St. Pete protest marches are smaller, shorter on Father’s Day

A small group of protesters blocked cars and lay in the road on Beach Drive, continuing a protest movement that began three weeks ago.
Protestors lie on the ground Sunday evening on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg.
Protestors lie on the ground Sunday evening on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg. [ HELEN FREUND | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published June 22, 2020

Groups gathered in downtown St. Petersburg Sunday in two small protests, a continuation of weeks of outcry over police killings of unarmed black men.

In the sweltering afternoon heat, a group of about 20 people quickly marched through Methodist Town, looped through Jamestown Apartments and then returned to City Hall. Protest leaders seen at other recent marches did not attend.

At 7:30 p.m., about 30 people marched and skateboarded down Central Avenue carrying tambourines, drums and bullhorns as the sun went down. There was no police presence and the protesters chanted, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” The march was organized by St. Pete for Equity, a community group created 23 days ago.

When the group passed by Bavaro’s restaurant, diners seated outside broke out into applause. In front of Annata Wine Bar on Beach Drive, cars stopped and diners quieted while protesters lay in the street for eight minutes and 46 seconds in remembrance of George Floyd.

But not all the cars abided the disruption. A heated argument took place between one of the protesters and a man who was trying to leave in his car, which was parked in front of Annata. The man shouted obscenities out of of the passenger side window.

“Go to work!” the man yelled. “I don’t care.” After a few minutes, the protesters decided to make way.

Peaceful protesters have been marching through St. Petersburg and Tampa for three weeks now, trying to draw attention to police brutality and systemic racism. The groups Sunday were smaller than past weekends. Marquell Swain, 35, the leader for the day, said he wasn’t sure why.

“It’s a good question, but I don’t have the answer,” he said. “Maybe because it’s Father’s Day?” But he was heartened to see so much enthusiasm from a newly-created group.

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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.