For this year’s Republcian National Convention, tens of thousands of conventioneers and attendant media will converge with political protesters spanning the spectrum from tea partiers to occupiers into a relatively small area where not only are guns permitted, but it seems to be ok to shoot someone dead for engendering a threatened feeling. As Rachel pointed out Wednesday night, the proposed rules to keep all of these people safe seem a little inconsistent. But after watching Wednesday night’s segment, I was less fixated on the hand guns than I was on the string. Why ban twine? Why six inches? Blame my northern bias, but my first guess was that it’s a hold over from anti-lynching laws. As harmless as a six-inch piece of string might seem, in another light, a group of impassioned people bearing a length of rope in Florida might seem a bit more ominous. After a few hours of horrified googling I’ve learned that my bias is not entirely without basis, but also that anti-lynching laws, to the extent that any exist beyond failed bills, focus more on the idea of extra-judicial mobs than on actual rope (which makes sense, and now I feel silly for thinking otherwise). So wait, before we go any further let’s take a look at the proposed ordinance (pdf):
(1) Rope, chain, cable, strapping, wire, string, line, tape or any material of a similar nature, having tensile strength greater than thirty (30) pounds and a length greater than six (6) inches;The language of the bill sounds somewhat boilerplate, making me think this isn’t specific to political convention protests. Sure enough, I found a FAQ sheet for a parade in Tampa called the Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest from this past January that has a similar banned item list and a bit more explanation of the rope ban under the “prohibited items” heading:
Fence, stakes or rope (used by spectators to reserve space for parade viewing)The City of Tampa also publishes a Guide to Special Events (pdf) containing further clues about the blacklisting of rope:
…no person shall erect or cause to be erected any tent, shelter, entertainment equipment, or structure on or in any beach, water area, or any other department managed land in such a manner that requires guy-wire, rope, extension, brace, or support connected or fastened from any such tent, shelter, entertainment equipment, or structure to any other structure, tree, stake, rock, or other object without a permit from the Department.I still don’t know how the proposed convention ordinance came up with six inches as the maximum approved length (as half of the internet seems to be pointing out, that’s going to require everyone in Tampa to wear loafers or flip-flops) but at least it feels like the rule is born of something other than concerns about rope as a weapon.* For the record, and because I’m feeling a little defensive about giving the impression that I can’t find anything out without first clicking a link, I did call the City of Tampa to see if someone could give a little insight. As it happened, the City Council was at that moment in the midst of debating the ordinance, so there was no getting a comment on unsettled material. I watched some of the meeting online before the show meeting (a very cool service and kudos to the Tampa City Council for offering it) but most of what I saw was debate about the size (pdf) of the clean zone (apparently after some input on whether it should even exist). I don’t find any reports that they got around to discussing the string ban, but it looks like they’ll discuss it more later this month. If you have a guess that I haven’t thought of, I’m interested to hear it. *If this made you think of this month’s Wonder Woman #7, you win an extra 10,000 nerd points.
More Like This
Best of MSNBC
String theory: What's the deal with Tampa's twine ban?