The media had predicted chaos in the form of protestors at this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa. However, the only chaos which occurred outside the convention hall took the form of Hurricane Isaac.
At past conventions, scores of protestors have been arrested on both minor and more serious federal charges. However, the arrest count at this year’s convention was a staggering four. Only four protestors behaved in such a way that law enforcement felt inspired to remove them in handcuffs.
Those protestors who did receive national attention did so by peaceful means. In response, the New York Times reports that “the police responded to minor infractions with flexibility rather than aggression. The détente not only made life in downtown Tampa less daunting, but gave two traditionally adversarial groups a chance to redefine their relationship.”
In Philadelphia, New York City and Saint Paul, sites of the last three Republican National Conventions, a sense of order and discipline did not reign. Rather, “there were public disturbances and lawsuits, with the police arresting large numbers of people and many protesters complaining that they were being rounded up without justification,” according to the Times.
The weather certainly contributed to the outcome in Tampa, given that far-fewer protestors were present, as compared to other recent conventions. However, the Tampa police force also surprisingly made the intentional decision to bend their own rules at times in favor of a peaceful situation. In fact, law enforcement even dropped off fruit and water at one protestor tent encampment.
It is unrealistic to think that all conventions will be as peaceful as the one in Tampa. However, the protestors and law enforcement in Tampa have set a model that future conventions should seek to emulate.
Source: New York Times, “For Police and Protesters, a Quieter Convention,” Colin Moynihan, Aug. 31, 2012