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Protesters kept at a distance; three arrested


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 5, 2001

TAMPA -- People who parked in the assigned lots and walked to Legends Field to see President Bush probably didn't see many protest signs.

TAMPA -- People who parked in the assigned lots and walked to Legends Field to see President Bush probably didn't see many protest signs.

That's because the 150 or so protesters were kept in a cordoned-off "First Amendment zone" about a half-mile away, at the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Tampa Bay Boulevard. The boisterous group waved signs that read "SAVE OUR GULF" and "Bush oil and our water don't mix."

Inside the ballpark, three demonstrators carrying anti-Bush signs were arrested after they refused to leave, Tampa police spokeswoman Katie Hughes said.

Janis Marie Lentz, 55, of New Port Richey, Mauricio Rosas, 37, of Tampa, and Sonja Haught, 59, of Clearwater, were each charged with trespassing after warning, police said. Haught also was charged with disorderly conduct because police say she tried to resist arrest.

Walter Sorenson, 81, of New Port Richey was knocked down after police shoved one of the arrested women, he said. He suffered a cut on his head.

Sorenson said he was carrying an anti-Bush sign too, but put it in his pocket when told to.

"I asked them (security) how come everyone else could wave Bush signs and we couldn't have our signs," Sorenson said. "They said, "You don't make the rules. We make the rules.' "

Hughes said police were only enforcing Secret Service policy.

"They said that you can't be within eyeshot of the president with those signs because it's a security issue," Hughes said. "Most of this is bigger than us. ... We work within their parameters."

A half-mile away, demonstrators shared disgust for the Bush administration and plenty of non-sanctioned signs. They included Florida Democrats, the Sierra Club and other environmentalists, the National Organization for Women, gay and lesbian alliances, and student groups.

A 2,000-pound oil derrick display with a postcard-like background of Florida's coastline sent a message: "Oil derricks can destroy a pretty picture," said Bob Poe, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

"The Democrats are out here to ask (President) Bush to keep his promises," Poe said. "He promised not to drill off the shore of Florida. This administration seems to be hellbent on breaking that promise."

Beth Connor, conservation organizer for the Sierra Club of Florida, said, "I think (the Bush administration) is going to realize they picked the wrong fight. The people of Florida are united on this issue. They have kicked over an ant pile -- and we are fire ants."

Protester Matt Sullivan said he disagreed with the idea of keeping the dissenting voices out of the president's earshot.

"We're all American citizens," Sullivan said. "We shouldn't allow our voices to be segregated."

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