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CMPD Chief Monroe on alert at RNC in Tampa

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief checks out security at the Republican National Convention

By Franco Ordoñez
Washington Correspondent

TAMPA, Fla. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe wanted a close look at what security forces might face at next week’s Democratic National Convention.

On Monday, he got it.

When hundreds of demonstrators lined up in downtown Tampa for a protest near the Republican National Convention, Monroe studied how police handled the smaller-than-expected demonstrations. Ten other CMPD officers were spread across the city observing police field operations, traffic and other logistics.

“It’s always good to have perspective of what it looks like prior to you actually being involved in something,” Monroe said. “It’ll give them (the officers) an opportunity to see what the resources are, what the security perimeter actually looks like, how people move in and around the perimeter. It’s a good visual aid for us.”

The city’s atmosphere, softened by the rain from the nearby tropical storm, seemed unusually quiet. Police partially shut down at least 10 streets. Much of the area seemed deserted except for the marchers, officers and a sprinkling of onlookers.

Police estimated about 500 demonstrators participated, including a few dozen dressed in black and covering their faces with bandanas. About 150 officers and sheriff deputies followed on foot, bike and horseback.

A few officers carried modified paint guns loaded with less-lethal pepper balls. A group of National Guardsmen stood watch overhead on a highway overpass.

Monroe, dressed in a black shirt and black jacket, joined Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and Assistant Chief John Bennett at what was expected to be the biggest rally at the GOP convention.

Hundreds gathered in a downtown park to speak out on corporate greed, immigration, reproductive rights, health care and war.

Organizers had predicted about 5,000 demonstrators before Tropical Storm Isaac threatened the city. They said bus companies cancelled charters bringing more demonstrators from Gainesville, Miami and Jacksonville, among other cities.

Monroe said Charlotte police will have similar resources and implement a comparable strategy when they address next Sunday’s March on Wall Street South in Charlotte.

Charlotte is more compact than Tampa, which will pose different challenges for people getting around. Charlotte police also have the added challenge of providing security for a sitting president. But Monroe said the department is ready. He said officers will be patient with demonstrators, but there will be a line that they will not allow people to cross.

“A lot will be done on the fly,” he said.

Monroe said he was nearby Sunday when a group of Tampa protesters stormed Bank of America pavilion and began pasting dozens of black “We are the 99 percent” stickers on the sidewalk.

The bank’s headquarters in Charlotte is expected to be a target, according to police and protesters. Monroe said police will provide a “heavy concentration of support” near the banks.

Activist Dianne Mathiowetz, who is helping lead Charlotte’s March on Wall Street South, said there is no doubt protesters will target Bank of America and other banks.

She took the microphone at the Tampa rally and urged cheering demonstrators to join her in Charlotte to continue fighting against corporate greed and the policies that protect the richest Americans. On the march, she carried a sign that read “RNC/DNC = Tools of the 1%.”

As of early evening, protests went off largely without any major incidents.

Demonstrations continued throughout the day. One group was stopped as it marched near the security perimeter. The protesters sat down in the middle of a major street for approximately 15 minutes. One of the security commanders knelt down with the demonstrators and explained that they were blocking a hospital route. The demonstrators moved to the sidewalk before leaving the area.

Monroe said he plans to take a few tips back to Charlotte.

He said Charlotte is ready for the DNC. The greatest challenge, he said, is going to be managing the logistics of housing and feeding the more than 3,000 extra officers who will be moving into Charlotte next week.

Ordoñez: 202-383-0010 or fordonez@mcclatchydc.com
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