In one of the more extraordinary appearances an elected official in the Tampa Bay area has conducted with the public in the past decade, Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern addressed between 120-150 members of the Occupy Tampa movement Wednesday night for over an hour near the new epicenter of the movement, Curtis Hixon Park.
The event, which occurred between 7:10 and 8:20 p.m., took place inside the waterfront arena in Kiley Gardens, just south of the park.
Accompanied only by Kelly Benjamin (who ran unsuccessfully for Council earlier this year and says he is now offering media support and acting as a liaison with the city government), Mulhern began by informing the audience that her job as a council member is to uphold the laws and the Constitution of the U.S., which meant she supported the activists peacefully assembling, but also said that her job means she agreed to uphold the laws of the city of Tampa.
Over the course of the next hour, some in the audience remarked that she was favoring the latter over the former.
For the first few weeks of activism in Lykes Gaslight Park and now Curtis Hixon Park, the protesters and the Tampa Police had gotten along relatively smoothly. But with those activists now being allowed to sleep overnight on the sidewalk at Curtis Hixon, they say the Police have been harassing them in the early morning hours, while police officials say they are trying to balance their concerns with those who live and work in the area.
Because of that tension, on Monday Benjamin asked Mulhern if she would address the group. Mulhern said she would, but had hoped to be accompanied by a member of the TPD as well as the city's legal department. But she told the crowd Wednesday night that both departments had declined to join her.