Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione meets with 3 Occupy Tampa protesters

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One of the activists' central complaints for weeks has been about the confiscation of items by the police, and according to one of organization's websites, that exact problem occurred again just hours after the meeting ended.

When Assistant Chief of Operations John Bennett from the Tampa Police Department addressed the City Council last week, he said that relations were very healthy between local law enforcement and the activists, something Occupy Tampa activists vehemently disagreed with then, and still do now.

"They're making it as difficult as they can be for us while we're out there, while they're smiling and telling the rest of the world, 'we support them, we're bending over backwards for them.' It's a two-faced statement. They're trying to screw us so that we can get tired and break and go home, " said Kovanis.

The activists said they were hoping to have a list of the actual codes that police site about what's illegal in the park for their own good. The Councilwoman alerted them to a website where they can access such information.

Skyler Winslow asked Montelione earnestly what the process would be for the group to set up a "free-speech zone" in downtown Tampa. She responded that because of the Republican National Convention approaching next year, such codes were in the process of being changed right now. Winslow said he had heard that such a zone was going to be based outside of the downtown area, but admitted that it was only a rumor that he had heard floated.

"You hear a lot of things, but the truth is we're waiting for the Secret Service to tell us where the boundaries are," Montelione responded, referring to the foot-print of what will be off-limits to non convention goers in the last week of August next year, when the RNC begins.

Changing gears, the Councilwoman then that she definitely was on the same page with the protesters about their message, at least. "The message of the 99 percent is something that has resonated with a lot of us, " she said, adding that she believes that the activists might think that public officials don't qualify under that category, or are part of that "One percent," that the Occupy movement has been targeting. But she said that definitely was not the case when it comes to her.

Montelione tried to find common ground with the three activists, saying that in both cases it's about trying to concentrate on the few things that they can actively have influence over. She said she has decided that for her, it's about trying to help small businesses and other folks get jobs. She added that she's found she's had to pick and choose what items to try to push on Council, and urged the activists to think in a similar way.

Kovanis said that's exactly what Occupy Tampa is trying to do. "But we need a base where we can meet and have people come in, and join the work groups and talk, as opposed to just come on the sidewalk."

Montelione said groups meet all over the Bay area to discuss issues, sometimes in public libraries. But that's not where Occupy Tampa is going to go. "We can't occupy a library, " Collins replied.

"But I thought we weren't talking about occupying a place?" Montelione responded. "We are talking about where it's conducive to have a conversation to discuss issues." She said she thought the point has come for the activists to decide what's more important. "You have to focus," she told them.

The activists said they would like to meet with Mayor Buckhorn. Montelione wished them well on that quest, and did say she'd be happy to meet with them again for a dialogue.

Councilwoman Montelione in conference room with Occupy activists
  • Councilwoman Montelione in conference room with Occupy activists

Three members of the Occupy Tampa movement met Monday morning with City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione for approximately half an hour to discuss some of the grievances they have with the police and elected officials regarding their protest movement.

The meeting, originally scheduled shortly after 10 a.m., appeared to have been canceled when none of the members showed up at the local official's office. But after this reporter walked over to Curtis Hixon Park and asked if some of the protesters were aware that a meeting had been scheduled, three members of the group - Pepe Kovanis, Skyler Winslow and Seth Collins - then walked the few blocks from Ashley Drive to City Hall to meet up with Montelione.

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