BLM protest marches through downtown Bradenton

Photo credit Jasmine Respess
Photo credit Jasmine Respess

Outside the Downtown Bradenton Central Library, a growing group of people gathered a half an hour before noon. Those in attendance included students, community members, leaders, parents and grandparents. People of varying races and backgrounds gathered there to march in protest of racist police practices. The marchers walked with yellow signs that stated “Black Lives Matter” and “no justice, no peace” in black lettering. The protest started at the library, went through the Bradenton Farmer’s Market, stopped traffic on Manatee Street and ended in front of the Bradenton City Police Department.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been going for over a year now. Still, unfair policing practices have been occurring across the nation. These practices disproportionately affect black people in the United States. A protest against the unfair treatment of black people by police was held on Nov. 19 at Manatee County Library in downtown Bradenton. In aftermath of the appointment of Donald Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement is more relevant than ever.

In Florida, the deaths of young people of color such as, Rodney Mitchell and Elias Guadarrama have lead to sorrow, anger and action.

“If you are a humanitarian,” President of the NAACP Rodney Jones said to the gathering of about 60 marchers. “Of course all lives matter, but we’re here because black people are targeted most often.”

According to the NAACP website, “African Americans are incarcerated nearly six times the rate of whites.”

Recently, The NAACP uncovered statistics about jarring discrepancies regarding  deaths by police and arrest of black people in Manatee county specifically. One of the statistics was that black people make up 9 percent of the Manatee community and make up 27 percent of the arrest. The consensus at the march was not that the racist police practices need to be exposed, the information is out and know, instead there needs to be something done about it.

“We need to know,” Beltran said. “What is the [city’s ] plan to stop racist policing.”

The marchers were met with varying reactions as they walked their path. There were positive reactions from passersby who cheered and waved, but there were also negative comments and altercations. Specifically, a woman who wrote “All lives matter” on a piece of paper and held it in protesters faces as they passed. Those who were attending the Farmer’s Market seemed taken off guard and reacted by taking pictures. Some were upset, due to the interruption of their sales, but still, some were understanding and supportive. Most were silent and waited for the group marched on.

Those who partook in the protest included members on Black Lives Matter Manasota organization, NCF students and citizens of Manatee and Sarasota who wanted to express their concerns over police practices.

“I went to support the Black LIves Matter movement,” NCF second-year and Catalyst reporter Cassie Manz said. “To protest the pattern of racist policing in Bradenton and the country.”

Another NCF student who attended the protest was third-year Hannah Procell.  She explained that she had attended a anti-Trump rally in Sarasota the week before.

“It felt so important to continue staying involved and supportive of causes that push for justice and equality that I made an effort to ride to Bradenton with my friend [Cassie Manz].”

Procell said that she believed the march through downtown and the Bradenton Farmer’s market were productive actions.

“There was also a demonstration in front of the police department’s building which I felt was very successful in calling attention to our grievances with the disproportional stops, arrests, and killings of people in the black community of Bradenton. […] This type of peaceful yet powerful demonstration is important because “real” political change can truly occur when people of a community come together to send a message to its leaders.”

One of the more intense moments, was the blocking of a major road in downtown Bradenton.

Blocking the road can be an exciting experience. It’s like getting a tattoo, after your first one you want more,” Black Lives Matter Manasota protester said. “I would have liked to see more people out there on the front line but I understand that it is way less complicated to wear a safety pin and call it a day.”

During the protest, police were present. They did not respond or interfere with the protesters demands directly, even though the protest was about their practices specifically. They did watch from afar and kept in communication with the protest leaders.

The protest, which was filled with chants of “power to the people,” “the KKK is not ok,” and “the police in this hood are no good” ended right in front of the Bradenton City Police Department. A large yellow banner the words “Black LIves Matter” painted on it was angled at the station. Apart from one lone officer in front of the main entrance, there was no action from those inside. The cops that were already out kept a comfortable distance. Demonstrations in honor of those who have died by police fire as well as a mannequin challenge were held outside the station.

More protest are on the horizon, and there is no end in sight until equality is achieved and there is justice for marginalized people.

 

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