Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

'Die-in' protests draw dozens on both sides of Tampa Bay

Dozens of people gathered on both sides of Tampa Bay on Saturday to voice criticisms about police brutality following several officer-involved killings of unarmed black residents across the country.

In St. Petersburg in the early evening, about 100 protesters marched from Williams Park through the heart of downtown, past al fresco diners on Beach Drive and bar-hoppers along Central Avenue, shouting "No justice, no peace. No racist police," and "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now."

Police officers on bicycles scampered ahead of them, racing to block intersections as the crowd moved down the middle of St. Petersburg's broad avenues.

"We need to do something about the whole injustice of police brutality," said protest organizer Char Singleton, 27.

Kofi Hunt, 32, another organizer, said the marchers were expressing solidarity with protesters across the country who have taken a stand against the killings of Michael Brown, a teenager in Ferguson, Mo.; Eric Garner, a man who was put in a choke hold in New York City; and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland.

"They need to look for ways to defuse the situation before pulling their gun and shooting someone," Hunt said of police officers.

At the intersection of Central Avenue and Fourth Street, the marchers staged a "die-in," lying silently across the pavement as fellow protesters outlined their bodies in chalk.

St. Petersburg assistant police Chief Luke C. Williams looked on from the back of the crowd. He said officers were directing traffic and "allowing individuals to express their constitutional rights."

Earlier Saturday afternoon in Tampa, more than 100 people gathered in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to take part in a die-in.

Many held signs with messages such as "Black lives matter" while others bore remembrances of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. In both Brown's and Garner's cases, the officers involved in the incidents were not indicted.

"We're out here because we're tired," said Alicia Smith, 27, a protest coordinator. "All you have to say is that we're disheartened with injustice and people respond to it."

Protesters remained on the ground in near-silence for 20 minutes. All the while, motorists on Ashley Drive honked in support.

     
 
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