Photos: On anniversary of George Floyd's murder, St. Petersburg activists marched to demand less police funding

PHOTO BY JUSTIN GARCIA
Photo by Justin Garcia
Around 50 activists gathered at St. Petersburg City Hall on May 25 to honor George Floyd and to demand that city officials not approve St. Petersburg Police Department's record high budget for 2023.

The rally detailed activists' demands, which include moving the suggested $131.1 million in police funds to public housing an array of other public services. Afterwards, the protesters hit the streets of downtown St. Petersburg.

There, the protesters met both support and opposition. The opposition came mainly in the form of the St. Petersburg Police Department, and white middle aged men who were upset by the protesters marching on the Central Avenue.
At one point, this CL reporter counted eight SPPD vehicles clogging up the intersection at Central Ave. and 7th Street S. For a couple of minutes, the vehicles were surrounding just one protester, a Black person whose sign read, "I will not be another name."

Supporters of the marchers honked their horns and raised their fists, while full grown white men creeped out of bars and condo high rises to call names and flash the "L" sign for losers and to get in the face of Black people to argue how defunding police doesn't work.
Supporters of the in St. Petersburg, Florida marchers honked their horns and raised their fists, while full grown white men creeped out of bars and condo high rises to call names and flash the "L" sign. - PHOTO BY JUSTIN GARCIA
Photo by Justin Garcia
Supporters of the in St. Petersburg, Florida marchers honked their horns and raised their fists, while full grown white men creeped out of bars and condo high rises to call names and flash the "L" sign.

The most common refrain from the antagonizers was "Get a job!" In different areas of downtown. They repeated it like clones. The bizarre thing about this is that it was around 8 p.m. when the protesters were marching (many had worked that day). A couple of the antagonizers were asked if they were working at the time, they said no. 

Despite the police pushing protesters off of the street with several vehicles, the activists played a game of cat and mouse, and whenever the police cruisers left, the streets were theirs again.

In July 2020, some protesters worried that rhetoric in a local "crime-watch" Facebook group would lead to real life violence. That same month, SPPD had to remind people that it's illegal to run over protesters with a car. At this event, the protesters had their own security, called Elite Security team, that was protecting the crowd with vehicles in front of and behind the crowd.
The march ended in front of city hall, where organizers called for sustained action beyond the protest.

"We have to put a real demand in," activist Will Breeze said. "And we got to protest too, but we can't just protest and then five minutes later say it's whatever, no, we have to stay on it."

During the rally leading up to the march, Breeze and others made their discontent with the city and the local police department  heard. They called on the attendees to remember George Floyd and fight in his honor.

"When millions and millions of Americans were out of work and falling deeper into poverty, Floyd was a victim of the capitalist system," said Karla Correa of the St. Petersburg Tenants Union (SPTU) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), the groups who organized the event.

Correa and several other speakers said that SPPD's increase in budget was an affront to those who grieve for Floyd, and to the poor and working class in general.

"Here in St. Pete, the general budget this past year in the current fiscal year is about $307 million and the police got 124.8 million," William Kilgore of SPTU and St. Pete Cop Watch said.

"That is like 40% of that budget. That's crazy," Kilgore said to cheers from the audience."

Ruth Beltran of PSL spoke about the overall role of police in the U.S., like many other speakers that day.

"They guard oppression. Mass incarceration exists today because of the role of the police," Beltran said, referring to the original role of the police as slave catchers. "It is the police officers who go into black and brown Indigenous communities and arrest our people."

Sheridan Murphy of the Florida Indigenous Alliance called on attendees to rise up and take action by "any means necessary" if they feel they are being wronged by city council and police.

"We know what power is, we have that power. They only have authority," Murphy said, referring to local officials and police. "You have a choice to make I say make it here make it now."
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PHOTOS: St. Petersburg activists marched on anniversary of George Floyd's murder to demand less police funding
Photo by Justin Garcia
PHOTOS: St. Petersburg activists marched on anniversary of George Floyd's murder to demand less police funding
Photo by Justin Garcia
PHOTOS: St. Petersburg activists marched on anniversary of George Floyd's murder to demand less police funding
Photo by Justin Garcia
PHOTOS: St. Petersburg activists marched on anniversary of George Floyd's murder to demand less police funding
Photo by Justin Garcia
PHOTOS: St. Petersburg activists marched on anniversary of George Floyd's murder to demand less police funding
Photo by Justin Garcia

Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future.