By Elizabeth Johnson and Nick Williams
|Fire and Rescue Chief Tom Forward (left) stands by as Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor addresses the media during a 4 p.m. briefing Thursday. Elizabeth Johnson/Bradenton Herald|
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said at a Thursday briefing that Tampa should be fully accessible by vehicles and pedestrians by noon Friday.
Selmon Expressway between Exit 4 at Willow Avenue and Exit 11 at 50th Street, as well as Florida Avenue, will be open by 5 a.m. Friday for morning traffic. Castor said roads and security points leading to Harbour Island will be removed by noon.
She said dismantling of fences and barricades will begin at midnight. Those same barriers will be taken to Charlotte for the Democrat National Convention next week, Castor said.
She said it may take until Tuesday for everything to completely return to normal in downtown.
Castor commended the approximately 3,500 federal, state and local authorities for their work, saying they've done "a great job handling crowds."
Castor referred to how the officers remained calm and followed protocol during a spontaneous protest Wednesday night in which demonstrators tempted officers with doughnuts on fishing poles and laid down in street intersections.
Officers will be leaving town as their 12-hour shifts end, Castor said.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is dealing with a group of protesters from Earth First, Romneyville and Occupy New York. The group, traveling on two buses, were trespassed from IKEA before heading to TECO's Big Bend Power Plant. Police are working to cut apart demonstrators who are lying down and chained together. Watch live streaming from Occupy Tampa here.
Castor said about a couple dozen protests have taken place during the RNC, most of which were spontaneous.
"We have been very surprised at the low turnout of protesters," Castor said. "I'm not sure what that's attributed to."
Castor said once Isaac passed, she expected more demonstrators to arrive.
As of the 4 p.m. briefing, three RNC-related arrests have been made in Tampa. One involved a man wearing a mask inside the security zone. Another involved a battery and drug possession at Romneyville. The other involved a protester carrying a machete. All were earlier this week.
Five convention-related arrests were made in Pinella County as of early Thursday. Four of those arrests were made by St. Petersburg Police.
On Tuesday, Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies arrested a man on Interstate 275 after he exited his vehicle, laid down along the shoulder of the interstate and when approached by law enforcement, became combative.
Joseph Matthews, 33, ran into traffic and when deputies tired to detain him, he assaulted one of them, according to the sheriff's office. Matthews screamed he was "an American" and mentioned cable networks CNN and FoxNews, former president George Bush Jr. and made other political statements. He was released Thursday afternoon.