Rick Kriseman’s “Vigil Against Hate” at Demen’s Landing took an ugly turn on Sunday night when the white Democratic Party-affiliated organizers turned the microphone off and tried to shut down the event when black activists were finally given time to speak.
Here’s how it all went down:
As everyone knows by now, the events in Charlottesville where mobs of white nationalists with torches are marching in the streets and clashing with counter protesters have inflamed the sentiments of many throughout this country who are concerned about racial justice.
The Women’s March of Pinellas County, which is led by a Kriseman campaign volunteer named Lisa Perry, called for a “vigil” in the park. In actuality, the vigil was nothing more but a publicity stunt for Kriseman and an array of his surrogates who comprised the majority of the speakers’ list.
Earlier in the day I spoke with Lisa and informed her that I would like to speak at the rally as well as Eritha Akile Cainion, the chair of the Committee for Justice for the Three Drowned Black Girls and a candidate for District 6, and Gazi Kodzo, a popular organizer with the Uhuru Movement and leading member of the African People’s Socialist Party.
Perry ensured me that we would be given time to speak and asked that we would not make our statements as candidates because they didn’t want this to “get political.” I agreed to that and told her that we would want to be there to speak regardless of whether we were running for office.
We would want to speak because we believe that the road to genuine unity between white people and black people is paved in justice and reparations.
For us in the white community, the only genuine and appropriate response to the horrors of Charlottesville is a full-throttle stance of opposition to all forms of white nationalism whether it’s torch-bearing Klansman or state sanctioned lynchings in the form of police violence against the black community.
We believe unity is possible and that is why we have based our entire campaign on the principle of unity through reparations.
So, we agreed to Perry’s terms and conditions.
Perry also told me she would send me a copy of the program beforehand to get feedback. (She never did).
When we got to the park, Perry gave us a paper with the program printed on it, and we noticed that were placed at the very end of the list, after several musical performances and at least a dozen other speakers.
I have a copy of this paper still. The list of speakers included the mayor Rick Kriseman, his deputy mayor Kanika Tomalin, Nadine Smith (a Kriseman endorser), Darden Rice (Kriseman endorser), and others.
They spontaneously added Ken Welch (a Kriseman endorser) to the program when he showed up, pushing us back even later into the program.
All of the speakers exploited the tragedy in Charlottesville to make thinly veiled pleas for the audience to vote for Kriseman in the upcoming election.
At one point as Kriseman was practically on his knees begging people to vote for him, an elderly Jewish woman in the crowd shook her head and walked away. As she left the park, she turned to one of my friends and said, “Shameless how they are turning this into a rally for that guy. I feel sick!”
It was getting dark and people were leaving the park, bored out of their minds by the cheap campaign antics of Kriseman’s shameless henchmen when finally the organizers invited Akile up to speak.
As usual, Akile lit the audience on fire, and the crowd erupted into cheers when she exposed that the entire social system is built on the oppression of black people and that is why it requires radical solutions in the form of a progressive platform of reparations to the black community to end the conditions that birthed the Charlottesville violence.
When Akile started to expose the role of the city government and the police department in perpetrating violence against the black community, Perry and other Kriseman-affiliated operatives went into a panic attack, screaming, “Take her mic! Get the podium! Make her stop!”
The sound engineer, who was white, walked over to me and said, “They are telling me to turn off her microphone. I feel like I shouldn’t.”
“You’re right,” I said. She stood with us. I appreciated her stance.
After Akile finished, a white woman went up to the microphone and scolded the audience, wagging her finger and admonishing the crowd: “You all are acting up!” she yelled, condescendingly. The crowd started chanting, “Let Jesse speak!”
Finally, they did. I went to the microphone and spoke, not as a candidate, but as a white person in solidarity with Black Liberation and white reparations to African people.
I spoke about the need for the white community to loudly and proudly declare our unconditional solidarity with the black community’s struggle for self-determination, freedom and social justice.
I also paid tribute to Chairman Omali Yeshitela for ripping down the racist mural that hung in City Hall 50 years ago that was as offensive as any Confederate statue.
Then, it was Gazi Kodzo’s turn to speak. And that was when the white organizers of the march literally shut off his microphone.
They told him that “Jesse made an agreement with us that it wouldn’t get political!”
It was political the moment the rally began and it became obvious that this whole thing was set up as an event for the pathetic, failing Kriseman campaign.
Beyond that, I don’t know how you can be “non-political” when we are talking about taking a stand against white nationalism. That’s pretty political wouldn’t you say?
In a city where the status quo of big moneyed interests enriches itself off an economy built on the oppression of black people, how can we have this discussion without “getting political”?
We have to get political about stopping the rampant police violence like the recent murder of three black teenagers by sheriff’s deputies in Palm Harbor.
What happened at Demen’s Landing was just the latest, desperate attempt by the Democratic Party and its minions to try to contain the voice of the black working class and the explosive and optimistic vision personfied by Akile Cainion, and to alienate the growing number of white people who are standing on the side of justice for the black community.
This is the same Democratic Party whose local Chair, Susan McGrath went on record calling the Uhuru Movement a “Domestic Terrorist Organization.”
When the Kriseman team tried to stop Gazi from being able to speak, people in the crowd started chanting “This is no different from Virgina!” and saying, “You are just as white nationalists as the torch bearers in Charlottesville!”
But just as the white nationalists in VA do not speak for all of us, the Democrats do not either.
Because there have been many white people, including Democrats, who have broken ranks from the status quo and come over to the side of reparations and unity.
Even Brooke and Jim Anderson quit their jobs as the Secretary and Treasurer of the St. Petersburg Democratic Club to join our campaigns.
This is a growing movement, and we are winning.
We are winning tremendous support for our platforms. The people of St. Pete just gave Akile an overwhelming victory in the first survey done about the district 6 race. This shows support not only for Akile but for my candidacy and the joint platform of unity through reparations.
It shows that the people are ready to cast out the criminal elites and political corporate hacks from City Hall.
It means the people are ready to see a public policy of economic development for the black community as opposed to a public policy of police containment.
It means the people are ready to unite our city through reparations.
Communities United for Reparations and Economic Development is hosting another action on Wednesday night, August 16th. It’s called “March Against Hate! St. Pete stands against white nationalism.” The march begins on the steps of City Hall at 6pm.
I’m planning to attend and show my solidarity with the struggle against white nationalist violence in all forms. I encourage everyone to attend.
The Primary Election is Aug. 29.
Jesse Nevel, candidate for mayor