Tampa, St. Petersburg Protests End With Unrest While Other Gatherings Are Largely Peaceful
Police made more than 60 arrests and an officer was injured after protests in downtown Tampa turned violent Tuesday night.
The Tampa protests over the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police took place at the same time as a protest in downtown St. Petersburg that was relatively calm until late in the night, and largely peaceful protests in Riverview and Plant City.
After a group of around 500 protesters moved through downtown Tampa streets, police said the worst unrest took place sometime before 11 p.m.
That’s when crowds began throwing bricks and other items at officers near the federal courthouse, followed by throwing rocks at police cars and then bottles a short time later, police said.
As the crowd continue marching, police blocked traffic again along the Brorein Street Bridge, prompting some to climb on top of police cars on top of the bridge.
At that point, some in the crowd became violent and attempted to damage property, police said.
After ordering the crowd of around 300 to disperse around 11:45 p.m., police said an object was thrown their way, prompting the officers to fire tear gas and smoke bombs to break up the crowd.
Police arrested 64 people on charges of unlawful entry, and four were charged with resisting arrest without violence. One officer suffered a minor injury, police said.
Tuesday’s protests began around 4 p.m. when about 200 people gathered at Tampa City Hall and marched down West Kennedy Boulevard to the Fox 13 studios. Officers blocked traffic to ensure the protesters who stopped to give speeches outside the station remained safe, police said.
They were met by another group of protesters, police said, and totaling around 500 people, they marched together back toward downtown while stopping at several locations.
This is when police say some in the group began to become more unruly. Police thwarted three different attempts by some protesters to rush onto I-275, before the crowd made their way toward the federal courthouse.
In St. Petersburg, about 300 demonstrators walked peacefully through downtown streets from 2 p.m. until close to midnight.
Police said some protesters were setting off explosives as they were walking later in the night. Officers told the protesters who had returned to the front of police headquarters just before midnight that this was an unlawful assembly and needed to disperse for the safety of themselves and the officers.
After about two minutes, police launched smoke bombs and several protesters threw large mortars toward the building.
Police say they arrested 23 people who refused to leave, including one who was carrying a backpack full of large fireworks.
In Hillsborough County, several hundred people gathered Tuesday night in what were largely peaceful protests in Riverview and Plant City, with one arrest reported.
The assemblies gathered around 5 p.m., according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
In Plant City, the Sheriff’s Office said several hundred protesters marched between the Race Trac on James L. Redman Parkway and the Plant City Police Department.
Deputies say one person was seen throwing bottles but fled to avoid arrest, and another was arrested after deputies say he attempted to remove a Confederate flag from a vehicle and burn it, which led to a fight.
The intersection of U.S. 301 and Big Bend Road was shut down in Riverview after a gathering of about 600 at the Bank of America on U.S. 301 N spilled onto the roadway, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
After being told to clear the roadway, protesters dispersed at 10:45 p.m. without incident, deputies say. There were no arrests.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister commended law enforcement for their handling of the protests.
"I commend both my deputies and officers with the Plant City Police Department for their restraint in dealing with agitators and their willingness to show the citizens we serve that we are listening to their concerns and will always be there to protect them," Chronister said in a news release. "I am happy to say that these protests ended with no injuries and no damage to property in either Plant City or Riverview."
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 at WUSF.org/give