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Protesters continue to rally in St. Pete while Tampa stays quiet

The 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily protests in downtown St. Petersburg continued Tuesday.
A woman raises her fist in support as demonstrators march by during one of two daily marches in protest of police brutality and racism in the wake of George Floyd's death, on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg.
A woman raises her fist in support as demonstrators march by during one of two daily marches in protest of police brutality and racism in the wake of George Floyd's death, on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jun. 16, 2020
Updated Jun. 17, 2020

UPDATE 7 P.M.: Tuesday’s protest crowds in downtown St. Petersburg were familiar faces. The crowds were smaller then in weeks past, but the group’s energy was still high as they marched through the streets.

About 100 people gathered outside City Hall, eating a meal of donated food and staying in the shade under trees and tents before beginning the march at 7 p.m. Organizers unloaded cases of Gatorade. Nearby, a man flowed through some yoga poses.

Two women compared blisters in the grass. One woman told the other that this is her first protest, but others have been here every night or close to it for more than two weeks. The hours and miles take a toll.

Despite this, a regular speaker among the group, Will Breeze, told protesters that Tuesday was a special day. It was rapper Tupac Shakur’s 49th birthday.

“Let’s put our hands together for him,” Breeze said to the crowd. “ People say, where do you all get your energy from? Tupac Shakur.”

Later, protesters would dance in the street as Tupac blared from open car windows.

Ashley Green shouted from a megaphone to urge the crowd to participate in a video meeting tomorrow with Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. He’s scheduled to hold a webinar at 6 p.m. Wednesday. She brought up the issue of Gualtieri holding people overnight at $1,000 bonds instead of the recommended $250 (or less) on the bond schedule.

“We have to be willing to exercise power at every opportunity. A lot of time Gualtieri has never been checked, his power has never been questioned,” she said. “We want the community to actually be able to ask him questions seeing as he is so integral to their every day lives. Elections have impacts.”

A car sped toward the crowd as they marched down 4th Street S, blocking traffic as they walked. A group of bike riders meant to keep the march together were missing their usual walkie-talkies, which event organizers said affected their ability to keep the crowd together. When protesters stopped at 18th Aveune S and Martin Luther King Jr. Street S, a couple of the bike team leaders talked about the car incident.

“I started yelling back to you guys because we didn’t have the radio... I thought he was about to hit me,” Jake Barsness said. He asked if others were able to see the license plate, but none did.

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The march included a line of at least 20 cars, with protestors waving fists and signs through open windows. They helped mitigate traffic concerns, sometimes by creating a barrier between those marching on foot and the oncoming traffic on the street.

Kelvin McClendon, 38, paused an outdoor chess match along 16th Street S to run over and raise a fist in solidarity with the protesters. He was wearing an ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirt.

“This is my third one. Twenty dollars a pop,” he said. “This is deep, man.”

For the first time in several days, the group didn’t end the march with a dance in the streets back at City Hall. Event organizer, Terron Gland, said the group looked tired.

“We’re trying to multiply, not lose people," he said.

He then tells the crowd to turn around and look at City Hall, where phrases were projected in lights to say “defund the police," “enough is enough,” and "black lives matter.” Then a car started blaring Usher’s “Yeah,” and a dance party did indeed, break out.

• • •

UPDATE 2 P.M.: At an earlier march around 2 p.m., a smaller group walked down Central Avenue. A brief moment of tension erupted as a silver truck tried to move through the group, which was blocking the intersection at First Avenue North and 16th Street.

Alyssa Gallegos of Gulfport, 28, said she’s stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter as a Navajo and Blackfoot person. “All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter," she said.

Allison Scott, 16, was eating a blueberry açaí popsicle with her mom, Katie Scott, when they saw the protest marching down the street and decided to join.

“I need to be a part of this,” she said.

No protest events were planned for Tampa Tuesday. The streets downtown and in Ybor City remained quiet for a second night in a row.

• • •

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.