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Tampa police investigating car vs. protest incident; St. Pete march ends peacefully

Chaos ensued in Hyde Park when a driver went through protesters, carrying one on the windshield. That protester was taken into custody, leading to a tense standoff at the Orient Road Jail. Meanwhile St. Pete's march was calm.
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A sweltering Saturday didn’t stop people from taking to the streets — from Pinellas to Hillsborough to Pasco counties — to march, demonstrate, rally, or even paint.

But things got really hot in Hyde Park that evening, where a driver drove through protesters blocking S Albany Avenue and ended up carrying one who had jumped onto the hood.

Tampa police arrested the protester and let the driver go. Incensed protesters then went to the Orient Road Jail to demand he be freed — but the protester was actually in the hospital. Police say they are investigating the incident.

Related: The driver. The protester. The jail standoff. A tense night in Tampa.

That was a much different scene than the other protests and rallies across Tampa Bay.

Professional wrestler and philanthropist Thaddeus “Titus O’Neil” Bullard led the morning “Love Walk” from Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park to support racial equality and condemn police brutality.

In New Port Richey, there was a “Back the Blue” rally in support of law enforcement.

Related: Titus O’Neil leads Tampa’s ‘Love Walk.' In Pasco they came out to ‘Back the Blue.‘

And in St. Petersburg, on a day when tens of thousands should be crowding the streets of downtown for the annual St. Pete Pride parade and celebration, about a 100 or so instead held an LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter solidarity march.

St. Pete Pride, which bills itself as the largest LGBTQ+ Pride celebration in Florida, was scheduled to be held Saturday but was canceled because of the pandemic.

In Tampa, about 40 or so people painted a “Unity Mural” designed by Cam Parker at the intersection of E Henderson Avenue and N Franklin Street.

That night, demonstrators continued their nightly march through the Sunshine City.

For a recap of all that, scroll down.

• • •

UPDATE: 11 p.m.

Tensions have eased at the Orient Road Jail.

Though many protesters had already left, Hillsborough sheriff’s Maj. Anthony Collins told the Tampa Bay Times that deputies were not preparing to declare an unlawful assembly and remove those who remained at the jail.

“There’s no reason to (declare) unlawful assembly if they’re peaceful,” he said. “There’s nothing unlawful about expressing your First Amendment right”

Protesters told the Times that the name of the man who was detained by Tampa police in the Hyde Park driver incident is Jason Stewart Flores.

He was not at the jail. Instead, he was taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment of injuries he suffered when the driver took off with Flores hanging onto the hood hours earlier. Flores is a Native American activist, said fellow activist Sheridan Murphy.

Earlier in the evening the Times observed deputies massing at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office District II headquarters, which is about 10 minutes from the Orient Road Jail. They do not appear to have been deployed, however.

The Tampa Police Department issued a statement at 10:41 p.m. about the Hyde Park incident involving the car that drove through protesters on S Albany Avenue hours earlier. It seems to indicate that the protester on the hood was arrested:

Around 6:30 p.m., a driver attempted to get through a crowd of protesters near 2100 W. Swan Av.

The driver claims protesters crowded around his vehicle, broke his windshield and then one protester jumped on the hood of his car, causing more damage to the windshield.

The driver drove off with the protester on his hood.

The protester was taken into custody.

We are currently reviewing various video clips of the incident.

The investigation is ongoing.

Police did not release the name of the protester or say what charges he may face.

UPDATE 10 p.m.

St. Petersburg’s calm Saturday night protest is the complete opposite of the chaos taking place on the other side of the bay.

It has been 33 days since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. The protesters have fallen into a steady, organized rhythm.

Bicycles guide the protesters and block traffic so they can safely cross intersections.

Neighbors have come outside to show their support for the protests against police violence and racial injustice.

Protesters stopped and briefly occupied the bridge at Coffee Pot Boulevard NE and Snell Isle Boulevard NE. The march was trailed by a dozen or so vehicles.

Now it appears to be heading back to St. Petersburg City Hall to wrap up for the night.

• • •

UPDATE 9:30 p.m.

It has been a tense scene at the Orient Road Jail where protesters have been demanding that one of their colleagues be freed after his arrest earlier in the day in an incident involving a car that drove through their ranks in Hyde Park.

