Police arrested 29 people protesting with Occupy Tampa last night. Members of the group were arrested after they were asked to disband their peaceful demonstration and vacate the park they were hoping to occupy.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that more than 100 members of the Occupy Wall Street-inspired protest held a march and then assembled in Riverfront Part around 10 p.m. last night, where the group intended to sleep that night. However, Tampa police intervened. Police insisted the park was closed to the public at that time and asked them to leave.
The Times reports:
Instead, a group of about 50 demonstrators linked arms and sat down in the park, chanting, police said.
Officers gave the group several warnings, eventually prompting about 20 individuals to leave the park, police said.
The remaining protesters were told if they didn’t leave, they would be charged with trespassing, police said.
Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said the officers “backed away” and gave the group “ample time to recognize its best course of action” before the officers approached them again.
Police arrested 27 demonstrators in the park and charged them all with trespassing and resisting arrest without violence.
As police were conducting arrests, two protesters, who had been a part of a group of about 30 on the sidewalk surrounding the park, walked into the park and refused to leave, police said. They, too, were arrested.
All 29 were booked into Hillsborough County Jail overnight.
This is not the first time the group has had run-ins with the police. In late October, six people were arrested during a similarly peaceful protest.
However, the Times points out: “This is the largest number of protesters arrested at a single time since the movement began three months ago.”
Protesters inspired by the New York-based Occupy movement have been demonstrating all over Florida since September. The groups have been denouncing the country’s income inequality, lax campaign finance rules, and corporate greed, among many other issues.
It was recently announced that a collective of 15 Occupy Wall Street-inspired groups in Florida (including Occupy Tampa) will hold a convention next week to create a resolution that will be sent to Florida Speaker of the House Dean Cannon on the first day of the legislative session on Jan. 10.