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Clean Zone: Protecting lives or trampling liberty? | News

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Clean Zone: Protecting lives or trampling liberty?
News

Noon Update: 

Tampa, Florida -- The Tampa City Council voted unanimously to continue the first reading of the so-called "Clean Zone" temporary ordinance proposed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn for the Republican National Convention.

The issue will be brought up again on April 19 at 9:30am.

Photo Gallery: Occupy protesters rally against Clean Zone

Councilmembers expressed concern about the holes in the ordinance as written now and the size of the "Clean Zone."

They also defended the city against criticism that water guns would be banned in the zone, but people with concealed weapons permits would still be able to carry a gun.

Councilman Harry Cohen said those upset about that should take their concerns to the state Legislature because local government's hands are tied.

Councilwoman Montelione pointed out a water gun could be used as a weapon if certain substances are put inside of it.

It was also pointed out that officers will use discretion when it comes ot the list of banned items and that people carrying the banned items with the intent to do harm would be targeted by law enforcement.

Councilmembers heard about an hour of public comment, extending the public comment time so everyone had an opportunity to let their concerns be heard.

Every speaker spoke out against the proposed ordinance, calling it an infringement on their right to free speech.  The main point of contention seems to be the proposal that groups of more than 50 people who want to protest will not only have to obtain a permit, but limit their protest time to one hour.

The council will take the next couple of weeks to continue to research the concerns of the public and their own concerns.

A few members of the council also said they'd support extending the time people have to protest.

Earlier Report:

Tampa, Florida -- Thousands of protesters are expected in Tampa for the Republican National Convention in four months.

Should the City of Tampa adopt major restrictions to control the relatively small number of demonstrators who plan to be violent?

That's the question city leaders face this morning as they debate a so-called "Clean Zone" law.

On one hand, you have Tampa's proposed Clean Zone ordinance.

In a large part of the city during August's Republican Party Convention, it would put restrictions on large gatherings, and it lays out a list of things you can't carry and can't do.

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And over in the other hand, you have the United States Constitution.

It guarantees rights to speak and assemble and petition government.

So what's the right balance -- between security and liberty?

Thursday, Tampa's City Council will take up that question when they debate the convention Clean Zone proposed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Here's a map of the proposed Clean Zone. It stretches from Tampa Heights in the west all the way to Ybor City in the east. The zone covers the area from Columbus Drive in the north to Hillsborough Bay in the south.

The Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the 2012 GOP Convention, is located more or less in the center of the zone.

Inside the zone, most weapons or things that can be made into weapons will be banned: glass bottles, rope, chains, locks, and anything that can be adapted into a shield.

Plus, gatherings with more than 50 people must last an hour or less.

The proposed ordinance says that time restriction is to keep police officers from getting overworked in the heat and make sure all groups get a chance to demonstrate in what is limited public space.

In an interview with 10 News, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said essentially the harshest rules exist for the harshest protesters.

There are basically two varieties of demonstrators expected here in August:

Folks who really want to rally and call for change -- free speech at its finest.

And people who want to disrupt. That's their agenda, and Castor said it can lead to property damage and people getting hurt.

"Those individuals will be dealt with very swiftly," Castor promised. "They will be pulled out of the mix so the lawful demonstrators can go ahead and express their First Amendment rights."

Under the proposed Clean Zone law, everyone inside the Tampa city limits would also face restrictions:

No carrying lumber, pipes, or containers if the intent is to harm someone with them.

You also can't carry anything that can launch a projectile or shoot a liquid.

All of that is up for discussion at 9 a.m. Thursday at Tampa City Hall.

City Council members will definitely hear from folks on both sides of this issue.

One group, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, has already announced it will be at the meeting to call for fewer restrictions.

Follow this link to read the full proposed City of Tampa Clean Zone ordinance.

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