ST. PETERSBURG — Protest leader Terron Gland, who has been leading marches through St. Petersburg for more than five weeks, announced Monday morning that he tested positive for COVID-19.
Gland, 32, posted the news to a Facebook group for protesters. He said he will stay home for 14 days.
The marches have been a daily occurrence in St. Petersburg since May 31, the first day protests broke out locally over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Gland has been a key figure in the St. Petersburg movement, serving as president of the protest organization and chant-leader in chief during the marches.
Gland said he began feeling sick on Sunday and went to an emergency room, where he got tested immediately. In a text message, he said he is in “good spirits and looking forward to a speedy recovery.”
Gland texted that studies have shown protesting, an outdoor activity, does not lead to an increased rate of exposure. One study, published last month by five economists in the National Bureau of Economic Research, said researchers found no link to protests and an increase in COVID-19 cases. Gland said the march, which hands out masks and hand sanitizer, will continue to encourage safe practices. He declined further comment.
On Saturday, Gland and other protesters blocked traffic on the Treasure Island Causeway, backing up traffic to and from the beach and prompting police to arrive. Gland interacted with Treasure Island police officers and also embraced a St. Petersburg police officer. St. Petersburg police officials said the officer was notified of Gland’s positive test, and that the officer will decide with his doctor whether to get tested or self isolate.
Treasure Island police Chief John Barkley said his officers who were on the scene were contacted, and that the department is following guidelines on testing and quarantine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The St. Petersburg protests have evolved since their early days, when more than 100 people would gather outside St. Petersburg Police Headquarters to protest Floyd’s death, bringing with them a more raw and angry energy. But after four consecutive nights there ended in explosive clearouts, protesters began marching from City Hall each day at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Under Gland’s leadership, the message became one of unity, with protesters demanding equality and an end to the over-policing of Black neighborhoods.
The city’s protest movement has continued to evolve, and last week the group fractured, with some protesters choosing to again make police headquarters the focal point of their efforts. The marchers and police station group said they still support and communicate with one another.
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Meanwhile, the marchers on Friday released a set of demands, which include reallocating 30 percent of the St. Petersburg Police Department’s budget to other endeavors.
That group has struggled with attendance, particularly in the afternoon heat; Sunday’s afternoon march featured just a handful of people and lasted only a few minutes. Organizers on Sunday announced that they are suspending the 2 p.m. march.
In his text message, Gland said he was fortunate to get tested immediately, as long lines have at times stifled residents seeking tests. He encouraged everyone to be careful.
“Please everyone get tested,” Gland wrote on Facebook.
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Coverage of local and national protests from the Tampa Bay Times
WHAT PROTESTERS WANT: Protesters explain what changes would make them feel like the movement is successful.
WHAT ARE NON-LETHAL AND LESS-LETHAL WEAPONS? A guide to what’s used in local and national protests.
WHAT ARE ARRESTED PROTESTERS CHARGED WITH? About half the charges filed have included unlawful assembly.
CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR PROTESTING? In Florida, you can. Learn more.
HEADING TO A PROTEST? How to protect eyes from teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.