Tuesday was opening day of the RNC (yes, we realize that the gavel dropped on Monday — but Tuesday was the real first day of the convention) and the only convention-related arrest that police are reporting, happened away from the convention center at the Occupy Wall Street camp known as “Romneyville.” This was also just the third arrest tied to the convention since Sunday.
Tampa police report that a 24-year-old man was arrested and charged with aggravated battery after breaking the jaw of a 60-year-old man who also lives in the camp. The fight allegedly broke out when Dante Sea (the younger man) took a piece of cardboard belonging to Eddie Thomas (the 60-year-old) and the fight ensued, ending with Mr. Thomas’ jaw being broken by a punch from Sea. Police also discovered that Mr. Sea had an outstanding warrant for marijuana possession. He is currently housed in the county jail.
The Tampa Bay Times filed this video report on the tent city:
“Romneyville” is not far from the convention, but it is not exactly within the sight line of the delegates or politicians. Tampa’s WFTS-TV reports that 300 people are calling the camp home during the GOP’s big event. They appear to be a combination of protesters (many from out of town) and local homeless people.
The makeshift village in a city park has a rotating schedule for security patrols, as well as meal times and clean-up teams that use buckets of bleach and water to maintain a modicum of cleanliness with their plates and utensils.
The tent city also has a bus for storing food (donations come from many local churches and farmers). The bus arrived in July and was sparked locals to protest with the city.
Since the City of Tampa controls what happens in space considered to be a city park, it can decide the fate of the bus. A hearing was scheduled for this month and no final decision has yet been rendered.
But while Mr. Sea was the only arrest on Tuesday, that doesn’t mean unrest isn’t brewing. Earlier in the day, police in riot gear had to break up a confrontation between some of the protesters from Romneyville and members of the Westboro Baptist Church. The AP reports:
The anti-GOP protesters were marching from “Romneyville” toward the official protest zone created by the city when they clashed with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which had been protesting homosexuality, Tampa police said. Church members also frequently picket funerals of military members.
After about 20 minutes, the half-dozen Westboro church members retreated from the protest area under police escort.
Tampa police said on its Twitter feed that officers separated the two groups for safety reasons. No one was arrested.
We’ll bring you arrest updates throughout the week.