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St. Pete coronavirus vigil honors lives lost, shares controversial message


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) -Many in St. Petersburg gathered for a coronavirus vigil to honor lives lost on Friday. The group said they were there to memorialize the close to 200,000 who have died nationwide from COVID-19 and the more than 700 of which lived in Pinellas County.

But they had another message that not everyone agreed with.

Many gathered at Williams Park in St. Pete at 11 a.m. Friday chanting “We will not forget you! We will not forget you!”

With masks on, staying socially distanced, remembering friends, family and loved ones who lost their lives to COVID-19.

“Over 700 of our fellow Pinellas County residents have succumbed to the novel coronavirus, that number is staggering,” said one of the event organizers into the megaphone.

That number is staggering and personal to Jim Donelon who lives in St. Petersburg.

“My friend of about 30 years (died from coronavirus) His name was Mike Stephenowski. He was a plumber, husband, father,” Donelon said.

Prayers were said and a eulogy read as they laid flowers in front of a sign that said “In memory of the victims of COVID-19” and listed off the names of those dead.

Organizers at the event urged change.

“The viruses accomplices are state and federal leaders with no regard for human life,” said one man into the microphone.

“I’m here to support the remembrance of those people especially come Nov. 3. My sign says ‘Trump lied, my friend died,'” Donellon said.

Diane Ford who lives on St. Pete Beach and was walking by near where the vigil was taking place and says her heart goes out to those who’ve lost their lives to COVID-19, but she said the president is not to blame.

“If you look at the beginning everyone felt differently about coronavirus then they do now. I think it wasn’t as scary at the beginning. And at the very beginning, even some of the doctors said face masks weren’t necessary…then changed their tune. So it’s changed,” Ford said.

The crowd continued chanting at the park “We will not forget you!”

One message both sides agree on, stay safe from the virus and vote in November.

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