YBOR CITY — There were only about 15 protesters, but that was enough to shut down part of 19th Street at Palm Avenue in Ybor City for about half an hour Friday evening.
They traveled to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office headquarters to protest the death of Levonia "Daddyman" Riggins, a 22-year-old unarmed black man shot and killed by an HCSO deputy serving a search warrant at his home last week.
Since that day, the Clair-Mel neighborhood where Riggins lived has been the center of almost nightly rallies demanding that Sheriff David Gee resign and that the deputy who shot Riggins, Caleb Johnson, be jailed. "If Levonia could see this I think it would make him feel very loved," said his older brother, Carniellius Branton, who joined the protesters. "My family is still waiting for answers."
Friday's protest, two hours before Riggins' wake, circled the HCSO Freddie Solomon Annex. The protesters were outnumbered by Tampa police, who stopped them from spilling into Ybor's streets by forming barricades with their bicycles and bodies.
Two protesters were arrested by Tampa police for trying to cross through the human wall. Jason Stuart Flores, 31, of St. Petersburg was charged with three counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and one count of resisting arrest without violence. Chardonnay Singleton, 28, also of St. Petersburg, was charged with resisting arrest without violence and disorderly conduct.
There were no reported injuries or property damage.
Jamaica Reddick, 24, a member of the Bay Area Dream Defenders, led the crowd for about two hours, chanting, "It is our duty to fight for our freedom," and "We have nothing to lose but our chains."
As they circled back to the HCSO parking lot, Maj. Willie L. Parker, commander of HCSO's Community Outreach Division, tried to answer the crowd's questions about Riggins' killing and an ongoing State Attorney's Office investigation.
"We're not trying to hide anything or cover anything," Parker said. "We've told you what we can release."
"And how do you feel about another African-American male, being killed while unarmed?" asked Clarence Jones, 27, with the Vanguard of Tampa Bay.
"I can't speak on feelings," Parker said.
Then, the protesters gathered in a circle for a prayer and dispersed for Riggins' wake. His funeral is at 1 p.m. today at Wilson's Funeral Home in Tampa.
Contact Anastasia Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.