The protesters have been banging on the lobby’s locked doors and yelling at the jail staff inside the bail office, trying to have the man freed. The Tampa Police Department has not responded to a request from the Tampa Bay Times for information about the incident. It was not known what charges he faces.

Demonstrators moved to the sally port, the jail’s secured garage, and lifted up one of the gates, damaging it. Hillsborough deputies then came out and moved the protesters back.

Protestor Jae Passmore issued demands to a deputy who came out after the gate was damaged: Give their friend medical attention and release him.

Passmore also asked why they didn’t arrest the driver who drove through the protesters earlier in the day in Hyde Park. The protester who was arrested jumped onto the roof of the car, which sped away, taking the man along with it.

When Tampa police officers intervened, they arrested the protester and let the driver go.

“I wasn’t there,” said the deputy, who works for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. That agency runs the jail and was not involved in the earlier incident.

A deputy did take down information given to him by the protesters about the incident, including the car’s tag.

Protesters at the Orient Road Jail to demand the release of a man taken into custody after a car drove through their march earlier Saturday. Hillsborough sheriff's deputies moved them away from the sally port gate, which they damaged. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

The group suddenly broke up. There was word that someone heard over a police scanner that deputies were going to use force to disperse them.

Half went to their vehicles, remaining in the parking lot, while half remain in front of the Orient Road Jail under the breezeway.

• • •

UPDATE 8:45 p.m.

The scene is much quieter tonight in St. Petersburg, where about 30 protester have gathered and are about to start their nightly march.

Meet Samantha Quiñones, 21, who drives from Tampa every day to take part in the protests. She’ll be on the bullhorn tonight.

“I come out to St. Pete every day march with St. Pete Peace Protests to end police brutality and the social injustices that happen all around us every single day,” she said.

“The problem is not something that you can slap a Band-Aid on. It needs complete systemic reform and we are going to be out here every single day until we get that.”

The march started at about 8:30 p.m. Follow Times journalist Juan Carlos Chavez on Twitter for updates and keep checking back here.

• • •

UPDATE 8 p.m.

The protesters have arrived at the Orient Road Jail looking to free the man who was taken into custody after the incident involving the car that drove through their ranks earlier Saturday.

They marched up to the facility and demanded his release.

The lobby is locked for the weekend, so they started banging on the front doors demanding that he be freed.

Times journalists Josh Solomon and Luis Santana are at the jail. Follow them on Twitter for updates and keep checking back here.

They also tried the bail window. Some of the protest groups are also discussing what to do next in the parking lot.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office operates the jail, and it was not known how long it would take the staff there to process the man.

Tampa police have not released any statements about the incident.

Protesters also approached the sally port — a secure garage where prisoners are removed and placed inside vehicles for transport — and appear to have damaged the gate there.

Detention deputies took out there Tasers and told the protesters to stand away from the gate.

Below is another video of the Volkswagen that drove through protesters blocking S Albany Avenue.

• • •

UPDATE 7:30 p.m.

There was a harrowing altercation between a driver and protesters on Saturday evening in Hyde Park.

During the “No Dugan, No KKK, No Racist Tampa Bay Protest” march taking place through Hyde Park, several vehicles had already menaced the marchers.

Then a dark-colored Volkswagen sedan approached the crowd just before 7 p.m.

A Tampa Bay Times reporter observed what happened next:

The car edged toward the protesters rallying near the Winn Dixie at S Albany Avenue and W Swann Avenue at about 7 p.m.

The driver slowly approached the marchers, causing a standoff. Protesters stood and blocked S Albany Avenue.

But the driver kept inching forward through the crowd. Some gave way as the car went through their ranks.

Some jumped onto the hood and started banging on the windshield, cracking it.

The Volkswagen then started speeding up and swerving wildly left and right, as if trying to throw them off the hood.

Then the car turned right onto W Swann Avenue and sped away with one protester still clinging to the hood.

The scene ended at Irish 31 Pub House & Eatery at 2100 W Swann Ave., at S Rome Avenue.

Police vehicles came flying into the area. When a Times reporter got there, about 20 officers were on the street. Some were in helmets.

The officers told the Volkswagen driver to leave the area, and the driver did. Then officers took the protester who was on the hood of the car into custody.

The police then left as protesters became irate.

