We are calling on the officials of the City of Tampa to deescalate the militaristic buildup being outlined in the Green Zone Ordinance.
The American government too often addresses concerns, situations and conflicts of any scale with a great use of force. Whether it’s a dictator who is given 24 hours to leave his country or sending in a swat team to serve a warrant, elected officials and authorities we place in power use force first; diplomacy if used at all often comes in second.
Instead of using the leadership and diplomacy officials are elected to carry out, we find premature escalation. Situations are escalated before exhausting other means that may not only deescalate the situation, but could attempt to address the root issues and perhaps evolve our discourse towards a workable solution.
This use of premature escalation finds its way into local governments no different from the military following orders from the federal government. And after a decade of sustained war the use of a Green Zone, found in the militarized war zones of countries we invade, has found its way into the everyday life of the American Citizen.
Why do we find our elected officials exploring the use of tactics only found in countries with despotic governments and war zones? Why has not one of them come forward to deescalate the situation? Where are our leaders? We know he was not found at Curtis Hixon park spouting words of Martin Luther King Jr. while pushing an ordinance that strikes at the heart of what King died for.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) wrote a very thorough letter urging Tampa’s City Council to reconsider the way in which it proposed sacrificing freedom for security, which has actually been the proven cause of the majority of conflict at National Special Security Events such as the Republican National Convention. It was misquoted by Council Member Cohen claiming the NLG called the local government “ill‐informed.” It actually stated that it hoped Tampa would not follow the ill‐informed past local governments who pass similar legislation: “In case after case, the NLG has documented problems resulting from aggressive policing, supported by ill‐informed local governments, of peaceful mass assemblies.” We urge Tampa City Council to reread the NLG’s letter and see it for what it is, an attempt to have the City of Tampa write this ordinance correctly. And be reminded that the NLG has successfully sued many of the past local governments over crimes they committed at these National Special Security Events.
In a country that claims to be democratic and touts freedom and the protection of its people, still no one has come out to deescalate the situation. Why is this? The draft ordinance, written to establish a Green Zone in a democratic city, fosters violence against its people. It escalates the situation months before the event itself.
And the duty we have as free people, is to match the level of escalation of our government (not initiate it). Let us be clear, as has been widely documented at all the previous National Special Security Events: The people do not initiate the escalation of the situation. They match it. We cannot and will not back down from assaults on our fundamental rights.
We urge at least one of our elected officials to come to their senses and deescalate this situation. Rewrite this ordinance to be one that is a beacon of democracy and used as a new model in National Special Security Events planning, as opposed to the Miami Model, a model synonymous with Police State.
What will the Tampa Model be described as in September?
We urge you to deescalate.
The revisions to the draft Green Zone ordinance is a start. We understand there are logistical issues that need to be addressed and some form of ordinance will be necessary in a system such as ours to manage the function of the city. That is where the scope of the ordinance should end.
We are opposed to the continued existence of a Green Zone. Sure the name changed and some details of its character altered. However it misses completely the fact that it attempts to legalize and legitimize a pre-emptive assault on our fundamental rights. Rights we are born with. All items that “could” be used as a weapon only become one in the act of a crime itself, not before. Yet the ordinance claims to give law enforcement special powers of reading the future to determine if someone has the prior “intent” to do harm.
What is lacking in our current legal framework that does not already outline what is unacceptable, dangerous and unlawful behavior that requires a full attack on our civil liberties? If someone wishes to smash a window, or pee into a water gun and squirt it on someone, is that not already defined in our current laws as illegal? Bob Buckhorn himself declared that 99.9% of the people will be demonstrating peacefully. So why do we need such drastic laws to protect us from the .1%, or the 30 or so people whom the City seems to be so fearful of? Is $50,000,000 worth of security measures not enough for 30 people that we also need to eradicate the rights of the remaining 29,970 innocent people looking exercise their first amendment rights and subjecting them to the brutality of law enforcement?
