ST. PETERSBURG — The St. Petersburg Police Department announced Tuesday that officers will begin to enforce pedestrian traffic laws, after weeks of protests where activists have occasionally blocked traffic.
The media release from St. Pete police cites three Florida statues that will be enforced: Must use the sidewalk when possible (statute 316.130), may not obstruct or hinder traffic (316.2045) and must obey traffic signals (316.075).
Officers will hand out flyers to first time offenders, the release said. Each offense after will be a $62.50 fine. It is unclear how police plan to enforce these laws.
“Recent national incidents of vehicles striking protesters who were blocking roadways highlight the importance of following the law and staying clear of traffic,” the release said.
The police department has received “numerous complaints” about protestors blocking traffic in the city for the past five weeks, the release stated. It is unclear at this time just how many complaints the department has received.
Protests have happened daily in St. Petersburg since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. Activists march daily from City Hall and move throughout different neighborhoods of the city, sometimes temporarily blocking roads and intersections.
Protesters have cleared the roadways for emergency vehicles to pass by, even when sirens and lights were off, in most cases. But there have been tense exchanges between motorists and protesters. In Tampa, at least two protesters were struck by cars in recent weeks.
Spencer Cook, 44, told a group of 40 protesters on Wednesday that they will still block streets despite what police say. He said he will pay the fine for anybody who can’t afford it. Activists gathered at the Pier on Wednesday night, hoisting signs and chanting.