ORLANDO, Fla. – Another round of protests was held around Florida on Sunday, capping a weekend of demonstrations around the state over the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd. Meanwhile, deputies were recovering from injuries, and nightly curfews were imposed in several major cities.
Police officers in Orlando used tear gas on demonstrators who temporarily blocked Interstate 4 in downtown Orlando on Sunday night. The Orlando Police Department said protesters had thrown rocks, bottles and construction equipment.
In West Palm Beach, a group of protesters temporarily shut down a stretch of busy Interstate 95 on Sunday.
Elsewhere, officers in Fort Lauderdale used tear gas near a parking garage to break up what was a largely civil demonstration.
A nightly curfew was issued in Miami-Dade County, Florida's most populous county, and Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he would postpone the reopening of the county's beaches until the curfew order is lifted. The county's beaches had been scheduled to reopen Monday for the first time since March when they were closed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Curfews also were issued for localities including Orlando, Tampa, and Leon County, where a pickup truck drove through a crowd of protesters Saturday in Florida’s capital of Tallahassee.
In Miami, a peaceful protest turned violent Sunday after a police officer “pushed a young black woman over and caused a riot,” said Amari Burroughs, a 19-year-old from Parkland, who said people were running for safety. “I was scared for my life.”
Burroughs, a 19-year-old African American from Parkland, said she marched on behalf of her six siblings.
“I fight every day when I walk into a grocery store because I live in a predominantly white area,” she said. “I’m at war every single day in America because of the color of my skin.”
Protesters were demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after pleading for air as a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed a knee on his neck last week. Protests also took place in dozens of cities across the nation. The officer was charged in Floyd’s death.
Many protests were largely peaceful across the state Sunday with thousands gathering in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Stuart and Tampa. Some organizers doubled safety efforts to counteract the violence of Saturday night.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said an unnamed deputy was either stabbed or slashed in the neck and was taken to a hospital for treatment Saturday evening.
In Tampa, Black Lives Matter organizers had nearly 100 safety marshals in fluorescent vests patrolling their march, trained in de-escalation tactics and ordered to be on the lookout for antagonists. The group also had medics, used walkie-talkies to quickly squelch outbursts.
“We wanted to be able to provide a safe space for their voice and rage to be heard within a controlled environment. It’s part of their amendment rights for them to be able to express themselves,” said Chaikirah Parker, who helped organize the event.
The veteran activist said they purposely held the event early Sunday, despite sweltering heat, because it brought a more peaceful demographic.
Their efforts Sunday came after a night of unrest across the country and state.
In South Florida, after protesters hurled rocks and bottles at officers and set squad cars on fire outside Miami Police headquarters Saturday night, transit officials said that all Miami-Dade public transit was being suspended on Sunday, including buses and light rail. At one point Saturday night, Interstate 95 was shut down in both directions as a group of protesters stood on the busy roadway. Videos on social media showed dozens of people breaking into stores at Bayside Marketplace, a popular outdoor shopping center in downtown Miami.
Miami-Dade Police arrested 57 people, and most were charged with violating curfew. Thirteen were from Miami the rest came from out of state, including Minnesota, Michigan and New York.
In Miami, four officers were injured and 17 police vehicles were vandalized, including some that were set on fire.
Organizers of a Sunday afternoon protest in Lauderhill spent all night negotiating with city officials, assuring them it would be peaceful and safe. “But we came to an impasse and they said, ‘We’re not doing it anymore,’” said Rep. Shevrin Jones, an African American Democrat. “I was extremely upset.”
The protest was moved to nearby Fort Lauderdale.
Jasmen Rogers-Shaw was one of roughly 2,500 who showed up. She stressed the importance of “standing in solidarity with cases that are happening nationally, but also highlight what’s happening right here in our county and in Florida.”
Miami Heat NBA star Udonis Haslem stood alongside Miami leaders Sunday and called for peaceful protests that night, saying violence and looting would not bring justice for Floyd.
“I want to be part of the solution,” he said, with his two young sons nearby. “You've got to part like the Red Sea when you see foolishness coming.”
This story has been corrected to fix the name of the Orlando shopping complex to Mall at Millenia.