Fri, 23 Oct 2020

Cleanups, Curfew and Injuries Following Unrest in Florida

Voice of America
01 Jun 2020, 10:35 GMT+10

ORLANDO, FLA. - Deputies were recovering from injuries, nightly curfews were issued and the cleanup of smashed store windows began Sunday around Florida after a night of unrest throughout the state's cities that followed protests in response to the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said an unnamed deputy was either stabbed or slashed in the neck and was taken to a hospital for treatment Saturday evening. A sheriff's office spokeswoman wouldn't comment on the deputy's condition Sunday morning.

In Tampa, protesters on Saturday night threw rocks at first responders, burglarized 40 businesses and set fire to a gas station and a sporting-clothes store at a shopping mall. A Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputy was injured when he was struck by a firework and another deputy was sent to the hospital after being hit in the back of the head by a hard object, the sheriff's office tweeted.

Officers arrested 41 people, and more than two dozen police cars were damaged, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said Sunday.

A nightly curfew was issued in Miami-Dade County, Florida's most populous county, and Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he would postpone the reopening of the county's beaches until the curfew order is lifted. The county's beaches had been scheduled to reopen Monday for the first time since March when they were closed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Curfews also were issued for Orlando and Leon County, where a pickup truck drove through a crowd of protesters Saturday in Florida's capital of Tallahassee.

Protests on Saturday demanding justice for George Floyd also took place in dozens of cities across the nation. A Minneapolis officer, who is seen on video pressing his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes as Floyd begged for air, was charged Friday in Floyd's death.

In Orlando, police officers used tear gas to clear protesters off a highway Saturday evening. Some windows of stores near the Mall at Millenia were smashed.

In South Florida, after protesters hurled rocks and bottles at officers and set squad cars on fire outside Miami Police headquarters Saturday night, transit officials said that all Miami-Dade public transit was being suspended on Sunday, including buses and light rail. At one point Saturday night, Interstate 95 was shut down in both directions as a group of protesters stood on the busy roadway. Videos on social media showed dozens of people breaking into stores at Bayside Marketplace, a popular outdoor shopping center in downtown Miami.

Miami-Dade Police arrested 57 people, and most were charged with violating curfew. Thirteen were from Miami the rest came from out of state, including Minnesota, Michigan and New York. Those from out of state seemed to be working together in what authorities called "coordinated communication" to incite unrest and had marbles and rocks in their bags.

In Miami, four officers were injured and 17 police vehicles were vandalized, including some that were set on fire. Miami city workers on Sunday were seen cleaning the streets of debris left from the protests.

Rosa Jimenez Cano suspected something was wrong when Miami's main protest was scheduled to end and a large group continued heading over to Interstate 95. She decided to go home, saying the protest had been peaceful.

"I was a little scared," said Jimenez Cano, 39, a venture capitalist.

She said she felt it was important to speak out against the police brutality in Floyd's death and stand with fellow black Americans. But as darkness fell, the protest erupted into violence.

"Now I think that maybe people are doing things that aren't really connected to that. Going to Bayside and looting I don't really see the connection," she said, referring to the Miami shopping center.

Peaceful protests began taking place early Sunday afternoon in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Stuart and Tampa.

Organizers of a Sunday afternoon protest in Lauderhill spent all night negotiating with city officials, assuring them it would be peaceful and safe. "But we came to an impasse and they said, 'We're not doing it anymore,'" said Rep. Shevrin Jones, an African American Democrat. "I was extremely upset."

The protest was moved to nearby Fort Lauderdale. Jones said organizers felt like they were being silenced.

"People are trying to show the best way to show solidarity, not only for the injustice going on in this country but also to get out the anger they have. A lot of people use advocacy as that route," he said.

Miami Heat NBA star Udonis Haslem called for peaceful protests Sunday standing alongside Miami leaders saying he was disappointed in the violence and looting, adding it did not bring justice for Floyd.

"I want to be part of the solution," he said, with his two young sons nearby. "You've got to part like the Red Sea when you see foolishness coming."

"As a black man raising black kids in America, I'm scared as hell, way more scared than I ever was for myself."

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