ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — During a break in the rain Saturday, several hundred protesters sat in an intersection in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida and chanted against racism.
“No KKK no racist USA,” the crowd yelled.
It was one of dozens of mobilizations in Florida against police brutality, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
From Miami to Jacksonville to Tallahassee and many cities in between, thousands of people marched and chanted, stopping traffic and demanding change.
“It's beautiful,” said 28-year-old Nick Williams in St. Petersburg. “It shows the city has come together over all the injustices.”
In Tampa, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy was one of many who marched from a church to a mall that was hit with violence last weekend. In a Miami suburb, rapper Rick Ross attended a protest.
About 100 protesters gathered Saturday at President Donald Trump’s golf resort in Doral, Florida, just outside Miami. The protest was organized by Latinos for Black Lives Matter. Many carried signs saying such things as “Vote Him Out” and “Don’t Be A Bunker Boy,” the latter a reference to reports that Trump went into the White House bunker when protests in Washington got more violent. Trump insists he only went there briefly for an inspection. In Doral, about a dozen police officers were on hand for the protest but did not take any actions.
In Orlando, thousands of people marched around Lake Eola, the city's downtown park. Around 7:30 p.m. in Orlando, a possible tornado was spotted close to downtown, where a group of protesters gathered. There was no word of injuries.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Sheriff John Mina told demonstrators his agency added a policy this week that requires deputies to intervene when they see misconduct by their colleagues. Many who heard the message said it’s a start but not enough.
In Jacksonville, protesters began the demonstration by calling out the names of residents fatally shot by Sheriff’s Office personnel. So far, 10 suspects have been shot by Jacksonville police this year with six dead, according to the Times-Union.
About 1,000 gathered in Tallahassee. Like the protesters elsewhere, people demanded more citizen oversight of law enforcement, using local and state money for health care and social services instead of policing, and to enact some sort of citizen accountability board to help set police policy.
Terron Gland, the organizer of St. Pete Peace Protest, wore a black shirt with some of Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe.”
Police weren’t visible at the protest, but Gland said that earlier in the day, some top officers from the city’s department wanted to march “in solidarity.” At one point, the city’s police chief asked the news media to leave.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that Chief Anthony Holloway said the media was hampering efforts to relate with protesters, but that reporters could stay.
“(The protesters) felt we were using this as a media opportunity,” Holloway told a Times reporter. “What we’re trying to create is unity.”
That wasn’t possible with the media there, Holloway said.
When the reporters mentioned the media had a 1st Amendment right to be there, Holloway said “You have every right to be here.”
Eventually the police left and didn’t march with the group.