ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The St. Pete Peace Protest group marked more than 130 days of marching for justice for Black lives on Saturday evening at South Straub Park.
The group called Saturday’s protest a “Rally Against Hate,” drawing nearly 300 people, who silently marched from South Straub Park to the St. Pete Pier.
“Not just Black and Brown, but White allies, we had Indigenous people, and we are stronger altogether,” said Reverend Andy Oliver, Pastor of Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Pete.
The group kicked off the evening with several speakers before they began their march.
“With signs speaking for us, signs speaking to justice, signs speaking to Breonna Taylor, signs speaking to the change that we need, but in a very non confrontational way,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch.
The group was met with a few dozen counter protesters who also started their evening at South Straub Park, before joining the St. Pete Peace Protest group at the pier.
“We were heckled. There were folks from the other side who were trying to instigate, and I saw that with my own eyes, so it was good to see for myself that peaceful protest is continuing, and for folks that want to bring violence and confrontation like we’re hearing now, that’s not what this community is about,” said Commissioner Welch.
The St. Pete Police Department formed a line to separate the two sides as the “Rally Against Hate” group urged their supporters to not engage.
The group of counter protesters later burned and tore both a Nazi flag and an Antifa flag, telling the Black Lives Matter group that they are not fascists, and they are not Nazi’s.
The “Rally Against Hate” group then marched from the pier back to South Straub Park.
“For 130 nights, young, Black, Brown, White, allies have been marching in this city, not one bit of property has been destroyed,” said Reverend Oliver.
Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch just asked one thing of counter protesters, and of any person who may not understand their message, “Have a conversation, because what they’re talking about is advancing the justice system, advancing things like cameras, which Sheriff Gualtieri is now instituting in Pinellas County, it’s about reforms, it’s about justice, and it’s about listening to everyone in the community,” said Commissioner Welch.
The St. Pete Peace Protest group plans to continue their marches for justice.