The Tampa Bay chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation holds protests for a variety of social and political reasons, and Saturdays actionorganized in less than 24 hourswas a condemnation of a jury decision to rule Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on-all-charges related to his killing of Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
In its official statement, PSL blames the acquittal on the systemic racism of judicial courts, uncommon practices and bias from the presiding judge, plus Americas history of right-wing militias as an extension of state-sanctioned violence. Downtown St. Petersburgs roughly 90-minute protest was one of many around the country decrying the verdict and went from City Hall to the intersection of Central Avenue and 5th Street N, which happened to be in the middle of the multi-block Florida CraftArt festival. Speeches from different community members could be faintly heard over the chatter and music of the festivaland spurred heckling from folks who voiced their support for the Rittenhouse verdict.
Although PSL organized the protest, members from other local political groups were representedfolks from the Florida Indigenous Alliance, St. Pete Cop Watch, Tropical Communist Party, Uhuru Solidarity Movement and the Tampa Bay Action Committee all took their turn at the bullhorn.
Passersby could be heard shouting dissenting opinions like hes innocent! I would have shot them, too!, If you dont like this country get the fuck out, and yall are all fucking commies! towards the small crowd of protesters. One upset pedestrian started harassing a protester with a cane, asking them if they Were on disability for free handouts, before the other demonstrators shooed them away with chants.
Even with the visibly distraught hecklers, nothing stopped the protest from continuing. Chants like Lock him up! and No justice, no peace! were heard around the 500 block of Central Avenue., as festival goers audibly gawked.
Although this protest was about the verdict itself, one of the main points that was emphasized was the importance of safety in future protests. Rittenhouse murdered people in Wisconsin, but speakers at Saturdays demonstration pointed out the imminent danger that protesters face right here in Tampa Bay.
Rittenhouses acquittal is a clear signal from the government that vigilantes who kill anti-racist protestersor any kind of progressive demonstratorwill enjoy impunity. the official PSL statement reads.
During last summers protests, guns were pulled on demonstrators both in St. Petersburg and in New Port Richey. Cars purposefully ran into crowds of peaceful protesters in Tampa, and St. Petersburg had to remind folks not to move vehicles through protests. The threat of danger and violence is very real for Floridians exercising their right to assembleparticularly with governor Desantis actively trying to push anti riot legislation.
Christina Bonetaa Pasco county-based Black Lives Matter organizer whos come face-to-face with Proud Boystook the bullhorn at this weekends PSL protest and delivered a captivating speech about safety, violence and organizing.
How many times last summer did we have guns pointed at us? When I was in Pasco county, a man came to the protest, flashed his gun and declared this is war, she told the crowd gathered around her. Any of usBlack or whitecould have been shot or killed. We have to start learning what safety really means.Kyla Fields