By a 6-2 vote, City Council approved the creation of an Event Zone ordinance Thursday that will go into effect on Aug. 26 when the RNC comes to St. Petersburg for a cocktail party at Tropicana Field, reports William Mansell of Patch.
Spanning from 7th Avenue S to 5th Avenue N and 22nd Street to the Bay, the zone will restrict many household items such as light bulbs, coolers, umbrellas, locks, lumber and glass containers.
The restrictions are in place from 12:01 a.m. Aug. 26 to 6 a.m. Aug. 27 for any public property or private property open or accessible to the general public without the written permission of the property owner.
“The peaceful exercise of the First Amendment is a paramount right,” said Mayor Bill Foster. “We are concerned with the protection of public safety of the peaceful protests as much, if not more so, that those attending (the RNC kick-off party).”
Council members Steve Kornell and Wengay Newton voted against the ordinance.
Newton said the zone was an overreach by police. If there is intent to harm, he said, it is already illegal to use any of those items to commit a crime.
“Is this going to be enforceable?” Newton asked of the ordinance.
Maj. Melanie Bevan, who is in charge of coordination for the police and the RNC security, said the ordinance is necessary to help protect the city and its citizens. Many of the restrictions and their enforcement, she said, will be up to the discretion of the police officers.
Council member Karl Nurse said he is still concerned how police separate the people who are walking home from Publix with their groceries versus, “those that are assembling a supply of weapons.”
Prohibited Items in the Event Zone:
- Glass Bottles
- Light Bulbs
- Umbrellas with Metal Tips
- Gas Masks
In the original proposed ordinance, any bottle with liquid would be banned inside the zone. However, after meeting with local activists groups, the city decided to allow non-alcoholic drinks in plastic containers that hold less than 20 ounces.
The ordinance was also amended to prohibit items in the zone only on Aug. 26, not through the Aug. 30 as originally planned.
The Event Zone ordinance also created a “parade route” and public viewing area around Mirror Lake for protests.
Prohibited Items Along Parade Route and in Viewing Area:
- Aerosol Cans
- Any weapons
- Camping Gear
- Non-plastic containers
- and “any other item that lawn enforcement personnel determines to be a clear and present danger to the health safety, welfare and good order of the persons in the public viewing area and parade route.”
The Event Zone is separate from the restrictions put in place by Secret Service around Tropicana Field. The zone, the city said, is to protect its property, citizens and businesses.