For Tampa Police, illegally shutting down a street is perfectly fine, but only if you ‘Back the Blue’

Some get rubber bullets and pepper spray, others get tweets saying "thanks for the support."

click to enlarge For Tampa Police, illegally shutting down a street is perfectly fine, but only if you ‘Back the Blue’
Photo by Ray Roa

It’s now abundantly clear that if you illegally shut down a street in downtown Tampa and vandalize it in praise of local law enforcement, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you shut down a street and call for police reform, you’ll be met with pepper spray and rubber bullets. 

Yesterday, it was discovered that a group of “patriots” shut down a street directly in front of the downtown Tampa Police Department headquarters to create what they called “America’s first ‘Back The Blue’ mural.” While the group did submit a permit, city spokesperson Ashley Bauman told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that that the application had not been approved.

In a Monday afternoon statement sent to CL, Mayor Jane Castor said, “Any tribute to honor their service is welcome. It’s unfortunate they didn’t see the permitting process through so that our community could participate in showing their appreciation for the brave men and women that service our residents every day.”

One of the mural organizers, Kristen Krutz, even told the Tampa Bay Times that they knew the mural didn’t have a permit, but decided to go through with it anyway because Tampa has Black Lives Matter murals “all over the city.” 

“The reason why we decided to proceed without a permit is because Black Lives Matter has murals all over the city that say Black Lives Matter, and they were not permitted,” Krutz said to the paper. 

The only thing is, this is not true. Tampa’s BLM murals were in fact approved by the city, and they were part of Castor’s Art on the Block program

So, in other words, a crowd of people broke the law, and shut down a street directly in front of police headquarters to not only show support for TPD, but to protest Black Lives Matter protesters. 

The fact that the mural’s creator’s are now admitting that the “art” was born out of conflict should really tell you something. If the primary reason for the mural wasn’t to support law enforcement, and instead was to counter the idea that supporting Black people is not something they can stomach, then we may have just stumbled on the perfect metaphor for the entire “Back the Blue” movement. 

On one hand, a sloppy movement deserves sloppy art. The mural has been widely roasted on social media, mostly for its total inability to understand what it even says. Comedian Patton Oswalt even chimed in saying " Are you kidding! That looks great! I will always "Blrbk the Blub." 

But the most telling thing about this whole ordeal is that the Tampa Police Department has literally attacked protesters for shutting down streets and intersections.

Back on June 4, Tampa Police officers clashed with protesters, who they claimed were blocking traffic and attempting to access the highway (though protesters say this is false). Photos and video from that day show TPD firing pepper spray and rubber bullets. The Tampa Police Department also justified a violent arrest of a minor, because she was “wielding an umbrella.” 

There’s also that time on June 27, when a protester was hit by a car in South Tampa, and then actually arrested by TPD

Then, of course, there’s July 4, when a group of roughly 100 protesters marched down Dale Mabry, temporarily shutting down traffic. The Tampa Police Department said they targeted  “organizers and leaders of the protest,” after several warnings to disperse. But a video that surfaced a couple weeks later shows officers violently attacking protesters without provocation. 

These are just a few examples of the Tampa Police Department’s seemingly endless stream of accusations of excessive force, specifically against Black Lives Matter demonstrators and specifically aimed at protesters illegally shutting down streets. 

CL asked the mayor's office about protesters' concerns regarding the treatment of the Back the Blue mural crew, and we also asked about what happens to the mural now, especially since many have pointed out that it probably violates mural requirements in the way that it covers traffic markings.

Some have even suggested that the act of stopping traffic to paint an un-permitted mural could be criminal mischief.

Seems like the criminal charges for painting the mural are probably out of Castor's hands, but folks are pointing out that what happened with the mural might be considered criminal mischief. (806.13. Criminal mischief—"3. If the damage is $1,000 or greater, or if there is interruption or impairment of a business operation or public communication, transportation, supply of water, gas or power, or other public service which costs $1,000 or more in labor and supplies to restore, it is a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.")

We also asked Castor if charges will be pursued, and we'll update this post if Castor's office returns our email.

However, at this point, it’s not hard to understand that when a large crowd of “Back the Blue” supporters illegally shut down a street directly in front of a building with more cops per square inch than anywhere else in the city, that they could do so without question or confrontation.

So, what would happen if Black Lives Matter protesters did the same thing? Unfortunately, we already know the answer. 

We also already know that Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan is a liar, but this is worse.

Now we know that the rule of law only applies to people he doesn’t like. Some get rubber bullets and pepper spray, others get tweets saying "thanks for the support." 

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About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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