While hurricane Hermine was making landfall in Florida’s panhandle area strong rain bands moved through Tampa Bay throughout the night. Some areas north of Tampa experienced heavy flooding do the the storm surge. Most of Tampa’s news crews were in those flooded areas overnight covering the damage.
For me, I was technically off but I was on call for breaking news in our area. At my paper i’m known as the late night guy since I barely sleep and typically go to bed when the sun comes up. This particular night I was home monitoring my police scanners when I heard of a tree that fell onto a mobile home with possible entrapments crews were responding.
I grabbed my gear and headed out the door.
The scene was only 15 minutes from my house but as I headed in that direction I turned on my other police scanner and scanned the law enforcement channels and heard some unusual traffic.
Crews were staging in an area and talking about what sounded like a mini riot happening near my location. Since the tree on the mobile home wouldn’t be cleared any time soon, I detoured to head out to check out that scene.
As I turned on 78th street I heard cops talking about people throwing things into the roadway and tearing down signs. This shocked me as I had no idea what could of sparked this behavior. Tampa sucks when it comes to organize any kind of large scale riot or protest. That’s actually a really good thing but it was surprising to me that this was actually going on. It was around 10pm and a strong line of thunderstorms was approaching from the west.
When I rolled up on the scene I noticed lots of people in the road, yelling, throwing things and just acting crazy!
As I approached the scene there was about 30-40 people gathered around a corner store causing a disturbance. I searched for a safe place to park with a clear escape route. I didn’t see any cops anywhere so I had to make sure I had a parking space far enough to escape, but close enough so I can run back to my car if needed.
I found a parking spot near a auto parts store and began shooting with a long lense from a distance. Because I was alone and the only member of the press at the scene I wanted to remain hidden and not become part of the story. I’ll call the people who were doing this rioters since protesters don’t typically destroy property. I watched as they threw objects big and small into the roadway causing people to swerve and avoid it and even slam right into the debris.
It seemed as this crowd wanted some sort of conflict with police but the police remained hidden. Only to come out in a group of 20 or so and clean up debris. Once the debris was cleaned up, the rioters tossed more stuff into the road. It got so bad that cops blocked off the road to prevent more people from hitting the debris. Eventually the rioters started to burn things in the middle of the road, still the cops did not come out in force and give the rioters an opportunity to fight.
It was a smart move and the protesters eventually got bored and went home.
Read More: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/cars-damaged-during-protest-in-shooting-of-unarmed-black-man/2292028