With millions in federal grants, local officials are preparing to crack down on dissent.
Two cities have their hands full preparing for the upcoming Republican and Democratic National Conventions later this year. As officials in Tampa, Florida, make plans to manage an estimated 15,000 protesters expected to descend on the city during the four-day Republican gathering in August, their counterparts in Charlotte, North Carolina, are ramping up crowd-control training in the run-up to the DNC.
With the parties gathering just seven months from now, Tampa and Charlotte will spend the next half-year transforming their cities into mini-police states to manage the thousands of protesters who will carry on a long tradition of dissent at the major parties’ nominating conventions.
Tampa Gears Up for RNC With Tanks and Digital Surveillance Helicopters
Last week, the Tampa City Council voted on how to spend some of the $50 million federal grant to secure Tampa for the 2012 RNC. The grant is paying for what the Tampa Bay Times describes as “the first in a series of police upgrades” that will include an armored SWAT truck and a high-tech communication system.
Security planning has been underway as far back as May 2011, just two months after the RNC announced the location of the convention.
The city council agreed to spend nearly $237,000 on a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle, which will be used in conjunction with two aging armored vehicles the city acquired through the military surplus program. Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin told the Tampa Bay Times that the trucks are strictly for the purpose of protecting officers from potential gunfire, not for day-to-day patrolling and crowd control.