Tampa Issues Curfew After Businesses Damaged In Overnight Protests
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Sunday afternoon issued a citywide curfew after peaceful protests this weekend ended with violence.
The curfew will last from 7:30 p.m. until 6 a.m. until further notice, Castor said during a press conference Sunday evening.
“We anticipate and are hopeful that this evening will be the only evening that it needs to be used,” said Castor. “The reason that we have done this is in an abundance of caution to keep all of our citizens here in the city of Tampa safe and sound.”
Violating the curfew is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a punishment of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
However, essential trips, such as going to the grocery store or traveling to or from work will still be allowed, although Castor cautioned residents to call ahead before they visit any stores because many businesses closed early in light of the curfew.
There will be no need for people to produce special paperwork if they are stopped by police while in public during curfew hours. Castor said “a simple conversation with law enforcement” about why they are out will suffice.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) announced it will halt bus service during curfew hours, which could affect residents’ ability to make necessary trips.
“Again, we are just asking for everyone’s cooperation,” said Castor. “This curfew has been put in place to protect our citizens, those citizens that are doing the right thing, and we will ensure that we take care of the individuals that are creating the property damage, violating the law, and being violent in their actions towards other citizens and towards our law enforcement.”
Tampa and Hillsborough County leaders on Sunday reported that more than 50 businesses were damaged or burglarized Saturday night by crowds that grew violent after peaceful protests. More than 50 police cars also sustained damage.
Daytime marches to protest the death of George Floyd took place in Tampa, Temple Terrace, and St. Petersburg. They occurred without incident, but one march near Busch Gardens in North Tampa became violent after dark.
In a statement, the Tampa Police Department reported more than 40 people were arrested during the overnight protests on charges ranging from burglary to rioting and carrying concealed firearms.
Chief Brian Dugan said 40 businesses were damaged, five fires were set and 27 police cars were damaged by protesters throwing rocks and bottles. One officer suffered minor injuries after a mortar was fired at her.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said it arrested seven people and two officers received minor injuries. Fifteen sheriff’s vehicles were damaged.
Dugan and Castor denounced Saturday’s violence Sunday morning. Both had participated in a peaceful march in downtown Tampa on Saturday.
“The behavior that took place last night will not be tolerated. There will be a different tone today,” Dugan said Sunday. “If you are a peaceful protester, I suggest you stay home, because there are people who do not want to peacefully protest. They want to take over your voice.”
Hundreds of protesters gathered again in downtown Tampa on Sunday for a demonstration hosted by Black Lives Matter. Initial reports indicate protesters remained peaceful throughout the afternoon. There were reports that police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse crowds as the evening went on.
Activists in Lakeland also held a mid-day protest.
Castor said the National Guard has also been activated as a “preventative move.” She said 100 Guard members will be stationed at different locations throughout the city that may be “targets” of looters and agitators, including high-value locations and places the city has learned crowds may gather on Sunday night.
On Saturday night, several different businesses along the Hillsborough, Busch, and Fowler corridors were
looted and vandalized. The most serious included fires set at a Mobil gas station at N. 30th St and E. Busch Blvd., and a Champ's store at N. 22nd St. and E. Fowler Ave.
On Sunday morning, the plaza that housed the sporting goods store still smelled like burning rubber, and business owners were boarding up the remaining storefronts. The parking lot was closed off, and police officers dispersed people stopping to see the damage.
Twenty-three businesses in the county were burglarized or damaged. The Sheriff’s Office said damage numbers could increase as business owners along Fowler Avenue return to assess damage.
“Throughout the day, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office ensured the safety of those peacefully protesting,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as the night went on, individuals came out who were focused on chaos instead of change. I'm proud of the discipline, professionalism and focus of law enforcement who have worked tirelessly to contain and deescalate the violence that has unfolded.”