Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls, but the protesters expected to cram into the city for the Republican National Convention will be a different sort of crowd, and the police are trying to be ready, the Associate Press reports. In 2008, thousands of protesters arrived in St. Paul for the RNC. Some smashed cars, punctured tires, and threw bottles in a confrontation with pepper-spray wielding police. Hundreds were arrested, including dozens of journalists. “Minneapolis surprised everyone,” said Rod Reder, a retired Hillsborough County, Fl., sheriff’s captain who worked three Super Bowls in Tampa and the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in Miami in 2003.
Congress has given Tampa — and Charlotte, the location of the Democratic National Convention — $50 million each in taxpayer money to try to ensure everyone is safe for the political gatherings that crown each party’s presidential candidate every four years. Tampa police have spent about $13.6 million so far on big-ticket security items, including 200 bicycles, 13 electric all-terrain vehicles, and one armored truck for the Aug. 27-31 Republican gathering. The Associated Press sent Tampa Police a public records request asking for copies of the purchase orders and bids of everything the department is buying for the convention. The Secret Service contends that the information is exempt from public scrutiny due to homeland security concerns and officials say the request is under review.