City: Cost of protests falls on backs of taxpayers

Crystal Clark reports

- A heavy police presence at the Fight for 15 rally held in Ybor City Tuesday helped keep the peace, but it came with a high price tag for local law enforcement.

"While total amounts are still being added up, Tampa PD estimates it cost the department $12,000 to staff the one-night protest. Most of the money was overtime pay, for example, bringing in additional bike units not scheduled to work.

According to Florida Highway Patrol, it cost more than $8,000 to bring troopers in to Ybor to help man the protest.

Officials with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said while they did not have deputies working along the route as protesters marched through Ybor, several deputies on duty were moved from their usual coverage areas to guard their Ybor City headquarters in case of an incident.

"The last several months there have been several of these [protests]. it's getting to be a burden on our personnel," said Tampa police spokesperson Steve Hegarty on Tuesday.

Since this summer, protests in Ybor City have ranged in topic from Anti-Donald Trump, Pro-Immigration Reform, LGBTQ Rights and the Black Lives Matter movement, in addition to the recent Fight for 15 protest for higher wages.

Some business owners in Ybor City said they are feeling an impact from the demonstrations as well.

"People don't want to go and enjoy dinner or enjoy a cocktail, see a comedy show or a movie. They don't want to walk through chaos to get to the business here in Ybor City, so it creates an uncomfortable setting," said Jason Fernandez, who owns four establishments in Ybor, including the Green Iguana Bar and Carne Chophouse restaurant on East 7th Avenue.

Fernandez said customers are unable to get to his businesses when protesters shut down roads by marching in the streets. He said it also creates a spectacle when demonstrators are yelling through bullhorns as his customers are trying to enjoy a meal outdoors. He said his issue is not with the message protesters are trying to convey.

"What is a worthy protest, what is not a worthy protest, that's not for me to answer, but it is certainly a detriment to my business," Fernandez added.

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