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Tampa Mayor Castor, Police Chief Dugan Urge Protestors To Stay Home

A woman speaks at podium.
Tampa Police Department/Facebook
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor speaks at a press conference Wednesday while Police Chief Brian Dugan and a number of Tampa sports figures, including pro wrestler Titus O'Neil, stand by.

Tampa authorities are asking people to stay home after a number of protests over the last few days turned violent.

Sixty-eight people were arrested Tuesday night after Tampa Police officials said some in a large crowd of otherwise peaceful protestors, began throwing objects at officers and refused to leave downtown after being ordered to.

According to police, 64 people were charged with unlawful assembly, while four others were charged with resisting arrest without violence.

As in dozens of other cities around the country, crowds have gathered around Tampa for almost a week to protest the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

READ MORE: Tampa, St. Petersburg Protests End With Unrest

Speaking at a press conference in Tampa Wednesday, Mayor Jane Castor said she would prefer that people not come out to protest.

“I would prefer that people stayed home. If you want to come out and express yourself, do it in the daylight and do it in a lawful manner, and we will provide you a safe platform upon which you can do that,” said Castor.

The mayor added that she understands people’s frustration, but she thinks there's a correct way to demonstrate that.

“We are grieving, our community’s grieving, our nation is grieving, everyone is grieving the murder of George Floyd. We have worked to allow individuals here in our community to express that anger to express that grief, to express that concern in a lawful way,” Castor said.

“But we cannot have violence. We cannot have violence and property destruction. That is not the city of Tampa. It is not the groups that are out protesting – Black Lives Matter and the other groups that organize these protests are out there for the right reason.”

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan expressed similar anger at people who he said are hijacking protests.

“These are peaceful marches that whatever we want to call them – hooligans, agitators, knuckleheads – are taking over at the end. And when that turns, that tension, that's when we're asking, ‘You got to go. The peaceful people got to leave.’”

He also said that crowds need to listen to those commands, adding that people were told to leave three times Tuesday night before police moved in.

“When we give dispersal orders, you really need to take heed, because no one won last night. We made 68 arrests (Tuesday) night. What's that accomplish? Nothing – it accomplishes absolutely nothing.”

Tampa had a curfew in effect both Sunday and Monday night after businesses were burned and looters broke into stores near the University of South Florida and Busch Gardens. It was lifted early Tuesday before the night’s unrest.

RELATED: Tampa Lifts Curfew After Protests Get Violent Over Weekend

Castor voiced concern that many businesses that were closed for more than two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic are preparing to reopen later this week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that phase two of his plan – which includes the partial reopening of bars, movie theaters, and tattoo parlors, closed because of the coronavirus– will go into effect Friday.

Castor said she does not want to have to reinstate the curfew and hurt local businesses further.

"We're trying to get back up on our feet here as a city and we need everybody's help,” she said. “It's a small group that are causing the problems, we all have to stand up and say that is not acceptable in the city of Tampa."

Castor and Dugan were joined by a number of area sports figures, including Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash and coaches Ozzie Timmons and Rodney Linares.

Thaddeus Bullard, who is also known as professional wrestler Titus O’Neil, gave an impassioned speech at the end of the press conference, imploring both protestors and community officials to take responsibility for their actions – and to figure out together what comes next.

“How can we take what happened in Minnesota and bring it to Tampa and figure out a way to build relationships with our law enforcement and hold them accountable, but not just our law enforcement agencies, our first responders, our people that are elected officials – how are we going to hold them accountable?” said Bullard.

“Because at the end of the day, every last one of us in here have children, family members that live in this neighborhood, live in this community.”

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WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.