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Real Change And Justice: Tampa Bay Shares Messages They Want To Send

Jun 11, 2020

WUSF has given you a voice.

As widespread protests have taken place across Tampa Bay following the May 25 death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, we posted a form asking whether you've taken part in any protests or spoken out some way. We asked, 'What message do you want to send?'

While not all have physically participated in marches that spanned from Lakeland to Tampa to Sarasota, residents across the region have been vocal and passionate about changes they would like to see, and what needs to be done to address racial inequality.

Here is a sampling of comments, which have been edited for length and clarity:

CAT LaFUENTE, Bradenton

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? Bradenton 5/31, Sarasota 6/4, Sarasota 6/6

MESSAGE: While we’re demanding justice for George Floyd, we need to demand justice for Rodney Mitchell, who was murdered by Sarasota police in 2012.

DOROTHY VESSEY, St. Petersburg

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? In St. Petersburg

MESSAGE: I am from Minnesota and a racist family that I find hard to be with. My brother-in-law was a racist Minneapolis cop for 25 years...then a police chief outside Kansas City, Mo. He died in 2010. Racism on the Minneapolis department was totally overlooked. At his time on the department it was commonplace. He often retold ugly stories of brutality.  My family members and relatives are predominately Republican and that says it all. I’ve lived in Florida for 28 years, and it’s getting to be as uncomfortable living in Florida.

TOBI McMULLEN, Dunedin

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? Sun., May 31 in Tampa at Cyrus Green Park and Tues., June 2 in Clearwater at MLK Center to Coachman Park

MESSAGE: That it is time for change -- real systemic change in our communities, in our cities, and in our nation. I would like white people (me included) to recognize that racism exists far beyond a few "bad apples" and that we benefit from a system that is unfair and unjust. I want to send a message to my kids that we have a responsibility as citizens and as humans to stand up for what is right. I felt like participation was a necessary action to show my support physically. I would like our civic leaders to know they have a responsibility to their constituents to implementing policies that will change the current structure.

LAURA ANGELIDES, Saint Pete Beach

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? I shall be protesting on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg...with my church, First Unity.

MESSAGE: It is time for the country's leaders and law enforcement to treat people of color with dignity and respect.

Christine Bruner organized a number of neighborhood gatherings in St. Petersburg.
Credit COURTESY: CHRISTINE BRUNER

CHRISTINE BRUNER, Shore Acres/St. Petersburg

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? I posted in our neighborhood FB group that we would be meeting at the recreation center for eight nights at 8 p.m., to coincide with the City of St. Petersburg outreach of solidarity.  The city advertised the opportunity for individuals and families to gather on their driveway or porch in observance.  I thought it would be great for our neighborhood to come together, yet stay socially distanced.  For the past few nights, a small group of neighbors have gathered to stand together for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

MESSAGE: We want to show our neighbors of color that we stand with them, that we see them.  We want to show all of our neighbors that we are there to support each other and that we as a community need to do more.  By individuals making small changes, our society can make huge strides.

DYLAN HUNT, Tampa

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? I have a family and do not have time to protest in the streets, though, I do protest! So right here, right now, is where I join my voice with yours, where I join the protest.

MESSAGE: Voting got us into this mess, so the solution is more voting? That is a failure of imagination. The definition of insanity is repeating the same action, over and over, and expecting different results.

Voting is the problem. Employ a system that is subject to implicit bias and emotional blackmail, as voting is, then fail to realize voting produced a systematically biased result? Have we lost our minds?

To eliminate bias, we select juries, not by popular vote, but by random selection. Why not elect a government in the same way? By random selection.

Congress is 83% male. If we elected Congress by random selection, it couldn't help but be 50% female, overnight. Because the general population of the United States is 50/50.

Popular voting is a childish popularity contest that never really got out of high school. Adults use random selection -- as we do for juries -- to get a more fair, equal, just, and unbiased result.

We must strive to make this change so that George Floyd may rest in peace.

STUART SPINNOCK, Tampa

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? My protest was on social media

MESSAGE: That the outrage over the misdeeds of the rioters/looters should not drown out the reason for the protests.  When black lives are worth as much as white lives, the rest of this mess will work itself out.  Until then, we have work to do!

CYNTHIA SMITH, Plant City

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? Did not protest in person

MESSAGE: Our voices need to be heard by our votes in November. I'm registering voters.

COLLEEN REED, St. Petersburg

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? I did not protest in person but certainly in my heart and mind.  My son and daughter-in-law did protest in the Minneapolis peaceful freeway event that was terrorized by police.  They were shot at with rubber bullets and maced as they were seated on the ground.

MESSAGE: I am 70-years-old and am sickened and deeply saddened that the racism I have seen over my lifetime has changed very little.  I have a biracial grandson and do not know what to say to him or how I should help prepare him for life in this reality.  This has to end; but when the White House seemingly cares little for the issue and instead clears a peaceful protest to grandstand for a photo op at a religious building it sends a message loud and clear -- November is not far off!

MARY FOLEY, Palm Harbor

HOW DID YOU PROTEST? Online from my home as I am the sole caregiver for my husband who has Alzheimers.

MESSAGE: Everyone needs to stand up and speak out and PLEASE VOTE in November. Ever since Trump was elected, racists and bigots feel emboldened. It is sickening. I have marched more in the past 3.5 years than ever before.