"So far, the groups we have dealt with have been very reasonable," Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said.
Some anti-GOP protesters praised police officers on Wednesday, though they said their presence was perhaps more than needed.
"I haven't experienced one rude cop. They have been great," said Nick Sabatella, who came to Tampa from New York with Occupy Wall Street protesters. "I walk by the cops and I say 'hi' and they say 'hi' back."
About 200 demonstrators attended a protest on Sunday; about 500 showed up on Monday to march in a protest that had been expected to draw 5,000. Police reported just two arrests as of Tuesday — a man who refused to take off his bandanna (masks and face coverings are banned in the "event zone"), and another who police said was carrying a machete.
"I was taken aback by just the sheer numbers," said 56-year-old Amie Crawford of Chicago, who was in Tampa to protest and advocate for raising the minimum wage. "It was a little intimidating to be surrounded by police on foot, on horses, on bicycles."
Even some of the Republicans in town are shocked.
"It does feel kind of, how shall I put it, a little claustrophobic," said Andrew Richner, 20, from Detroit, whose father is a Michigan delegate. "We're all closed in."
Rob Hinjosa, a 31-year-old San Antonio, Texas resident who is part of the Texas delegation support staff, was even more critical.
"It's a complete waste of resources," he said. "There's probably more police people here than protesters. It doesn't make me feel safe, it makes me feel paranoid."
But many downtown workers said Tuesday that they're glad the officers are there. Some, like Mollie Powell, said if she hadn't seen the officers, she might not even set foot on the street.
Instead, Powell, who works in a Tampa high-rise, stood on the street on her lunch break, eating a chocolate ice cream and watching a half-dozen members of the Westboro Baptist Church protest against gays and lesbians.
"We feel so safe," she said. "I didn't realize how prepared the police were going to be. They're anticipating everything. I'm loving it."
Correspondent Michael Schneider contributed to this report.
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