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Thousands March Peacefully Across Tampa Bay Region

Thousands of people in the Tampa Bay region this weekend spoke out about the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.

Daytime protests in Sarasota, Lakeland, St. Petersburg and Bradenton on Saturday and Sunday were peaceful. Nighttime clashes with police and violence did break out after marches in Tampa on both days, which led to a nighttime curfew Sunday evening. A group of St. Petersburg protesters were arrested late Sunday after throwing water meter lids and bottles in front of the city police department. 

WUSF attended a march on Sunday which started at Cyrus Greene Park in Tampa. Sponsored by Black Lives Matters: Tampa, it also included participants from more than a dozen local community groups and religious organizations. Roughly 1,000 people attended.

The marchers reflected a diversity in terms of age, race and the communities in which they live. But all said they felt it was important to participate now in the protests. Some of the protesters did not share their last names for safety reasons.

A headshot of a woman wearing a white hijab.
Credit Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Chaikirah Parker.

Chaikirah Parker of Tampa and member of the African American Muslim Alliance of Tampa Bay:

“To have a grown man, subdued and submissive, and crying for his mother. That…that's one of those things when you realize that you're trying to break down the spirit of the people, you know. And that's what that does.

“Those images have been cast way too many times for way too many generations. And so, in saying that our people are enough, because we know that we come from greatness, we have the same rights that everyone else does.

“And there's no reason why we should be treated in such an inhumane way where we can watch one of our brothers…and I think every mother across the country, they were heartbroken when they heard him scream out, cry out, ‘Mom.’ “

Kelsey, a St. Petersburg resident: 

A woman wearing an n95 mask.
Credit Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Kelsey.

“I’m really upset about the injustice that's been going on in our society for centuries, honestly, and I felt like I needed to use my white privilege to make a statement and make a stand.

“White privilege is an invisible thing to a lot of us unless you're aware of it. But it's just built into our systems that we can just live our lives easier on than (people in) a lot of other communities.”

A man wearing glasses and a ballcap and holding a protest sign.
Credit Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Cam Parker.

Cam Parker of Tampa, an artist:

“We have had enough. I compare it to when like a pressure cooker is on the stove and the lid, the lid is locked. And then you know, when the contents and the steam and the pressure has nowhere to go, that lid is going to blow off. And that is essentially what's happened in this country is the lid has blown off of everything.

“And now it's just a matter of getting the kitchen cleaned up. I feel our presidents is the type of person to instead of going into the kitchen, getting on his hands and knees and cleaning it up, he's just gonna buy a new house and you know, walk away from the mess. And I hope that is not what's going to happen.”

Laci from Tampa:

A woman wearing an n95 mask.
Credit Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Laci.

“This fear of coming out (to protest) for a normal, everyday person to come out here and be afraid of tear gas or rubber bullets, etc, that you hear on the news. That's a fear that these people have every single day of their lives, whether it be yourself by a cop, or we're walking into a store. So for us to put that fear aside and come out and stand together and say that it's okay means the world to everybody.”

A woman wearing a black tank top.
Credit Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Robyn.

Robyn from Riverview:

I think we need to show up in numbers, I think. So often we do protests online, we do the hashtags. We’re visible, but we're not seeing really see the type of support that we have.

“And so to come out here and you have such a diverse group of people out here, it's very important that you see who supports you, you see who's supporting the movement is very important that you show in numbers in mass what this means to people, because the data on the internet isn't properly reflected.

“And you just have to make sure that people understand that it's a lot more than just black people that are supporting this. It's a lot more than Hispanics that are out here supporting this, it’s everybody and everybody feels the pain that black people are feeling in this.”

Other protests over the weekend in cities across the country and in the Tampa Bay region included:

  • Sarasota’s Payne Park on Sunday. A journalist from the Herald Tribune report that about 150 people attended. On Saturday, several other marches took place in Sarasota, including one in the historic African American Newtown neighborhood that the Bradenton Herald reported included City Commissioner Charles Shaw.
  • Bradenton, at the Village of the Arts on Sunday. Bradenton Herald reporters shared that the Sunday march included a stop at City Hall, where protesters kneeled for nine minutes in honor of George Floyd.
  • Lakeland, at Munn Park in downtown Lakeland. Journalists from The Ledger estimated the group at about 400 people.

This story is part of the “America Amplified” initiative.  America Amplified is a national public media collaboration focused on community engagement reporting.