Large crowds of protesters gathered again in St. Petersburg and Tampa on Monday, but the overall mood felt much more calm and nonviolent than previous days.
Hundreds of people held signs and shouted chants in outrage over the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died at the hands of police last week. In protests over the weekend, buildings burned and businesses were looted in Tampa. Police shot bean bags at protesters and deployed smoke bombs.
On Monday afternoon, a large group stood in front of the St. Petersburg Police downtown headquarters. They took a knee. Instead of shouting chants, they pleaded with officers. They asked to speak with Chief Anthony Holloway and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin. Officers stood at the entrance to the building in face shields, but no riot gear, as they had on Sunday.
Many faces in the crowd were the same who protested in the days before.
“I understand to you, the people out here might just seem angry,” Destine Wilson, 21, of Tampa said to officers through a megaphone. “They’re not angry, they’re hurt.”
She’s the youngest of eight, with seven brothers. She said they are not all perfect, but they don’t deserve to die.
“Everyone here knows that you did not personally kill George Floyd. But all of you support the system,” she said.
By 7 p.m., an evening thunderstorm caused protesters to disperse from the police station. Some regrouped after the rain died down to continue chanting through downtown streets. They were trailed by a few patrol cars.
In Tampa, police escorted a group of about 50 protesters down Bayshore Boulevard to Fred Ball Park and later Hyde Park. Officers stopped traffic to allow protesters to cross the street.
Some passing drivers honked in support. One woman offered water to protesters.
The number of protesters grew to hundreds by the evening.
Protesters asked officers they talked with to walk with them. Major Richard Mills of District 1 agreed and joined them.
“In order for there to be peace, they need to hold each other accountable," said Nicole Brown in Tampa, who wore a mask and held a sign that said: “All Officers! Hold your brothers and sisters accountable. Make them do their jobs. Protect and serve all of our communities.”
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“There are really good cops out there, but there are also bad ones,” Brown said. "Until the good ones speak up, we’ll only know the bad ones.”
So far, she said she feels Tampa police are doing a good job keeping people safe.
Julliette Moore, a student at the University of South Florida, painted a red cross across her neon green shirt and wore a mask. She came to the protest with gauze, saline and milk, and said she was prepared to transport anyone who may require medical attention. But the protest, it seemed, never came to that.
Protesters gathered at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa by 7 p.m., where they were met by officers in full riot gear. By 7:45 p.m., 15 minutes after a city-enforced curfew took effect, armored vehicles arrived.
“You are engaging in illegal activity and are ordered to leave the area," officers said as they marched toward protesters. But the group, of about 50, continued to march through downtown.