For RNC, Tampa Bay area law enforcement learn lessons from NATO Summit clash in Chicago

Tampa Bay law enforcement visit Chicago protests

TAMPA - Thirty-thousand protesters rallied in the streets of downtown Chicago during the NATO Summit.  Nestled in that crowd of mostly peaceful protesters, was a coalition of Tampa Bay law enforcement.

"Gave us an opportunity to see what will work and what may not work here," said Larry McKinnon with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

McKinnon shared his account of a boiling point confrontation between Chicago Police and the few who decided to break the law.

He says most demonstrators moved out when police started to clear the streets, except for one group.

"What was finally left over were the true hard core anarchists that just refused to obey any orders. When the Chicago PD went in to move them, they were literally breaking the signs off the end of their sticks and you could see them, if you were up close, jabbing them in the legs," said McKinnon.

Some demonstrators threw bottles, paint and hoisted crowd control barriers at police. Four officers were hurt. Protesters were too.

Tampa Police Assistant Chief John Bennett was there preparing for what the Republican National Convention may bring to Tampa.

"I think in the end its going to come down to their actions. Whether you're from Europe, Canada, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Missouri, it's how you act in the end that you'll be dealt with," Bennett said.

Jared Hamil with the Coalition to March on the RNC was also in Chicago when police tried to clear the streets after a rally.  He says police officers in riot gear incited confrontation.

"We didn't see any violence whatsoever from the protestors during the rally or the march until the police decided to show up and force people to leave," he said.

Hamil filed permits with the City of Tampa to protest in August.  He says they will protest peacefully.

But Tampa Bay law enforcement says there will be a handful who won't.

"Unfortunately, its unavoidable sometimes and it's going to happen here," said McKinnon.

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