Make us your home page
Instagram

Nearly two dozen arrested in Ybor City as hundreds protest minimum wages across Tampa Bay

TAMPA — Nearly two dozen protesters seeking a $15 an hour minimum wage were arrested on Tuesday night after sitting in the middle of N 21st Street in Ybor City.

They were among several hundred people who showed up for a rally and march from Centennial Park, down the middle of E 7th Avenue to N 22nd Street and a McDonald's.

"Tell me what Democracy looks like," someone called out, a drum beating in the background.

"This is what Democracy looks like," came the response, over and over, as they received a warning from police.

Similar scenes played out in hundreds of cities across the nation Tuesday as fast-food workers, health care providers, airport workers, child care providers, Uber drivers and more joined the "day of disruption," organized by the Service Employees International Union to draw attention to their "Fight for $15" campaign.

It's the fourth year of the campaign.

The protesters descended in waves on the Tampa Bay area, first with a 6 a.m. walk-out strike at a McDonald's on E Hillsborough Avenue followed by a noon press conference at St. Petersburg's City Hall.

Tuesday night in Ybor City, Tampa police lined the streets as protesters conducted their march.

After the group rounded the McDonald's, though, banging snare drums and chanting rhymes like "We work, we sweat, put $15 in our check," some stopped and sat in the middle of N 21st Street, near the Interstate-4 exit.

Police gave multiple warnings, in Spanish and English, that doing so would be an unlawful act of protests, but no one in the group took them up on offers to let them leave without incident.

Lt. Michael Stout of the Tampa Police Department told them the assembly had been declared unlawful.

"At this time," he called out, "consider yourself under arrest for refusing to disperse. Please do not resist arrest ... or significant injury may occur."

After about a 15 minute standoff, around 6:30 p.m., the 23 protesters were arrested without incident.

Commissioner Pat Kemp and State Rep. Sean Shaw joined in the march to McDonald's, along with Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights activists. Tuesday was the first event launched by the Fight for $15 campaign since Donald Trump won the presidential election.

Organizers billed the day of events, planned in 340 cities, as the largest and most disruptive protest yet.

"It's more important than ever to fight because we have a lot more on our shoulders these days, don't we," Shaw told the crowd. "But we are not going to allow them to tear us apart by race, sex, class or any other labels because we're going to fight together."

Preschool teacher Pavonne Scott, 37, has taught music classes and worked in childcare in Tampa for 18 years. It's her passion, she says, but the job barely allows her to afford rent and groceries. She has no money for a car. Scott was emotional as she watched the protesters hold their wrists out to Tampa police to be cuffed. One of them was her roommate, she said.

"People are willing to support this to the end. It's so touching," she said. "We're paying out of our own pocketbooks to do what we love, and we deserve more."

Hundreds of workers at some of the nation's largest airports, including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, were on strike. Tampa Bay airports were unaffected,

Standing at a podium fashioned to look like the number 15, Jayson James told the crowd outside St. Petersburg City Hall earlier in the day that he was part of the third generation of his family to live and work in the city. Starting in the 1920s, James' family worked in hotels. They were never paid enough, he said.

Some there held signs calling Trump "Not My President" while others held banners that said "Black Lives Matter." The signs also called for "15 + the union," or said "we can't survive on $8.05."

Tampa fast-food worker Bleu Rainer said if Trump doesn't support of $15 minimum wage, he should step aside and let the country decide.

"And if we don't get it," he called to the crowd in a protest chant, to which they responded, "shut it down."

Other than Tampa, McDonald's workers in cities across Florida, including Orlando and Miami, gathered in the streets with signs. Briefly on Tuesday morning, about 50 protesters blocked the drive-thru at the Tampa McDonald's.

In St. Petersburg, City Council members Darden Rice, Karl Nurse and Amy Foster pledged their support.

"We have got to get the political will to work locally on policies that get at structural poverty, that get at structural racism," Rice said. "We must continue to educate people on the connection between racial justice and economic justice."

The airport workers who have joined the protest don't work for any specific airline. They are baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and plane cabin cleaners who are employed by local airports. These workers have been trying to unionize across the country without much success.

The Fight for $15 disruption day comes just a day after German airliner Lufthansa pilots went on strike to rally for better wages, which did not affect the direct flight from Frankfurt to Tampa, a spokesman said.

Nearly two dozen arrested in Ybor City as hundreds protest minimum wages across Tampa Bay 11/29/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 5:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Appointments at Port Tampa Bay and Tampa General Medical Group highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Government

    Port Tampa Bay announced that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. Sowell, a former member of the U.S.Marine Corps, will support internal, external and special projects, assist the executive team with management oversight and serve as a liaison on a variety of port …

    Port Tampa Bay announced this week that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. [Handout photo]
  2. Drones restrictions coming at Tampa Bay area airports

    Airlines

    Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, according to a press release.

    In this February 2017 file photo, a drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London. Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems,
[John Stillwell/PA via AP, File]
  3. Gov. Scott backs off boycott of companies doing business in Venezuela

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will ask the Florida Cabinet next month to prohibit the state's investment managers from doing something they already do not do: invest in companies or securities owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott interacts with people as he holds a Venezuelan Freedom Rally at El Arepazo 2 restaurant on July 10 in Miami. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  4. Superior Uniform Group reports $65.6 million in sales for second quarter

    Corporate

    SEMINOLE — Superior Uniform Group Inc. reported sales of $65.6 million in net sales for the second quarter, up a percentage point from the same quarter last year, the Seminole-based company reported Thursday.

    Superior Uniform Group Inc. saw a sales increase for the second quarter, the company reported Thursday. Pictured is Michael Benstock, CEO. | [Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  5. Air bag inflator ruptures, driver killed in Pasco County

    Autos

    DETROIT — Automaker Honda says a driver from Pasco County died in a crash earlier this month that involved an exploding Takata air bag inflator.

    Honda says a driver near Tampa has died in a crash that involved an exploding Takata air bag inflator. 
[Associated Press]