Tampa, Florida -- There's no doubt that the police presence is at an all-time high in downtown Tampa. They are everywhere, every corner, every street and every stoplight. They have barricades set up and checkpoints. It is visibly clear that security is being taken very seriously.
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You'll especially notice the bike patrols, men and women dressed in khaki uniforms riding around en masse on bicycles. They're quick, they're mobile and they're busy. The bike patrols are keeping the peace on the downtown city streets when it comes to protesters.
Today, they tell us they met up with "trouble."
Deputies say anarchists using a tactic called the, "Black Bloc," got out of hand during the Coalition to March on the RNC. The black block is not so much a group, but rather a movement. As the name indicates, protesters dress in black--everything from black pants, to masks, to shirts--and infiltrate marches and demonstrations.
"They're here to cause trouble," said Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee. "We will not tolerate it. Other peaceful protesters are welcome, but not people causing inciting a riot, and that's what they tried to do."
Law enforcement sources tell 10 News that they heard rumors that the "Black Bloc" would be used to storm the Bank of America or a parking garage as protesters demonstrated during the march.
"They definitely attempted to cause a riot," said Sheriff Gee.
Five groups of demonstrators comprised of 10 people split up, sources say, and took off down city streets. They were quickly met with bike patrol units that came from everywhere to shut down the movement.
Protesters say three people were arrested. One of them was taken into custody for wearing a black mask out of the event zone, which is prohibited.
"'The 'Black Bloc' is not a group. It is a defensive tactic to protect ourselves. We are about peace," said Anthony Robledo, a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement who traveled to Tampa from New York City.
Members of the Occupy movement say the "Black Bloc" is not about violence, but rather sticking together in one group with one uniform look and cause.
"A lot of people are uninformed. They don't understand us. They need to stop watching reality television and pick up a book," said Robledo. "We are not about causing problems. We just came to protest the RNC."
Sheriff Gee reiterated the fact that peaceful protesters are welcomed on the city streets, but tactics like "Black Bloc" would be shut down immediately.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Gee was part of the bike patrols today and assisted in keeping the peace. He wanted to be "part of the action," he says. He patrolled the streets, alongside his deputies and handed out water to those who needed it.
"I am so proud of them," said the Sheriff of his deputies. "They are working hard."
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