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Anarchists' game plan for Tampa RNC unclear

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:03 PM

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TAMPA -

Interspersed among the 15,000 protesters expected at the Republican National Convention in August will be the anarchists.

It's a contingent that strikes fear and loathing in the hearts of police, Republican organizers and delegates, and, perhaps, even fellow protesters.

Police are expecting the worst, based on actions at past conventions and summits and some postings on anarchist websites.

One member of the Tampa Bay Action Group, a loose connection of anarchists in the area, posted this:

"I'm tired of the right-wing fat cats who live in cookie-cutter suburban homes and work as advertising reps in mind-numbing cubicles calling themselves tea party protesters," wrote Clinton Tyree, which is not his real name, but one from a character in a series of Carl Hiaasen novels. "The (original) tea party was all about destroying the commodities of the imperialists in order to overthrow the imperialists. These idiots are the ruling class. We are gonna take back the legacy from these whimpering bourgeois racists and make property destruction sexy again."

Just what are the chances of widespread violence sparked by the few anarchists? It could be anybody's guess. The group doesn't have a public relations machine and anarchists generally don't make public statements.

The term anarchist means different things to different people, but many define them as disenfranchised people with a deep resentment of authority. They resort to violence against police and vandalize property belonging to the establishment.

The movement is a little more complicated than that, said Bob Black, who is an anarchist, author and longtime chronicler of the movement living in Albany, N.Y.

Black said he personally knows of no fellow anarchists who are going to the RNC in Tampa.

Anarchists have splintered over the past 50 years, he said. There are anarchists on both sides of the political spectrum. Both are intent on dismantling the existing government, but for different reasons, he said.

One side wants to see the end of government regulation for business financial institutions and the abolishment of social welfare programs. The other wants the military industrial complex disbanded, along with the taxing system.

"Almost all anarchists, however, believe that the American electoral system is, even as representative democracies go … about as irrational and even undemocratic as such a supposed democracy can get," he said. "We all loathe the show that the Republicans will put on in Tampa."

Most anarchists don't advocate violence, he said, but they do push for the removal of the existing state in favor of whatever comes next, providing there are fewer restrictions on human relationships and behavior.

The movement is on a gradual upswing since bottoming out in the early 1960s, he said.

"Anarchism isn't just growing," he said. "It is growing rapidly. I expect that this will continue. Your world might be in more danger than you think."

Could Black be right? Here's a sample of events where anarchist-spawned violence broke out:

Tampa likely will be the next target in August, when hundreds of Republican delegates come to town to name the GOP's presidential nominee. Protesters will be here, and the call for anarchists already has gone out.

The online AnarchistNews.org issued this post from the Tampa Bay Action Group two years ago — right after Tampa was pickedto host the RNC.

"The Tampa Bay Action Group (TBAG), a decentralized collective of anarchists strewn throughout the urban and swampy reaches of Florida, is committed to making 2012 and the RNC in Tampa a truly catastrophic celebration of liberty and joy.

"The theater of capitalist disaster will rear its head in the divided apartheid communities of Tampa, where wealth touts itself as master of the land, as the Mayan calendar comes to the end of a cycle. While TBAG does not adhere to prophesy, the hint of collapse (and renewal) is a promising dream."

Local protesters say they aren't the ones who will cause violence.

"We, from the Coalition to March on the RNC, do not think that violence stems from protesters," said Jared Hamil, a local protest organizer in an email. "Nor are we worried about anarchists during the protest, because they'll be marching with us."

The violence, he said, starts with heavy-handed police tactics.

"The only violence we've seen (in previous large scale protests) is what had been done by the police and state," he said. "At the protest against NATO in Chicago last month, we marched alongside many anarchists and had no problems whatsoever."

He said violence erupted when police came armed with batons and in riot gear.

"They started shoving protesters and pushed many to the ground," Hamil said.

Tampa will put on the street more than 4,000 police officers from its own force and from agencies across the state. They're hoping for peace but preparing for war.

"The large majority are law-abiding protesters who are coming just to be part of the political process; for their voice to be heard," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "A small percentage is trouble-makers."

She said officers have developed a security plan and even attended the NATO conference in Chicago in May to observe how violent protests were handled.

"We are preparing any way possible," she said. "We can't talk about the particulars. We are building a comprehensive security plan.

"Anarchy is a tactic, versus a group," she said. "It is used by different groups. Typically, they are loosely organized and misguided individuals who break the law and disrupt the event."


kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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