CLEARWATER — On the seventh day of protests in Tampa Bay, Clearwater sat down and listened.
At a sit-down demonstration organized by Bless Up, a community group founded by Vanessa Allen, people sat in the grass of Coachman park, shouted chants, held signs and sang “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.
They also sat silently for 8 minutes to honor George Floyd, who died last week at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Protesters in Clearwater wanted to express their support to stop racism. This is what they said.
Marcella and Pierre Johnson, 24
The married couple have been to several protests around the Tampa Bay area in the past few days. They came to the Clearwater protest in their Colin Kaepernick jerseys, which they have worn for years in support of the NFL quarterback who kneeled for the National Anthem during the 2016 season to protest racial injustice and police brutality — and hasn’t played since.
“This is hard for us," Pierre Johnson said. "This is where I was born and raised.”
Marcella Johnson said she notices the looks she gets from people. They stopped at the UPS Store before coming to the protest. She felt everyone’s eyes while wearing her jersey.
Naomi Ruthman, 78
Ruthman was part of the 1968 riots in Chicago. She came back to support the same cause.
“There was a racial problem then," she said. "There’s a racial problem now."
Back in the 60s, the reactions came out of frustrations. Her family was divided over the issues. Now, “everyone is tired of the same old stuff.”
She knows that she doesn’t understand what black people feel, but she said she’ll continue to stand for them.
Keenan Murray, 20
On the Coachman Park stage, he brought the crowd to a chant:
“Don’t hate,” he said through the megaphone.
“Motivate,” the crowd responded.
Murray found out last minute about the sit-down protest.
On Tuesday, he walked around Clearwater Beach with his homemade sign advocating for peaceful responses to the deaths of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a medical technician in Louisville, Ky, who was killed Feb. 23 when Louisville burst into her apartment and opened fire, and many others.
“We’re not here to take other resources,” he said.
Alliya Lewis, 16
Lewis was 8 when Trayvon Martin was killed in 2016. She remembers what happened.
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Now 16, she wants to help.
“Now I’m older and I understand more," she said. "I want to support the movement as much as possible.”
Alliya came with a sign that read “Black people are literally saying ‘stop killing us!’ and there are people saying ‘but…’”
She thinks people need to shift their priorities: “It’s a shame stores are getting damaged, but killing black people needs to stop.”