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Statement on the Police Misconduct in West Tampa on the Evening of 8/17/2012
STATEMENT ON THE POLICE MISCONDUCT IN WEST TAMPA ON THE EVENING OF 8/17/2012
The police conduct Friday night, August 17thm was completely unwarranted and in many cases, illegal.
Around 8pm last night, a white code enforcement SUV began patrolling the area around Occupy Tampa at Voice of Freedom Park. An influx of police vehicles soon followed. The well-recognized white Crown Victorias then joined in to create an unambiguous parade of police power. Police involved were both plain-clothed and uniformed.
As the night progressed, up to 20 police officers parked their cars within sight of Voice of Freedom Park and proceeded to walk up and down the public sidewalks. 5 police officers then began circling the Occupy Tampa camp in an authoritative and intimidating manner. Two of these police officers entered the park, were informed that the park was private and were asked to leave. Other officers began searching private property throughout the West Tampa area without permission of the property owners, without warrants, and without probable cause.
When the officers walked through the park a second, and even third time without permission, conducting multiple searches in the process, they clearly violated the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, disrespecting the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The police officers did not have probable cause or display a warrant of any type to enter Voice of Freedom Park.
Throughout this time, within full view of the camp, the police pulled over passing vehicles without any justification, searching nearly every vehicle that entered the area. In complete disregard for public safety, the officers shined their flashlights into the windshields of oncoming traffic, presumably blinding drivers. Unwilling to be subjected to illegal pullovers and searches themselves, the Occupiers present did not feel free to leave the neighborhood and stayed to witness the entire operation.
If this type of illegal behavior from the police continues, the police department and the city of Tampa can expect internal affairs complaints, criminal charges, and civil lawsuits.
People clearly upset at this blatant misuse of city resources include West Tampa business owners and workers who lost patrons due to these intimidation tactics. Occupy Tampa stands in solidarity with the residents and businesses of West Tampa against this police intimidation and harassment.
Occupy Tampa would like to invite the news media to speak with the members of Occupy Tampa who witnessed these events. We will hold a press conference on Monday at 5pm.
Occupy Tampa’s “cop watch” group attempted to film as much of the police behavior as possible. Anyone interested in these videos can send an email to media [at] occupytampa.org.
Victims, witnesses, and anyone with additional footage of these events, please feel free to contact tampacommunity [at] hushmail.com or call (646) 470-1639 and leave a message.