Deputies: RNC protester arrested with machete strapped to his leg

By Josh Rojas, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Republican National Convention protester was arrested while he allegedly carried a machete strapped to his leg, according to deputies.

According to Hillsborough County Sheriff's officials, Jason T. Wilson, of Tallahassee, was arrested as he walked in the RNC Event Zone carrying a "full size" machete.

When deputies approached Wilson, they said he continued to walk away despite orders to stop.

"When deputies caught up to Wilson, he advised he did not have to stop and that he was allowed to carry whatever he wanted," HCSO spokesperson Larry McKinnon said.

When deputies attempted to physically stop him, Wilson allegedly began resisting arrest and was physically restrained.

Wilson was arrested and taken to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on charges of prohibited items in event zone and resisting arrest with violence.

Confusion over Mitt Romney puppet

One deputy told a group of protesters carrying an oversized puppet of Mitt Romney the sticks they were using to hold up the puppet's arms were against the rules. 

We captured exclusive video of that exchange.

Deputy: "I got to have the sticks."

Protester: "No, sir. We actually measured them exactly within the code."

Deputy: "Okay, there's one of two options. I can take the sticks or people can go to jail. I don't want to do that."

A Tampa police captain took over, measured the sticks and determined that they were legal.

On the exchange between the deputy and protester, Chief Castor said "there was just a little bit of confusion on it. Whether we should or shouldn't allow those in here and then the Captain made the decision. The right decision."

Community organizer Kelly Benjamin agreed with Chief Castor.

"We have the utmost respect for the police. They're just doing their jobs,” said Kelly Benjamin, FL Consumer Action Network. “It was a misunderstanding. I'm glad it was resolved. The puppet was well within the code, so there should be no problems."

Other protests carried out without incident

Meanwhile, other large protests were carried out without incident.

Two hundred protesters arrived at Gaslight Park in Downtown Tampa just after 12 p.m.  After protesting in the park for a short time, police say the group split up, with approximately 100 protesters marching to the Bank of America building. 

They entered the bank's front plaza and put stickers and were writing with chalk on the private property. Crowd management officers asked the demonstrators to leave the private property and they complied without incident.

The second group of approximately 100 protesters, marched through city streets toward the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the convention will take place.

Bike officers rolled alongside the unplanned march closing cross streets to keep the protesters safe from traffic. 

They marched to the public viewing area where they chanted and held a brief rally before loading onto buses to head to St. Petersburg for the opening event of the RNC.

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