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St. Petersburg police, mayor ask for community partnerships in handling protests

Margie Manning



Demonstators walk along Beach Drive in St. Petersburg last spring. Photo by Epiphany Summers.

St. Petersburg Police and Mayor Rick Kriseman are asking for the community’s help to keep protests from getting out of hand.

 Kriseman and Police Chief Anthony Holloway addressed the City Council Thursday, following two incidents Wednesday night during Black Lives Matter protests in the city.

Videos circulating on social media show a protestor jumping on a car in one incident. In another incident, a protestor sat down at an outdoor restaurant table that was already occupied by restaurant patrons.

In the first case, the driver of the car did not want to press charges, Holloway said. In the second case, no one from the restaurant called police and asked them to remove the protestor, he said.

The city welcomes peaceful protests and has tried to create a safe space for them, Kriseman said. “None of us supports protest which is not peaceful and goes beyond bonds of decency,” Kriseman said.

Kriseman said he was in constant contact with the police chief Wednesday night and asked if the victims or the restaurant had asked for police help. The answer was no, Kriseman said.

“What I’m hoping is that the community is a partner with us, both in facilitating peaceful protest but also in preventing protest that is not peaceful from occurring. So if you are a restaurant or a bar and there’s something going on your property that is inappropriate, we can help you but you have to ask us for that,” Kriseman said

Several city council members spoke out in response to the incidents, including Deborah Figgs-Sanders, one of two Black Council members.

“I saw the videos last night and didn’t understand it. The total message has been lost. For protestors who protest peacefully we applaud that. But the few that are passionate past the point of being disrespectful, I can’t endorse,” Figgs-Sanders said.

Council member Darden Rice said it was important the city send a message that it has zero tolerance for assaulting people, while Council Chairman Ed Montanari said he will not tolerate protestors threatening people, blocking roads and disrupting businesses.

“I want the laws of the city enforced and I want people to know around the world what a great city St. Petersburg is. Last night I didn’t like what I saw and my patience is at an end,” Montanari said.

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  1. Avatar

    Carol Ulmer

    September 24, 2020at3:23 pm

    Unfortunately, the individuals who created these menacing situations did nothing for their cause. Most residents are very supportive of the BLM protests, but do not want to be targeted in any way by what one or two protesters may perceive to be a lack of interest.#BlackLivesMatter

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    September 24, 2020at4:46 pm

    Thank you to Councilwoman Figgs-Sanders for speaking sensibly. While the rights to protest and assemble are valued and should be safeguarded, the behaviour on display has more in common with the radical fringes of the official BLM movement, that has no interest in improving civil discourse or improving justice.

    It would be nice if Mayor Kriseman took responsibility for the state of chaos he’s allowed to reign in the street. It’s not the business owners responsibility to enforce order and discourage these confrontational encounters from repeatedly occurring. That honor firmly belongs to the mayor and the leadership in this city. By allowing the mob discourse to continue to disrupt things in the city – all in service of NO clear message or purpose – the leadership continues to encourage and enable this kind of potentially violent confrontation.

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    Brad Banks

    September 24, 2020at4:46 pm

    What is the full story on the videos? We’ve seen hundreds of videos conveniently cut to only show one viewpoint. For instance was this car just parked on the street and a protester just decided to jump On it for no reason just randomly? Or was the car beeping his horn or maybe nudging the protesters? I don’t know these answers but hopefully the powers that be do before they make decisions.

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    Jack Smith

    September 24, 2020at8:48 pm

    We lost control of Beach Drive the most visited part of downtown. They will continue to threaten people until something is done. Brad…..did you watch the video of the disorderly conduct where the yelled profanities of people just eating dinner. Jumping on top of someones vehicle is never acceptable. Good try to make it acceptable.

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    September 25, 2020at7:01 am

    Was raised in St.Pete it’s a shame that the mayor is promoting the city as a place to come and voice their views from Gay parades to allowing protesters to harrasse folks,block streets and traffic and cause chaos. Very poor leadership! Have some guts and stand up for the majority of law abiding tax payers who put you in office. These groups that you support their right to do and be what they want is ridiculous. You are destroying the reputation of St.Petersburg. Your Liberal attitude is not what made St.Pete a nice place. Its becoming another Tampa with much criminal behavior. The city needs a strong Mayor not a whimp like yourself that allows its citizens to have to put up with these absurd childish radical and perverted behaviors!

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    Robert Stelzle

    September 25, 2020at12:00 pm

    I doubt if any of you have any idea of the amount of damage this has done to St Petersburg’s imagine. Years of hard work to build a positive image and one night to complete destroy it.

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    September 25, 2020at12:23 pm

    I am not condoning any type of violence from the protestors. There is a picture of the couple at the table where they are having dinner and giving the middle finger (man) and the white power symbol/hand sign (woman) to the protestors as they walked by. The picture was taken before the one protestor sat down at their table. I know nothing about the car incident.

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    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    September 25, 2020at1:17 pm

    I am so sorry to see ‘America’ quietly going back to the 1950’s. I am sorry to see the protesters Not following Dr. King’s Peaceful Protest guidelines. Mayor Kriseman and Chief Holloway have been more than supportive of the right to peacefully protest. Protesters, please do not ruin it for yourselves. Leave ‘folk’ alone as long as they do Not touch you.

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    September 25, 2020at6:14 pm

    Lynn, where is that picture? No one but you seems to have seen it. What the videos DO show is protestors yelling profanities at innocent diners, blocking traffic, doing damage to property and generally polluting the call for justice.

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    September 26, 2020at1:12 am

    Not St.Petes best publicity…

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    September 26, 2020at5:08 pm

    Horrible national press on many media outlets. Residents/visitors will be nervous to come to St Petersburg to enjoy dinner.

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    September 27, 2020at2:06 am

    Oml. You practically condone this by allowing them in the area. How naive to think they would just be peaceful. Their ruining the area and people’s jobs. People see this going on in Portland and Louisville. In their mind it’s dangerous to travel to Florida now thanks to you. BLM isnt about Black lives, if it was they would picketing city halls and getting aid for black poor districts. This is about scaring you inside and ruining the economy. That’s why they target businesses.

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    September 27, 2020at2:31 am

    We have moved out of downtown St Pete as we no longer feel safe there. Thank you, Mayor Kriseman, for destroying what used to be a peaceful, loving city where you could stroll downtown, talk with tourists from all over the world, and SUPPORT local businesses and their employees.

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