Video of the incident was provided to the Times by the Restorative Justice Coalition.

Check here for more developments.

There was a harrowing altercation between a driver and protesters during Saturday evening's march. One protester was taken into custody and a driver who tried to go through the crowd was allowed to leave by police. [Restorative Justice Coalition]
There was a harrowing altercation between a driver and protesters during Saturday evening's march. One protester was taken into custody and a driver who tried to go through the crowd was allowed to leave by police. [JOSH SOLOMON | Times]
• • •

UPDATE 3 p.m.

The Tampa Bay TimesAustin Fast interviewed the organizers of St. Pete Pride and local business owners to find out how they intend to make the most of Pride Month 2020 even though the years’s biggest Pride event — St. Pete Pride — was canceled this year because of the coronavirus.

Click here to listen to the latest episode of the Coronavirus in Florida podcast.

Meanwhile in downtown Tampa on Saturday, they’re painting a “Unity Mural” at the intersection of E Henderson Avenue and N Franklin Street.

• • •

UPDATE 1 p.m.

An LGBTQ+ Black Lives Matter Solidarity March wound through St. Pete midday on Saturday and just wrapped up. About 100 people marched from Straub Park downtown to Tropicana Field and back.

Davaine Burke, of Tampa, raises his fist for a photo in front of a mural at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in downtown Tampa on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Local celebrities and leaders led people in a "Love Walk" to demonstrate solidarity for racial equality. [IVY CEBALLO | Times]
• • •

UPDATE 11 a.m.

About 200 people joined a “Back the Blue” rally in Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey. They flew American flags and pro-police “thin blue line” flags.

Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano spoke briefly to say that his commission supports police and makes sure officers have the equipment they need to stay safe. He said these are dangerous times, and the turnout he saw today is critical to “Back the Blue.”

Erica Henderson, left, and Zachary Henderson, of St. Petersburg, show support for police while attending the Back the Blue rally at Sims Park amphitheater on Saturday, June 27, 2020, in New Port Richey. The event was organized by Bill Lawless, a retired 31-year veteran of the Pasco County SheriffÕs Office, to show appreciation for the professional and personal sacrifices made by officers and deputies during these tumultuous times. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]

Kathryn Tsionkanaras, 57, of New Port Richey said she understands that black lives matter, but said she says “all lives matter” to support officers and everyone who has struggled through the coronavirus pandemic.

“We just need to be united,” she said.

Laura Fonfara, of Holiday, left, and Nancy Carter, of Holiday, center, shows support for police while attending the Back the Blue rally at Sims Park amphitheater on Saturday, June 27, 2020, in New Port Richey. The event was organized by Bill Lawless, a retired 31-year veteran of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, to show appreciation for the professional and personal sacrifices made by officers and deputies during these tumultuous times. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]
Molly, a Shih Tzu, explores Sims Park in New Port Richey on Saturday, June 27, 2020, while attending the Back the Blue rally with her owner, Glenda LaFaye, of Tampa, right. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]
• • •

Tampa “Love Walk”

At the 10 a.m. “Love Walk,” professional wrestler Thaddeus Bullard, known to fans as Titus O’Neil, and actor Dave Bautista led a march in Tampa that was joined by dozens. Among the marchers was Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

Mayor Jane Castor responds to a protester at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in downtown Tampa on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Espinoza called out Mayor Jane Castor in the crowd. "She didn't come to her meeting, but she decides to come to something like this," Espinoza said. [IVY CEBALLO | Times]

The walk was set to end at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, where the group planned to unveil a new mural created by a local artist.

As the group crossed the Fortune Taylor Bridge, Bullard pointed skyward and said, “There’s a drone right there.” The crowd cheered and later posed for a group photo with fists raised, shouting, “Black lives matter.”

Castor briefly addressed the crowd in Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park. She spoke of making lasting change and told people not to let the energy die out. Bullard called her a friend.

As people began to disperse, Estefany Espinoza shouted through a megaphone that Castor was there only for a photo op. She criticized what she called the celebrity aspect of the protest.

WWE Superstar Titus O'Neil hugs Estefany Espinoza at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in downtown Tampa on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Espinoza called out Mayor Jane Castor in the crowd. "She didn't come to her meeting, but she decides to come to something like this," Espinoza said. [IVY CEBALLO | Times]

• • •

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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