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Protest in St. Petersburg marks one-year anniversary of Ferguson shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — Curious onlookers squinted from behind windows and atop high-rises while children scaled fences to get a better look at the shouting protesters in the street on Sunday.

"Hey-hey-ho-ho!" the demonstrators yelled. "These killer cops have got to go!"

They marched two miles from the Uhuru House south of downtown to the St. Petersburg Police Department, where their protest amassed about 50 people.

Members of the Uhuru movement and other supporters came together Sunday to mark the year anniversary of the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer. Some held signs with messages such as "Reparations 4 stolen black lives" and "White solidarity with black power." Others shouted and chanted as they marched.

"Indict. Convict. Send those killer cops to jail," they said in unison. "The whole system is guilty as hell."

Officers on foot and bike circled the group — sandwiched between police cruisers — as the protesters marched along 16th Street S toward police headquarters.

The march halted traffic at times as the group snaked around downtown.

Once the demonstrators arrived at police headquarters, Gazi Kodzo, 25, holding the demands of the group and a megaphone, stood above the crowd on the stairs outside the station. The demonstrators cheered and clapped as Kodzo outlined their objectives: forming a separate, organized police force for the black community and speaking out against perceived corruption.

"We are mournful for the death of Mike Brown, and we are tired of being mournful," Kodzo said. "That is where the rebellions and riots come from."

Kodzo, who organized the march and protest, is the press secretary for the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, which bills itself as a civil rights group for African-Americans.

Brown's death was one of several highly publicized incidents in the past year in which police were accused of killing unarmed black men. The deaths have touched off protests around the country and fueled a national dialogue about how law enforcement treats minorities.

In St. Petersburg on Sunday, demonstrator Amerikus Luvene, 27, was also among the handful of people who delivered impassioned testimonies to the crowd of protesters.

Luvene's voice cracked and faded as she began to speak.

"I lost my voice, but that's a small price to pay," she said. Standing atop the stairs — pausing and looking down — her eyes welled as she continued.

"My brothers and sisters lost their lives," she said.

The protest attracted people across the demographic spectrum — black and white, men and women, young and old.

Organizers hosted a forum discussion following the march back at Akwaaba Hall, where local Uhuru members are based.

"This is where this march comes from, this is where the rebellion comes from," Kodzo said after the protest. "This is where the revolution spirit comes from."

Contact Michael Majchrowicz at (727) 445-4159 or mmajchrowicz@tampabay.com. Follow @mjmajchrowicz.

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