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Tension amid peaceful protests in Tampa and St. Petersburg

Black Lives Matter led a massive march through South Tampa. The ‘Back the Blue’ march turned tense in Tampa. Drivers clashed with St. Petersburg demonstrators.

Saturday’s protests have ended. Demonstrators took to the streets of South Tampa, Ybor City and St. Petersburg throughout the day with a renewed energy and determination.

But this time a new element joined in: The “Back the Blue” supporters, who rallied in support of law enforcement in Tampa — and had some tense moments with counter-protesters.

Things were much more serene up north in Zephyrhills, where police Chief Derek Brewer joined activist Tiffany Truth Davis on stage at in front of a crowd of 100 or so in Zephyr Park.

Here’s the Tampa Bay Times coverage of Saturday’s protests, and a live recap below:

Related: Tense moments at Back the Blue rally as cop supporters, protesters come together in Tampa
Related: Black Lives Matter marchers and message fills South Tampa streets
Related: In Zephyrhills, activist and police chief take stage together at unity rally
• • •

11 p.m. UPDATE:

The protest has returned to St. Petersburg City Hall.

And it was time to add another name to the list of black men who have died in encounters with police.

“I just think we should say his name: Rayshard Brooks,” one protester told the crowd.

Related: Atlanta officer kills black man; police chief resigns

The 27-year-old man was shot and killed after a violent struggle with Atlanta police officers on Friday night, authorities say.

That has led to violent clashes with police in that city, and the Wendy’s where the incident took place was reportedly set on fire on Saturday. Atlanta’s police chief has also resigned.

St. Petersburg’s protest ended with this:

“When are we gonna do this?”

“Every g--damn day!”

• • •

10 p.m. UPDATE

The march reached Beach Drive NE, a row of expensive establishments amid expensive condo towers that is the crown jewel of St. Petersburg’s affluent waterfront.

It’s time to throw a party at Fourth Avenue NE.

“Can the people party?” organizer Terron Gland asks the crowd.

A speaker blares James Brown’s 1965 anthem “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

Bar and restaurant patrons — mostly white — watch and wait for the march to pass by so they can return to their drinks.

The protesters also play Sam Cooke’s 1964 classic "A Change Is Gonna Come.”

• • •

9:30 p.m. UPDATE

The protesters took over the intersection of 18th Avenue S and 16th Street S for another dance and drum session.

“Hands up, don’t shoot,” the crowd chanted.

Protesters have frequently visited the intersection, which has a special significance in city history: That is where 18-year-old TyRon Lewis was shot and killed by a St. Petersburg police officer on Oct. 24, 1996.

Related: How 3 killings by police sparked past Tampa Bay riots

Police said Lewis sped through 18th Avenue S and 16th Street S at 70 mph. Police pulled him over, but Lewis locked the doors and wouldn’t get out. An officer got in front of the car.

Lewis edged forward, and the officer ended up on the hood. He fired three times, killing Lewis.

A crowd soon gathered and started throwing rocks and bottles at St. Petersburg police. It escalated from there into two nights of arson and looting that made national headlines.

• • •

Organizer Terron Gland implored the demonstrators to spend their dollars here — and not on the other side of the interstate overpass.

“We bring you here for a reason ...," he said. "Stop spending your money on the north side and spend it on the south side.”

There was another incident involving a vehicle during the St. Petersburg protest, this time on Saturday night.

A gas station patron at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S did not want to wait for the marchers to pass by. The driver ignored the protest traffic team and just barely passed by some protesters while pulling out of the station.

9 p.m. UPDATE

The marchers were still going strong as evening fell. The protesters held an impromptu, high-energy dum circle complete with chanting and dancing beneath the interstate overpass of at 16th Street S and Fifth Avenue S.

• • •
• • •

7:45 p.m. UPDATE

Organizers discussed changing tactics after earlier incidents involving vehicles trying to drive through the march.

The Saturday evening protest will be led by two vehicles. Volunteers will also be asked to focus on crowd control — and not engaging with any vehicles that approach the marchers.

And on the 15th night since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the protesters resume marching through St. Petersburg.

• • •

7 p.m. UPDATE:

In St. Petersburg, the protesters are getting ready for their evening march. Ashley Green of Bay Area Dream Defenders gives an emotional speech to the crowd.

“These last few years have been hard,” she says, fighting back tears — hard to be told their goals are too radical. “I’m glad you’ve been out here every. Single. Day.”

But don’t be too proud of joining the cause now, Green says. There’s abolitionist work to do.

“Police and prisons are violent institutions that were founded and operate exactly as designed,” she said.

The crowd keeps growing, too, with about 120 sitting in the grass listening to Green break down the history of policing and explain the concept of the police abolition movement.

• • •

6:30 p.m. UPDATE

The Black Lives Matter march has returned to Fred Ball Park on Bayshore Boulevard.

• • •

6 p.m. UPDATE

Protesters are marching through SoHo along S Howard Avenue.

• • •

5 p.m. UPDATE:

In St. Petersburg, the afternoon march has wrapped up. The night march will start at about 7 p.m.

