As the Republican National Convention in Tampa draws near, city police are seeing hints the convention protests could turn violent. Earlier this week, pipes, bricks, and other "suspicious" items were found on a rooftop downtown along with anti-convention graffiti.
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor told reporters the items were likely intended for convention protests, calling the discovery "disconcerting" but "not surprising."
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But a source told Whispers the police are quietly getting "very worried" about the possibility of violence.
"No one wants Chicago 1968 all over again," said one protester, referencing the violence and police force used against protesters at the 1968 Democratic convention.
Tampa police's finding also comes on the heels of a troubling protest video, posted online by a person claiming to be from the hacktivist group Anonymous. Images of a burning car and riot police are accompanied by the message: "You have an opportunity to fight back at the Republican National Convention. How you fight back is up to you … but it is a fact that flowers and holding up signs stopped working long ago."
Andrea Davis, a spokeswoman for the Tampa police, told Whispers they had no evidence that what was found is connected to the Anonymous video. "It's all Secret Squirrel," she said, referencing a cartoon that satirizes spy films and the covert actions of its characters.
ResistRNC, a protest group criticized for hosting violent videos on its website, insists its message is one of nonviolence. The group later removed the videos. Tampa resident Amos Meiers, who is organizing ResistRNC, says he is not aware of anyone "other than the police" planning for violence at the convention.
Tampa officials used $50 million from Congress to ramp up security for the convention, including the addition of more police, more cameras, and even a $296,496 armored SWAT truck. Below, see a map of Tampa's new high-definition CCTV cameras, installed for surveillance during the convention.
The incredibly extensive list of prohibited items during the convention suggests the city wants to be fully prepared. Prohibited items include switchblades, slingshots and inflatable devices filled with urine.
But the city has also instituted measures to placate the protesters. Police officers will be dressed not in blue, but in khaki, intended to be the less intimidating. City officials have abandoned attempts to evict a protest camp called "Romneyville," despite its location in a restricted area near the convention center.
And protest permits have been issued to a number of organized groups, including Planned Parenthood, Doctors for America, and the Service Employees International Union. ResistRNC plans to protest without a permit.
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