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Courts / Law

Tampa Council Trims "Event Zone" Around GOP National Convention

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The "Clean Zone" is no more. Oh, it's still there, but now the security zone around August's Republican National Convention is called the "Event Zone.

The newly-named "Event Zone" will now allow parades by the public to last 90 minutes - not just an hour. And permitted events at city parks can go on all day, rather than just an hour. But the biggest change tentatively approved by Tampa's City Council is shrinking the no-go zone for most weapons and restricted gatherings.

City Attorney Jim Shimberg says city officials expect the majority of visitors to the convention to be law-abiding, but they're preparing for the worst.

"We just want to make sure because of what we've seen at other events, what we know is the current climate right now in our country that we want to make sure that - to the extent that we have people who are not peaceful - that our police will have the tools available that they need to keep everyone safe," he says.

But Tampa activist Kelly Benjamin says allowing groups affiliated with the convention exclusive rights to use city parks unfairly targets others.

"The RNC - having first dibs on specific public spaces and parks - Curtis Hixon Park being an example - that provides an obvious advantage to people who are coming here with lots of money," says Benjamin. "Rather than the people here who are trying to engage in a robust civic dialogue that makes this country great, and makes this country what it is."

Council members voted 5-2 in favor of the proposed restrictions. Council members Yvonne Yolie Capin and Mary Mulhern opposed it, saying the "event zone" footprint is still too large. It comes up for a final vote on May 17.