Tampa abandons efforts to evict "Romneyville" protesters
TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Protesters who have set up a camp dubbed "Romneyville" in a restricted area near the site where the Republican National Convention will be held later this month in Tampa can stop worrying about being evicted.
City council members agreed on Thursday to abandon their efforts to look into potential violations of land-use laws or other ordinances with a view to evicting the protesters from the restricted so-called event zone near the convention site.
City officials told the council that they had issued zoning violation notices to some property owners two days earlier, warning that camping and tents on the site were not permitted.
But the property owners have 21 days to act, meaning that any actual evictions would not occur before the August 27-30 Republican presidential nominating convention is over.
In addition to the "Romneyville" camp, the city council ruling affects a West Tampa private park outside the event zone where members of the Occupy Tampa protest movement had been expected to camp out during the convention.
"I don't want to see the city spend any more time and money going after people trying to do something about the inequalities that we are all facing," said council member Mary Mulhern.
She noted that much of the city's public space was being "monopolized" by convention-goers. Having Occupy Tampa protesters use the small privately owned space known as Voice of Freedom Park in West Tampa as a base should not be such a big deal, she added.
"They deserve some national attention," Mulhern said.
Councilman Frank Reddick, whose district includes that slice of West Tampa where the park is located, said it was surrounded by a neighborhood where residents feared mayhem, noise and unsanitary conditions if thousands of protesters descend on the area.
"They have the right to freedom of speech, but they don't have the right to deny citizens of the community their rights," Reddick said.
Occupy Tampa member Heidi Halsworth told the council the park would only be used as a base for protesters to get water, food or information, however, and that only several hundred demonstrators would be there at any one time.
"Romneyville" is a play on the term "Hooverville," the popular name for shantytowns built by homeless people during the Great Depression. They were named after President Herbert Hoover because he was widely blamed for letting the nation slide into depression.
(Editing by Tom Brown)
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