Mondy, January 15, 2018, as early as 5 a.m., the St. Petersburg Police could be seen setting barricades around the south side, the black community, ensuring no one could get in or out. This early display of military occupation came on the day that our community would be preparing to celebrate one of our black nation’s heroes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was one of the most influential leaders of our movement, having the ability to mobilize millions of black people in a moment. It was this influence that led to his assassination by the U.S. government. And as an attempt to sedate the resistance coming from our communities across this country, that same government “granted” us a day to honor his memory, while dictating when, where and how we can celebrate the memory of our martyr.
For years, this city government has worked to successfully co-opt the parade and post-parade activities by rerouting the event from our community to downtown where the resources of our community are hoarded, seen with every new high rise and condo, then concluding the parade at Tropicana Field, which rests upon the literal graves of black people, razed homes and black businesses that once existed there. To have us all in this area also served as a means to round us up in one place and contain us there.
And now, under the regime of re-elected Rick Kriseman, we saw the much of south St. Pete encircled by the ring of steel that is the police. Not only did Kriseman and his cronies make sure that our community couldn’t celebrate Dr. King, they squashed any opportunity for our community to see any semblance of economic activity. All of this is part of the greater scheme to wipe this community out totally.
Two weeks before the MLK Day festivities, our community was issued a warning letter from Chief of Police Anthony Holloway that said if anyone of us were to attempt to vend that we would be fined nearly $150. We were told that we needed to obtain permits to be able to sell our goods and services in our own community!
And this comes at a time when Kriseman and mayors before him have stripped this community of any viable means of economic development, starving our people or forcing us to participate in an illegal drug economy. What has to be seen during this attack on MLK Day is not just the military occupation of our community this one instance, but that this is the policy of this city imposed on our people every day under the Kriseman regime.
And this sort of containment helps to facilitate gentrification and crushes any ability for us to be able to generate some type of self-sustaining economic activity. It’s not simply an assault on our right to assemble or an attack on convenience, as sellout members of our community will try to convince you it was.
You might even see these same people come out against this issue that campaigned for and told you to vote Kriseman, all for their own benefit. But we are not confused! We understand that we must build for ourselves and we can do it! We have to raise these demands high:
- Reparations and Economic Development
- Black Community Control of the Police
- A Cease and Desist on the 80 Million Dollar Police Station
- The Dome to Build Affordable Housing and Genuine Economic Development
- The Right to Vend Wherever We See Fit
- An End to Gentrification