ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Recently-released footage of Tyre Nichols’ death set off protests across the nation, bringing thousands of people into the streets, including downtown St. Petersburg.
The night before St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is scheduled to deliver his “State of the City” address, protestors occupied the grounds of City Hall, demanding an end to police brutality.
“It broke my heart to hear that he was calling for his mother,” said Ruth Beltran, a community organizer from the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
“I’m a mother,” Beltran said. “I’m a mother of not-a-white kid. So it touches at home. And we are sick and tired of seeing cases after cases.”
Beltran said what happened in Memphis could very well happen in St. Pete.
“We have police brutality,” said Beltran. “We have police killings and an overuse of police power right here in the Tampa Bay area, right here in St. Pete.”
The protestors marched from City Hall to St. Pete Police headquarters and back, walking down the middle of Central Avenue. Many people, like community organizer Jack Wallace, said the recently-released video of Memphis police officers interactions with Nichols was still top of mind.
“They treated him like a human piñata. They were just beating on him senseless,” said Wallace. “And frankly, anybody who watches that video can see that there’s a problem with policing in the United States.”
Wallace said about 100 people came out to protest and call for more change to policing.
“It’s just really heartening to see that so many people are willing to stand up and say, ‘You know, I’m not okay with this. I’m going to chant and I’m going to march in the streets about it,'” said Wallace.
Organizers said they don’t support Mayor Ken Welch and do not expect meaningful action towards police reform from him.
“We want to make sure that people know in St. Petersburg,” Wallace explained. “There’s a fight back against this sort of blatant racism by the police.”