More than a dozen Black Lives Matter marches gathered across Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg last weekend with about 2,000 in attendance at the Bayshore Boulevard march on Saturday. In response to three weeks of global protests against police brutality, about 50 law enforcement advocates held a rally in support of officers. WMNF was on the scene by TPD District 1 across from Raymond James Stadium, where Black Lives Matter activists held a counter-protest.
Law enforcement advocates chanted “back the blue,” at passing traffic, but counter-protesters arrived and shouted back, “black lives matter” Kristen Krutz organized the Back the Blue rally.
“It’s important to me because it’s not right to vilify all police officers who deserve to wear their badge just while looking at a story about officers who don’t deserve their badge.”
Both groups were peaceful, but a handful of “Back the Blue” protesters flashed white power hand signals, stirring outrage. One man denounced the actions of the officers charged with aiding and abetting the death of George Floyd.
“So when you have a cop killing a body and other cops are just standing there watching, they need to go to jail too.”
“Everyone has videos of them shooting us with rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray.”
The rally ended with tension and frustration between both sides, but Portillo spoke with one blue lives matter protester afterwards and embraced her before parting.