(click here to download PDF)
City of Tampa, Mayor’s Office
306 East Jackson Street
Tampa, FL 33602
May 9, 2012
You have a dilemma on your hands. The RNC is coming to Tampa in August, and along with it comes a very large following of protesters. They come to speak out against the policies of the federal government, and they do it non-violently. That is not your dilemma. Your dilemma is in the ordinance you sent to City Council. In it you have a design which not only infringes on civil rights, but also will create a scenario where the protesters will include the City of Tampa in its scope of protesting.
It does not have to be this way.
I heard your speech addressing the State of our City where you quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. around the same time you delivered your draft of the RNC Ordinance to City Council. This struck me as odd since the Clean Zone/ Event Zone outlined in the ordinance, designing a Green Zone, strips us of rights King died fighting for.
I also heard you tell us in your speech, “We are all in this together. We are either going to succeed together, or we are going to fail alone. We are better, together. We are stronger, together.” You went on to tell us, “We can create a new version, a new vision, for this community. Your voice, your voice, can change our future. But now, more than ever, I need you. The children are depending on you.”
I shook your hand after your speech and told you I accept your challenge. And as a Tampa resident I am proposing an alternative to the design of the ordinance that is destructive to democracy as well as to our city.
Remove the Green Zone portion of the ordinance altogether, which includes the Event Zone and Public Viewing Area and replace it with a first amendment platform in the form of a Free Speech concert. The City of Tampa should host a stage in Curtis Hixon Park where during the day groups and individuals can speak to the guests of the city and in the evening can host bands. In the evening, during the RNC events, concerts can be playing away from the Forum. This will give a place for guests (as Council Member Capin suggests we refer to our visitors) to focus their attention and energy. I have access to a promoter willing to bring in headlining bands as well as local artists. All the City needs to do is sponsor the concert, sponsor Free Speech and my team can take care of the rest. And of course remove the troublesome Event Zone and Public Viewing area from the RNC Ordinance.
I propose that instead of infringing on our fundamental rights, the City of Tampa fosters them. With a concert series and speaking platform in the jewel of downtown Tampa, we can show off our city. We don’t have to limit Free Speech, we can promote it; celebrate it.
As you told me in that same park, “This is our time. This is our destiny. 10 years from now they will look back on this day and say this is where it began. This is where we started. This is where we turned a corner and began a new chapter in history.”
An authority has the title. A leader has the people. Which one will you be seen as in September? Let us support a City who supports its people. Let’s celebrate our First Amendment together!
Free Speech Project
1000 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33705