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Black elected officials in Hillsborough call for a task force to address violence

Seven local officials sign on to a letter after a violent night of protests,

Seven black elected leaders in Hillsborough County issued a letter Saturday saying they are “deeply disturbed by the destruction that is happening within the City of Tampa right now” and calling for productive ways to help handle future violent situations.

“We understand the hurt, pain and frustration that our protesters are feeling right now but we must remember, we have to live here tomorrow. We need to look at all methods of expressing our feelings and desires, not just destruction.”

The group called for a task force to be formed made up of activists, community leaders and organization leaders.

The statement was signed by state Sen. Darryl Rouson; state Reps. Dianne Hart, Fentrice Driskell and Wengay Newton; County Commissioner Les Miller; City Councilman Orlando Gudes; and school board member Tamara Shamburger. The letter is on Gudes’ official letterhead.

Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes during a June meeting.
Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes during a June meeting. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]

“We would like to see a Taskforce created in the near future to address all violence within the City,” the letter said. “This Taskforce should include activists, leaders in the community and local organizations so that we can stop the unnecessary violence in Tampa and create preventative ways to ensure the safety of all of our residents.”

Saturday night, hundreds of people protested George Floyd’s killing across the Tampa Bay area. This led to the destruction and looting of some local businesses such as a Champs Sports store near University Mall, which was burned to the ground, and a Mobil gas station on East Busch Boulevard, which was also set on fire.

“As for tonight, please be respectful and safe," the statement concluded. “Go home and be with your families.”

Contact Mari Faiello at Follow @faiello_mari.

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