(TAMPA, Fla.) — Protesters associated with the Occupy movement blocked traffic outside the Tampa, Fla., arena where the Republican National Convention kicked off Monday, leading to one arrest and police pursuit of several others who were “running through the downtown area,” the chief of police said.
A spontaneous march made up of 25 to 30 masked protesters originated about 3 p.m. at the “Romneyville” tent city, several blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the convention.
“Individuals splintered off from that and have been basically running through the downtown area and we’re monitoring them right now just to ensure that everyone is safe and that there’s no damage in the downtown area, but so far everything has been very, very successful,” Tampa police chief Jane Castor said.
The man, Dominick Delarosa, 20, was arrested when he refused to remove a mask at the request of police.
“There was a group of probably 25 to 30 individuals and many of them put on their masks,” Castor said at a news conference. “They were told repeatedly by officers that was a violation of the event ordinance, that they weren’t allowed to wear those masks in the event zone.
“Everyone took those masks off with the exception of one individual. The officers again, gave him plenty of warning and leeway to remove that mask. He refused and he was placed under arrest.”
By 4:30 p.m., traffic outside the convention center was stalled. Hundreds of officers in riot gear surrounded the protesters, leading to delays to and from the forum.
The protests came at the end of an otherwise-anticlimactic first day of the convention.
What was to be an opening day of pomp and partying stretching into the night instead lasted all of one minute, as the GOP put on hold its plans to nominate Mitt Romney while the Gulf Coast hunkers down in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac.
This year’s convention was to be a carefully scripted affair, tightly packing in speeches by many of the party’s boldest names.
By losing a day of events because of travel delays and bigger fears that the storm would hit Tampa directly, many speakers were rescheduled or simply canceled.
Democrats also have set up outside the convention, hunkering down in a “war room” to respond in real time to comments made during the event.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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