Protesters and drivers are getting along better now.

Meanwhile Black Lives Matter is leading around 2,000 people through South Tampa.

• • •

4:30 p.m. UPDATE

In Tampa, at least 2,000 people are taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest that started at Fred Ball Park, took over Bayshore Boulevard and marched toward downtown.

It is a well-organized affair. The march is the result of 13 organizations throughout the state coming together, a protest spokesperson told the Tampa Bay Times.

There is a voter registration booth, free water and snacks and Black Lives Matter merchandise booth. There are also safety marshals, legal observers and medics.

The march turned off Bayshore onto S Howard Avenue.

• • •

3:45 p.m. UPDATE

St. Petersburg protesters had ugly encounters Saturday with pickup trucks driving through their march on Central Avenue.

Both incidents took place in a span of about 10 minutes.

In the first incident, as the protesters marched on Central Avenue, a silver 4-door pickup truck headed toward them in the opposite direction.

The angry driver lowered his window and got into a shouting match with marchers. A protester provided a video of the incident to the Tampa Bay Times.

“I want to go that way," the driver shouted. Then: "I’ll run you the f--k over.”

The protesters yelled back: "Too many people” and “go that way.”

“No,” the driver shouted back.

“I got a tag! I got a tag,” another said.

The truck turned off Central Avenue. Large stickers bearing President Trump’s name and likeness were visible on the side.

The second incident took place soon afterward, when a different silver pickup truck — again driving toward the protest on Central Avenue — tried to drive through the marchers. This time several protesters used their bicycles to block its path.

The truck edged forward, knocking several people out of the way.

Protesters shouted at the truck as it made a right turn onto Sixth Street. Then organizer Terron Gland intervened:

“Let him go," he told the marchers. “Please walk away. Please walk away. Please walk away. Please walk away."

The march resumed with chants of: “No Trump. No KKK. No racist USA.”

There were no police in the area at the time.

• • •

3:30 p.m. UPDATE

In Zephyhrills, the “community unification” event at Zephyr Park has wrapped up.

It was a peaceful, 75-minute event where residents, police and city officials all addressed a group of 100 or so people.

Related: In Zephyrhills, activist and police chief take stage together at unity rally

“We’re not against the blue," organizer Tiffany Truth Davis told the crowd. "We’re against the blue that abuse their powers. We’re against the blue that do what they’re not supposed to do.”

Zephyrhills police Chief Derek Brewer also spoke to the crowd. And almost everyone at the event took a knee.

• • •

2:30 p.m. UPDATE

After a pro-law enforcement ‘Back the Blue’ rally ended with some tension with counter-protesters, other protests and events have begun around Tampa Bay, including at the Allen Temple AME Church in Ybor City, which has turned into a march that ended at city hall.

The top of this story has photo and video of the protests from this afternoon. Further down you will find photos, videos and more from the ‘Back the Blue’ rally.

There also is a “community unification” event in Zephyrhills.

The daily afternoon protest in St. Petersburg also was under way. Our reporters have seen a couple tense moments between protesters and people in vehicles.

Earlier, police had to stand between and separate two groups that gathered in Tampa Saturday — one to support the police and the other continue protesting police brutality.

The Back the Blue rally at the Tampa Police Department District 1 office on W Tampa Bay Boulevard started at 11 a.m. A group of counter-protesters arrived shortly after.

You can read more about the planning behind the Back the Blue rally here.

“These guys just need to hear that America still supports them,” organizer Kristen Krutz told us.

Skies have been overcast and there’s about a 20 percent chance of rain, according to our partners at Bay News 9. If you’re thinking of heading out to a rally or protest and want to check the radar, you can do that here.

We will continue to update this post with tweets and reports from the field. Below is a detailed recap of what happened at the ‘Back the Blue’ rally earlier:

• • •

1:30 p.m. UPDATE

The ‘Back the Blue’ rally in Tampa has ended. Here, co-organizer Cassandra Kistler explains how she thinks it went. She says she got some phone numbers of Black Lives Matter organizers and hopes to have discussions with them and local law enforcement.

Still, there were some tense moments as the groups separated. Warning: There is some graphic language in this video.

• • •

12 p.m. UPDATE

Counter-protesters are beginning to drive by and march through the ‘Back the Blue’ rally saying “Black lives matter” and “Blue is not a race.”

Police intervened to separate the two groups. Warning: Some of the videos may contain graphic language.

• • •

Coverage of local and national protests from the Tampa Bay Times

HOW TO SUPPORT: Whether you’re protesting or staying inside, here are ways to educate yourself and support black-owned businesses.

WHAT PROTESTERS WANT: Protesters explain what changes would make them feel like the movement is successful.

WHAT ARE NON-LETHAL AND LESS-LETHAL WEAPONS? A guide to what’s used in local and national protests.

WHAT ARE ARRESTED PROTESTERS CHARGED WITH? About half the charges filed have included unlawful assembly.

CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR PROTESTING? In Florida, you can. Learn more.

HEADING TO A PROTEST? How to protect eyes from teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.

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