The mood of protests in St. Petersburg changed Tuesday, as activists gathered outside the St. Petersburg Police headquarters for the first time in weeks.
A couple dozen chanted “no justice, no peace,” outside the police department. They just blocked the crosswalk at the corner of 1st Avenue N and 13th Street N, where they walked back and forth in the street, sometimes blocking traffic. A few vehicles charged ahead, but no one was hurt.
“Safety first, plates second,” one protester said.
Despite the change of pace, the protest was largely peaceful. No police came out of the building or tailed activists.
“It’s about time St. Pete police heard us again,” said TT Taylor, who’s been an active leader in the St Petersburg protests, on why the group is back at the police station.
The group made it clear that they were separate, for the moment, from the usual gathering lead by Terron Gland under the name St. Pete Peace Protest, which usually gathered at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in front of City Hall. Instead, this new group said they would meet outside of police headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg every day at 5 p.m.
Gland was absent from Tuesday’s demonstration.
Even with the few close calls, cars that passed by were overwhelmingly in support of the protest. They honked as they passed or turned early to stay out of the way of pedestrians. Protesters were strong about diverting traffic by insisting those cars take another route to get by.
“Of course it’s a concern,” said Brandy Church, about their safety. But for her, what’s more concerning is that they’re in front of the police station and officers “have not come out one time to make sure the public they serve is safe,” she said.
During those tense exchanges with cars, protesters jotted down the license plates of aggressive drivers to keep a record. They tried to engage drivers peacefully when they could.
By 9 p.m., the crowd began to thin out. But the 20 remaining protesters used their cell phones to light up the street and to make themselves visible to traffic.
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Coverage of local and national protests from the Tampa Bay Times
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.