Out-of-town agitators confront St. Pete BLM protesters

Deirdre O’Leary, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Ashley Green, an organizer with Dream Defenders, was recently interviewed on WMNF radio by where she spoke of clashes with right-wing counter-protesters in downtown St Pete.

Although Black Lives Matter protesters have been peacefully marching since George Floyd’s murder, all along they have encountered physical harm. Motorists have slammed into protesters in intersections, and few, if any, have been cited by police.

Green said the motorists have always done this at crosswalks and have been cheered on by the Pinellas Crime Watch and Blue Thunder Facebook groups.  She saw a t-shirt that said, “all lives splatter, get out of the road.”

Green countered the idea that “both sides” have contributed to the violence.  The protesters have been met with violence, and “so few of our leaders have been critical about the violence done to us.”

She said it shows “the lack of moral clarity that property is put over people — what people matter is conditional to your political affiliation.”

Green feels that threats by white nationalists are to be taken seriously, citing that they had a gun pulled on them, and the police “have spent weeks trying to justify it.”

According to Green, police normally are responsible for escalating protest situations by showing up in riot gear, but this hadn’t been the case this summer in St. Pete. She felt they were keeping watch from a safe distance. This is in contrast to Tampa, where police have used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters.

However, Green was disappointed when counter-protesters arrived on Sept. 26, that the police did not try to separate the groups despite Black Lives Matter protesters being pushed and shoved. She wondered if it was retaliation.

Green referred to the Blue Lives Matter protester, who pushed a woman to the ground on a widely viewed video and brandished a gun while police did not intervene or follow up. Brandishing a firearm is a crime in Florida as it is not an open-carry state. Also, police did not intervene that day when protesters were followed to the Pier and harassed physically.

A week later, on Oct. 3, the second round of counter-protests drew a larger crowd and a better police response.  A row of police on bicycles stood between Black Lives Matter protesters and the counter-protesters, acting as a barrier.  This protest drew well-known right-wing provocateurs Gary Snow and Jonathan Riches’ attention.

Members of the Blue Thunder motorcycle club, which Green said is affiliated with SPPD, were on hand heckling protesters and trying to provoke altercations. The Pinellas and Bay Area Crime watch groups are also active and encourage actions against Black Lives Matter protests.

Supporters of Trump also turned out to protest against the Black Lives Matter movement.  Green’s group protested silently and ignored the counter-protesters who may have been disappointed they did not get the attention they sought.

“White supremacy and white power is dying in America.  They understand that, which is why they are fighting the way they are,” Green said. “These people are not worth the attention.”

The Black Lives Matter protests are held locally by St. Pete Peace Protest and Movement St. Pete, both on Facebook.  Green said their aim is “greater police accountability, justice and equity in the Black community in St Petersburg.”  Specifically, their demands are:

  • Reduction to the SPPD budget proportional to the recent decline in crime, and allocating those funds to affordable housing, healthcare, education and minority community outreach
  • Having general elections for all members of the police conduct review committee; continual use of body cameras by police; decriminalization of protest
  • $20 million diverted from the general fund for affordable housing
  • Free early childhood education
  • CRA bridge loans and grants for local development. Community control of the CRA
  • Youth and Black-focused workforce development
  • Programs to address health disparity

The protest group is involved in other efforts besides marching and protests, such as feeding the unhoused, working a community garden, and weekly neighborhood cleanup. They also started “Know your Rights” training, and refer residents to mental health counseling through Healthy St. Pete.

They can be reached on the Facebook groups St. Pete Peace Protest and Movement St. Pete.

3 Replies to “Out-of-town agitators confront St. Pete BLM protesters”

  1. Shae says:

    This article is biased and completely subjective. The protesters who showed up over the past two weeks were there to protect locals from blocking roadways and damaging vehicles by riding skateboards over the roof of a car, and to stop violence from occurring between the BLM folks and people who are eating dinner with their families. This article only interviews a BLM leader and not the other group of people. Ive watched videos of both sides misbehaving and making those protesters out to be white supremacist or far right is lying to your readers. They were there to support the police and are not against BLM, they are against violence and bullying that has occurred in some instances recently.

  2. Dott says:

    And so it goes….a view despite the polyps in the way.

  3. Lev says:

    I believe this is an excellent example of one-sided nournalism. The wonderful, peaceful BLM and those horrible anti-BLM counter-protestors. What drivel! BLM has the right to protest and nobody has the right to say anything against them and their socialist message? Nonsense. When BLM threatens diners sitting outside enjoying an evening with physical violence by sitting at diners’ tables DEMANDING their support or threatening them, shaking the table diners’ evening out that is acceptable behavior. At least according to BLM and this journalist.

    When protestersblock the entrance to wherever not allowing customers to access stores, gas stations or whatever, that’s supposed to be acceptable behavior, a sign of “peaceful” protest? What hooey.
    Yet when people slowly push through these blocks THEY are threatened and thout of as criminals! When they pull a weapon because they fear for their lives THEY are the friminals?
    You can try to spin this as those “poor, peaceful” BLM denistrators so long as the facts don’t get in the way.

    And as a journalist, offering both sides of an issue is no longer in vogue, I know. But since ethics and integrity nevertheless demand it I believe we have an excellent insight to your character!

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