Gabber reporter Laura Mulrooney went live on Facebook during the rally.
Watch the full video here.
(Video will orientate correctly after a few minutes.)
Gulfport supports!” resounded throughout the streets of Gulfport as over 40 individuals gathered Monday evening, June 8 to rally against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter.
After the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer, protests kicked off all around the world in support of policy change and demilitarization of police forces in the US.
Up until June 8, Gulfport had stayed out of the limelight. However, Gulfport residents and rally organizers Natashia Milburn and Naomi Rose wanted to bring Gulfport voices to the protests.
“I learned about my white privilege in ‘So You Want to Talk About Race,’ by Ijeoma Oluo and I learned what I can do to help,” said Milburn. “Gulfport is known for its inclusivity, diversity and welcoming nature. This rally was organized to bring Gulfport together knowing that our voice would be heard here.”
“We wanted to see something happen in Gulfport so that citizens who do want to show some support but didn’t feel comfortable going to downtown St. Pete still had an opportunity,” said Rose. “I think the media’s coverage of downtown St. Pete has made it look more scary than it is and that’s why we wanted to do something here. To show that this is peaceful and that we’re just trying to foster a situation for people that may be scared to ask questions about Black Lives Matter and where they can actually get answers.”
State Representative Jennfer Webb and Gulfport Councilmember April Thanos made appearances and spoke to the crowd prior to the march. City Manager Jim O’ Reilly watched from afar.
“I march for accountability,” said Webb. “Accountability is a problem across the nation. I am so proud that we are here, we are putting ‘I’m sorry’ into action by putting our feet on the pavement and marching in solidarity. I am so proud of Gulfport. Thank you for showing up.”
Webb then handed the floor to Thanos.
“This is such a scary time for all of us. It’s time to stand up now, while we can potentially do something about it,” remarked Thanos. “I love seeing this many people here. The only way to make things change is to show up.”
The rally formed at Clymer Park at 6 p.m. and headed toward 22nd Ave S. a little after 6:30 p.m. Those participating in the march stuck to the sidewalks along 22nd Ave S. to 53rd St. S. Milburn previously coordinated with the Gulfport Police Department (GPD) to assure them that the rally would be peaceful and ask for help with street closures to ensure the safety of participants.
There were several police vehicles along the route, but no officers on foot or with the crowd.
“Although we have not been made aware of nor invited to attend any rally, we have learned of an event that is planned for this evening in Clymer Park,” GPD Police Chief Rob Vincent wrote in an email to Gabber staff, “the organizers have made it clear that they want it to be a peaceful event, and we applaud those efforts. I will not give specifics on how police resources will be deployed, but I want to make it clear that we are prepared to keep the peace.”
After marching along Shore Blvd S. and turning onto Beach Blvd S. the crowd stopped to catch their breath in front of the Golden Dinosaur, which handed out cold water and food for protestors.
After the crowd paused in the middle of Beach Blvd. for a few minutes, GPD’s Operations Commander, Mary Farrand, spoke over the loudspeaker from her unmarked police vehicle, urging participants to keep moving and not bottleneck traffic.
The march came to a close around 8 p.m. at the top of Clymer Park. The crowd’s exhaustion was palpable, but their motivation did not wane.
“We have people like you who are doing something about the injustice,” said rally participant Jerrell Ward to the crowd. “I want to thank you for being angry about the injustice.”
“I was struck by how positive most people were, standing outside their houses,” Rose reflected at the conclusion of the march. “I was a little disheartened by the couple people I heard saying negative things. But, mostly just very happy that Jennifer Webb and April Thanos were there to support us. I hope Gulfport can keep being the open-minded and loving town I’ve grown to know it to be.”
“This is a place of equality; it was a little disheartening to see some of the Facebook comments on a few of the pages, especially the Gulfport Crime Watch page, which is run by the GPD,” said Gulfport resident Rain Turner. “But, we did it! It was peaceful, there were no incidents, we exercised our right to free speech and we showed that Gulfport wasn’t silent during what is the largest civil rights movement in history right now. We can say that Gulfport stood up, we showed what we believe in and we were not silent.”
Thanos also offered her thoughts at the completion of the march.
“It was so nice to have so many people come out, and so many young people come out,” said Thanos. “But compared to some of the other marches, it’s too bad not more people came out. I think we all need to be aware and pay attention – even if you don’t think it affects you now, it affects friends of yours and family.”
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