happen until June.


There will be no camping on public property, nor will climbing or rappelling be allowed on trees, buildings and bridges.


Will the changes be enough to get four votes on Council? A betting man would say yes, considering that councilmembers Mike Suarez and Charlie Miranda never publicly criticized the original rules. Reddick, Yolie Capin, Mary Mulhern, Lisa Montelione and Harry Cohen all did to some extent.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and his legal staff were surely not surprised when his announced rules for those intent on protesting at this summer's Republican National Convention were met with strong opposition from activists in the Bay area.

But that opposition stretched out way beyond a handful of activists. The more establishment editorial board of the the Tampa Bay Times also criticized the ordinance, giving cover for some City Council members perhaps uncertain how strongly to oppose the mayor.

In the aftermath of the Council's public opposition on April 5, negotiations between the City of Tampa's legal staff and members of the City Council have been so extensive that the revised ordinance will now come before the Council on May 3, some four weeks after several council members said they could not support what the Buckhorn administration was calling its rules inside the "clean zone."

Those issues included even the name of the "clean zone," which some critics said was a way of marginalizing those who intend on publicly dissenting. It's now called the "event zone."

Those items and more have now been addressed in a proposed new ordinance from the city's legal department issued to City Council members on Monday.

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