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St. Pete police chief, city leaders meet with select protesters in private

Protesters accused Chief Anthony Holloway of not talking to them unless members of the media were present
St. Petersburg Chief of Police Anthony Holloway speaks with protestors outside the police department headquarters Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
St. Petersburg Chief of Police Anthony Holloway speaks with protestors outside the police department headquarters Wednesday, June 3, 2020. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jun. 4, 2020
Updated Jun. 4, 2020

St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway held a private meeting with protesters and community members inside police headquarters Wednesday evening after days of demonstrations throughout the city.

Fifteen people attended, including six who have been “actively protesting” police brutality and the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd in recent days, according to police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez. Mayor Rick Kriseman and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri were also in attendance, as well as members of Holloway’s command staff.

“This was something not for show, not for the press ... just to sit down and have some conversation,” Fernandez said. Journalists were not invited to the meeting, which came the day after Pinellas County deputies detained a Tampa Bay Times reporter during a tense protest late Tuesday night.

Invitations were limited because of the threat of COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, Fernandez said. But photos of the meeting, released before 10 p.m. by the police department show people sitting well within 6 feet of one another.

She did not share specific details about what was discussed. The meeting, which started at 7 p.m. and lasted more than an hour, came soon after protestors criticized Holloway in the middle of First Ave. N for not being willing to hear them out unless members of the media were present.

A woman who declined to share her name told the chief that protesters have begged for him to come outside in recent days and haven’t been satisfied with his response. Holloway pushed back, saying he’s been at the department office every day, interacting with demonstrators.

He said his department is committed to “community policing.”

“Chief, we were out here calling you yesterday and you never came out,” the woman said. “You stayed inside.”

Holloway told her he was wrong to do that.

“I should have come out, and that’s why I’m out here now,” he said.

He held a series of talks with protesters outside the police department Wednesday, too. But none appeared productive, and demonstrators criticized the talks, scheduled for 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., as photo opportunities.

Fernandez said there will be more like it to come.

“We’re hoping to do this more often and build bridges as we move forward," she said.