Did Tampa's Mayor Say That Mask Violations Would Be Handled by Police?
A video that claims as much was deceptively edited.
After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl victory on Sunday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor held a press conference, during which several viral social media posts claimed she said individuals not wearing face masks at the Super Bowl would be “identified” and “handl[ed]” by the police.
Breaking 911’s video of Castor is deceptively edited, with three clips obviously spliced together, removing important context to make it seem as if Castor was speaking about masks throughout. The transcript of the Breaking 911 video reads:
“Everyone knows that simply wearing a mask dramatically reduces the spread of COVID-19 and I’m proud to say that the majority of individuals that I saw out and about enjoying the festivities associated with the Super Bowl were complying. … You know we had tens of thousands of people all over this city, downtown out by the stadium, Ybor City, down here in Channelside, and very, very few incidents. So, I’m proud of our community, but those few bad actors will be identified and the Tampa police department will handle it. … There just has to be that level of personal responsibility. You can supply everyone with a mask, advise them of the science behind it, and expect that they are going to abide by the mask order. Again, you’re going to find a few that don’t. A majority that I saw were wearing masks.”
Watching Castor’s full press conference—which can be found on the City of Tampa Facebook page—it isn’t clear that in her discussion of “bad actors” Castor was referring to fans without masks.
During her prepared remarks, Castor stated: “I know the media can always find examples of bad behavior, but we had literally tens of thousands of people come out to share in the excitement of the Super Bowl win and the majority of them did it very, very peacefully. And were able to feel like they were a part of the event.”
Referencing this comment, a reporter later asked her: “Mayor, I know that you said that media can always find bad things, but, you know, I did see pretty bad things on the street (inaudible) last night. The celebration was great up until a point and then it exceeded that point. And there’s a two part question to that: A) what do you think about what happened last night, and the fact that officers had to disperse really large crowds that were not wearing masks and how do you have a celebration going forward when you know that people are going to come out like this?”
Castor responded: “First of all, we won’t invite any of those individuals to the celebration. But as I said, you know we had tens of thousands of people all over this city, downtown out by the stadium, Ybor City, down here in Channelside, and very, very few incidents. So, I’m proud of our community, but those few bad actors will be identified and the Tampa police department will handle it.”
Castor’s comments about “personal responsibility” came in response to yet another question about the Super Bowl becoming a superspreader event.
While Tampa instituted an outdoor mask mandate for the Super Bowl, the mandate notes that noncompliance is “a noncriminal civil infraction” with a maximum fine of $500. But even that penalty can’t really be enforced, because of an executive order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that prevents local governments from punishing individuals who do not abide by mask mandates. As such, maskless Super Bowl celebrators likely can’t be hit with any true discipline, and certainly wouldn’t face being “handled” by the Tampa police.
In an interview with The Dispatch Fact Check, the on-duty press representative for the Tampa police confirmed that breaking the mask mandate would “be civil, and there would be a fine.” He added that the police would be involved with investigating only “criminal activity after the Super Bowl, so anybody that was committing criminal mischief is looking at criminal charges.”
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