The RNC hasn’t even started and things are already looking messy.
Not only is this convention going to be one that could be dangerous for journalists (i.e., arrests, detainment, extra security, strict enforcement of regulations and laws), but it’s one that will be marred with confusion as Huricane Isaac approaches.
Weather experts have already concluded that this tropical storm, which will turn into a hurricane once it reaches the warm waters of the Gulf, will not be as dangerous as once thought. But precautions are still being taken as Florida Governor Rick Scott has already called off the first day of the RNC.
My flight leaves Baltimore at 10:50 a.m. and I am supposed to arrive in Tampa a little after 1 p.m. At first, weather analysts said Isaac would reach Florida around 2 a.m. Sunday, but now they have pushed that back to Monday or Tuesday. Hopefully I can avoid the rain and winds. From what I’ve heard, Isaac will make the RNC extremely wet. There is potential for flooding, heavy rain and some wind damage.
As I’m preparing for tomorrow’s excursion, I am making sure to talk to veteran journalists like Tamara Lush (@TamaraLush) of the AP and get the phone numbers for the ACLU and legal counsels in case I get arrested or detained. I am also working on getting the phone numbers of the citizen journalists from the Huffington Post I will be covering the RNC with. It’s important that we are aware of each other’s situations at all times because we’re basically on our own.
This is my first major event I will be covering as a citizen journalist and the pressure of the situation is just now beginning to set in. There has already been talks of drones flying over the RNC skies as local authorities prepare for protests, journalists and average citizens. I’m excited and overwhelmed at the same time, but it’s too late to chicken out.
Tampa is preparing for wide-spread protests by clearing 1,700 prison beds for potential troublemakers. It’s sad that the RNC and Tampa officials are preparing to make this many arrests instead of making sure protesters, journalists and the public are protected. To assume that 1,700 arrests will occur tells a lot about how city officials and the RNC view the press and protesters. After all, peaceful protests and the freedom of the press are protected under the First Amendment.
Tampa has been hit hard by the recession and instead of our government helping with the large amount of homeless persons and foreclosed homes, they’d rather spend millions on security, shrubbery, beautification and lighting in areas of the city that are already doing well.