Tampa Police Chief, Jane Casto(tampagov.net/police) is one smart cookie.
She has outwitted some of the best and brightest and well trained activists and protesters on the planet, and done it with class and charm and no small amount of pure grit.
And late on Wednesday night, August 29, the third day of the Republican National Convention (gopconvention2012.com) she appeared on the streets of downtown Tampa – a common occurance over the past three days – to join the men and women whom she has been responsible for training to handle the expected thousands of protesters and demonstrators who would be pounding the pavement during the convention in a massive show of consternation over all of the rights and wrongs in the world.
And at that late hour, she exhibited the poise and calm of somebody who knows they have done their job well, and all of the confidence in the world that the men and women before her on the crowded streets – police and protesters alike -would believe that she insisted that the protesters be granted their place in the democratic process, and that her police officers would serve and protect them.
And she was right.
Examiner joined the protesters on the march from ‘Romneyville,’ one of the protesters camps, to the downtown area in an unplanned, unscheduled march -and without permits- and witnessed what can only be called an exercise in smooth logistics and courtesy and good humor on all sides.
From the beginning, the police on bikes, whizzed around the chanting, drum banging, kazoo playing, exhuberant marchers like frisky, high-bred shepherd collies, gently but firmly molding the roving group into a moving, manageable mass of high energy souls hell bent on taking the street, and needing some direction to figure out which way to go.
Just who they were trying to take the street from, was never made clear, but at every intersection, the marchers were met with a firm and steady and calm barrier of police on foot, in four wheel-drive vehicles, more bicycles, cruisers, and on horseback -one of the mounted khaki-clad officers called out to reporters, ‘Hi, we’re the nice police’ – who prevented the marchers from breaking ranks and scattering onto the side streets.
Once the 50 or so marchers -nobody knows what really happened to the other thousands of them – reached their destination, approximately Whiting Street and Ashley Drive, there was a dilemma, and a virtual stand off….where to go next, and what to do.
The entire intersection looked as though Central Casting had made a call for every policeman, state trooper, sheriff deputy, national guardsman, secret service agent, and undercover whatever, along with every example of every person on the planet who protests anything, right down to the child proof caps on bottles, for a the final scene of some modern day street opera.
And then, of course, there were the onlookers, what might be called the spear carriers in this late night drama playing out under the flashing and strobing and spot lights and whirring, twirling pokice cruiser lights, and the twinkling red safety lights on all of the TPD bicycles on a busy intersection right in downtown Tampa.
And everybody had a camera, a camera phone or a video thingy.
And for a few hushed, tense minutes there was silence, and a lot of head scratching.
Finally, a high-ranking member of the TPD, and a high-ranking member of the Occupy movement -Occupy says nobody is high-ranked, but that is nonsense, somebody has to take charge – stepped forward face to face to each other and figured a way out of the dilemma.
Yup, the marchers could march over to the Hyatt Hotel, two blocks away and confront the Wisconsin delegates staying there about social justice issues, so long as they stayed out on the Esplanade.
The Occupy member turned to his group, explained the deal, and they all agreed with that flipping up of the hands and wiggling the fingers which signals agreement.
Except for one. From out in the crowd of marchers, a voice piped up in frustration, ‘What the hell is an esplanade?’
Everybody adjourned to the esplanade outside the Hyatt, in order and, and in high spirits to await the unlucky delegates who would have to explain to them the anti-union escapades of the Wisconsin governor.
No brick throwing. No spitting. A few doughnuts and bagels dangled on string in front of the police. No head banging, no tasers, no batons.
And no arrests.
And only small concerns from some visitors standing on a corner, watching, transfixed.
One of the visitors turned to his companions and said, ‘I can’t believe we came all the way from Cleveland for this &%$#.’
And so far, after three whole days of RNC, three arrests.
Yup, Chief Castor is one smart cookie.