Fireworks, smoke bombs flare as tensions erupt between protesters, Florida police

23 arrested in St. Petersburg following demonstration

Photo courtesy St. Petersburg Police Department (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Demonstrations continued across the state and nation late Tuesday as protesters took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Protests became heated Tuesday evening in St. Petersburg, about two hours southwest of Orlando. The St. Petersburg Police Department said 23 people were arrested for various crimes during the demonstrations.

[LIVE UPDATES: Protests over death of George Floyd continue across the US]

Officers said the protests, involving more than 300 people, began around 2 p.m. and continued until at least 12 a.m. The protest remained mostly peaceful and police allowed demonstrators to take over major intersections, stopping traffic for several minutes, according to the department.

Later that night, however, police said they became aware that some protesters were using “incendiary devices” as they walked along roads, which officials said posed a threat because it was unknown what type of devices they were using.

[READ MORE: You have the right to protest as an American. Here’s what that means]

“For this reason, at 11:48 p.m., when the crowd returned to the front of Police Headquarters, police made a public announcement that this was an unlawful assembly and the crowd needed to leave the area for the safety of the people gathered and the police officers,” officials with SPPD said.

About two minutes after the crowd was told to disperse, police launched smoke bombs at protesters while several demonstrators threw large fireworks, or mortars, back toward the building, police said.

Following the incident, 23 people were arrested after refusing police orders to leave, records show.

[RELATED: Here’s how Central Florida law enforcement agencies use neck restraints]

No injuries were reported.

About the Author:

Erin began her career at News 6 as an assignment editor, then became a show producer. She is now a digital storyteller as part of the Click Orlando team.