TAMPA - At the end of the third day of the Republican National Convention, a lot of people are asking, “What happened to the predictions of massive protests and the threats of disruptions to the convention?”
Protest numbers are far fewer than expected. Monday, a day when the RNC cancelled most events, had the biggest protests, but even the largest protest that day had only about 500 people.
During the entire week, only three arrests have been in relation to the RNC, according to Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, and only one took place during a protest. I-Team Investigator Michael George asked Chief Castor why the large protests predicted seemed to have fizzled out.
On Wednesday, most protests downtown consisted of fewer than 10 people. Protesters were far outnumbered by law enforcement.
Rick Bishop, holding a sign protesting the GOP, stood alone on the sidewalk for hours.
“I’m surprised that there aren’t more people. I think that it’s actually a sad commentary on people being lazy and complacent on expressing their views,” Bishop said.
Concerns over Hurricane Isaac and the rain and winds on Monday discouraged many protesters from showing up. But some believe the huge show of force by law enforcement may have scared off any potential troublemakers.
On nearly every block in downtown Tampa, you’ll find officers in groups of a dozen or more, on foot, bike, or horseback. That visibility is intentional.
“That’s what we wanted to show, was that the officers were downtown and were available,” Chief Castor said.
Chief Castor credits law enforcement for keeping things peaceful. She says they’re communicating with protesters, letting them get their message out without causing disruptions. But she is aware someone may try to cause trouble before the convention ends at midnight on Thursday.
“Nobody’s high-fiving anyone in the end zone yet. We’re not done. So far everything has gone very well. We don’t anticipate that it’s going to go any differently, but we’re prepared,” Chief Castor said.
Protesters also point out they’ve worked to keep their demonstrations peaceful all week.
Of course, there are still many protests planned for Thursday, the final day of the convention.
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Last week, the I-Team was there when 99-year-old Willi Berchau was released from Florida's guardianship program after a three year court battle.