Are 4000 law enforcement officers and 1700 national guard not enough for two and a half dozen potentially harmful people? Is it required that a Green Zone be established, along with a new uniform for law enforcement comprised of desert colors? Is it not clear that we are bringing the war on terror home? Is it not clear the problem is created by poor legislation itself?
We are concerned more with the violence that the law enforcement bring to events such as this, which is not being addressed. Out of 5700 “troops”, we know that 10% of them are looking for trouble and will engage the protesters unprovoked, and 10% of those will cross the line to attack innocent people, and of those 10% will not be controllable and are a serious threat to our safety. Those 5 or 6 officers will seriously injure or possible kill someone at the RNC in August.
Law enforcement will do this regardless of the ordinance. They have done it at an escalating rate for all of the recent National Special Security Events, and we know that law enforcement from surrounding cities are being instructed by the Tampa Police Department during training exercises for the RNC that they (and we quote), “will be protected if they crack skulls and the funds were ready to defend them.”
What are the people supposed to do to protect themselves? All defensive measures are being outlawed in this ordinance. The people have the right to defend themselves from their government, especially when laws are being crafted in advance that are designed to threaten their welfare. The people should and will bring gas masks and other tools required to protect themselves. That right is non-negotiable and we will not allow it to be written away.
And if attacks on the First Amendment were not enough, the Second is now under attack. Our second protects our first, and we will not back up; we will not stand down. We will not give up our rights for 1 minute much less 4 days.
The City of Tampa invited the Republican Party to our city for their convention. The GOP is renting our forum and our convention center. Why do they get our City Council, our law enforcement and our streets? They can peacefully assemble in the building they rent. They don’t rent the town. We pay for it, we work in it, we play in it and we live in it. We will not give it away, that is ours.
Response to City Council regarding first passing of the RNC Ordinance
The passing of the first vote of the current version of the RNC Ordinance still includes the establishment of a Green Zone. It does not matter the name you give it: Event Zone, Clean Zone, Public Viewing Area, Free Speech Zone, etc. You are establishing by all definitions a militarized Green Zone. Whether temporary or permanent, this is a serious threat to our democracy. And we are opposed to such attacks on our civil liberties. This includes any form of Free Speech Zone, as our Free Speech Zone is from sea to shining sea.
The Council still does not understand the fundamental dangers to democracy by giving law enforcement more power than they currently have. Assistant Police Chief Bennett himself stated in response to Council Member Reddick that people would be arrested under the current framework of the codes and law. There is no need for such a Zone at all in any form.
It was troublesome to watch another ordinance pass that morning, with clear evidence presented by a resident to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the petitioner was defrauding the City. Yet the Council dismissed this factual evidence and passed the zoning request without hesitation. This is alarming.
If something as simple as that matter is lost to City Council, this issue of grave importance concerning rights we are born with, rights protected under the constitution, we fear will not get a fair evaluation. And perhaps City Council is not fit to administrate legislation in our name.
The ordinance was established by people other than City Council, mostly by the executive department and law enforcement. City Council is simply tweaking details of this ordinance, not questioning the core of it. It still is apparent City Council does not understand fully the effects a Green Zone has on a democracy. The fear of some outlaws coming to town cannot be an excuse to strip away rights of the law abiding citizens, nor will it have any effect on the outlaws. It will have an effect however on law abiding citizens. A right stripped from one is stripped from all. This is how fascism tightens its grip over democracy. Sacrificing freedom for security jeopardizes both.
The establishment of a Green Zone further escalates the tension between citizens and law enforcement. Citizens that will be peaceful will feel threatened and react in the face of this police state environment. Law Enforcement will be emboldened to strike first, police second. While you may not be able to control what the law enforcement does on the 4 days of the convention, you do have the power to design the framework for which the outcome of the 4 days will be built from. What is designed determines what is built. And we can predict what the outcome of this design will build.
This may transform the citizen into an apparent insurgent by criminalizing them and leaving them with little options other than to fight for their rights, rather than fight the policies they are coming to address.
Another solution is necessary.