ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – One day after St. Petersburg police announced they will offer warnings and issuing fines to protesters blocking traffic to protesters who demonstrate in the street and disrupt traffic, a group in front of the police department got clever.
The group activated the flashing lights in the crosswalk and marched back and forth. And while they were still disrupting traffic, on the surface, they were following the law.
Two of the protesters who refused to give 8 On Your Side their names said they felt they were being unfairly targeted.
“The police job is to protect and serve,” said one young woman. “But they are now picking and choosing who they want to protect and serve. And that is not right.”
Another man expressed the same sentiments.
“I think it is about limiting the right to protest,” he said. “And the right to civilly disobey. “
Police will reportedly be focusing on the following laws:
- Must use sidewalk when possible, Florida Statute 316.130 (3)
- May not obstruct or hinder traffic, Florida Statute 316.2045 (1)
- Must obey traffic signals, Florida Statute 316.075 (1) (C) 2b
The police department cites recent national incidents of vehicles hitting protesters who were blocking roadways as to why they’re getting stricter on the city’s traffic laws.
St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway says drivers may be getting impatient, and in some cases demonstrators may be getting more aggressive.
“You could have the protesters that are upset, the person in the car is upset and that person is behind the wheel of a big vehicle. And they could cause a lot of damage,” said Chief Holloway. “Not only to that one person but to a large group of people.”
Another concern, the chief says, is emergency call response times. If first responders know a roadway is blocked, they will relay that information to others.
“They block a bridge,” Chief Holloway said as an example. “Well, already, the police department and the sheriff’s office have contacted Sunstar and the fire department saying hey, the bridge is blocked. So they are already in their mind thinking of a different route.”
The police department on Thursday released a video of the protesters on Wednesday night “refusing to allow a fire rescue vehicle through on 1st Avenue North.” A department spokesperson said the fire rescue truck had to re-route.
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