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Protesters and campers could create odd mix for RNC | News

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Protesters and campers could create odd mix for RNC

Tampa, Florida -- In about a week, thousands of protesters with descend on Tampa Bay for the Republican National Convention.

But with many hotels sold out and rental homes too expensive, some are turning to campgrounds as a place to stay.

That has some concerned it could create conflict between protesters and campers, or at the very least, bring together an odd mix people.

"I feel like it's going to be a whole big wreck," said Chelsea Stewart, who camps at Hillsborough River State Park.

Park officials say reservations for the week of the convention are up about 50 percent over the same time last year, though they don't know if protesters are responsible for that.

March on the RNC, a group expecting 5,000 protesters for the RNC, is pushing campgrounds at Hillsborough River State Park, Ruskin, and Plant City on its website.

"Ideally people would rather sleep in a bed, but that's not an option," said organizer Jared Hamil.

But after an emotionally charged day of marching and demonstrating through downtown Tampa, some wonder if the protesters will be able to settle down and fit in with campers.

Park Ranger Gina Philhowser says Florida Fish and Wildlife will patrol Hillsborough River State Park as usual.

Even though the park is nearly sold out for the week, they don't anticipate conflicts.

"Our expectations are the same as they would be any other time of year.  We expect that all visitors to the park will follow the rules," Philhowser explained.

Hamil is planning a peaceful protest and he hopes that carries over into where they sleep.

"Don't worry about protesters.  Protesters are just like anybody else," he said.

Hillsborough County parks are also not planning any extra security, but sheriff's deputies will be on stand by in case anything gets out of hand.


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