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Courts / Law

St. Petersburg Police To Begin Ticketing Protesters Blocking Traffic

Black Lives Matter protesters sit in a large circle, blocking a busy intersection in St. Petersburg.
Will Simota
/
St. Pete Peace Protest
Demonstrators against racial injustice say protesting in the streets is an important part of bringing attention to their movement.

Following more than 400 complaints from city residents, protesters in St. Petersburg will now be issued citations for blocking traffic.

The announcement from the St. Petersburg Police Department came just days after a racial injustice demonstration shut down the Snell Isle Bridge on the Fourth of July.

Jalessa Blackshear, a regular participant in the St. Pete Peace Protest movement, said demonstrators shouldn’t be threatened for exercising their constitutional rights.

“So now we need tickets, right, because the Negroes be coming out of control, the Negroes are doing too much,” she said. “People are asking, ‘Why are you blocking the streets?’ My question is, ‘Why are you not blocking the streets?’”

Blackshear added that, while conflict is a result of democracy, the movement's ultimate goal is to “move from agitation to construction, and construction is policy reform.”

She said demonstrators will continue protesting until the reforms address the inequity Blacks have been facing in St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Police said demonstrators who continue to block traffic will be cited for violations of the following laws:

  • Must use sidewalk when possible, Florida Statute 316.130 (3)
  • May not obstruct or hinder traffic, Florida Statute 316.2045 (1)
  • Must obey traffic signals, Florida Statute 316.075 (1) (C) 2b

“The Police Department has received numerous complaints about protesters blocking roads, impeding traffic for emergency response, and delaying citizens driving to work and other obligations,” officials said in a statement released Thursday.
The complaints included 413 to the city’s Emergency Communications Center, 15 to the city council, and 79 phone calls and emails to the mayor’s office.

They have also received “phone calls and emails sent to individual police supervisors and officers and messages received through the department's social media platforms.”

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Police Chief Anthony Holloway addressed a video, released by the department, showing protesters blocking a fire rescue ambulance downtown a day earlier.

“Even though they're peaceful, at some point, they're not letting emergency vehicles go through,” he said. “And sometimes it adds to the point where now you're cutting into that response time, where someone is calling for help.”

However, officials with St. Petersburg Fire Rescue told the Tampa Bay Times the vehicle did not have its emergency lights or siren on since it was on its way to a city gas station to refuel.

Fire officials also said that, since demonstrations began in early June, only one other fire rescue vehicle had to be redirected and there was no effect on its emergency response time.