Funeral march for COVID-19 deaths

Representatives from Gudedas and Ray Williams funeral homes

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The national death toll related to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States is just surpassing 100,000, and several progressive activist organizations are pushing the state to provide more financial relief instead of reopening too soon.

Three hearses were flanked by a about dozen other cars guiding a funeral procession through Tampa. They attached body bags to the top of each car and arrived in front of the Tampa unemployment office with about 40 protesters in attendance. They were holding signs that read “Fix the broken unemployment system” and “open safely” Robin Lockett is the regional director of Organize Florida,

“Each body bag represents 100 people in our state who were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and friends that have died since the beginning of COVID.”

Lockett is referring to new information from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics showing that African Americans make up 13% of the population, but account for 23% of deaths. Lockett said that they had hoped for a better stimulus package for relief.

“We wanted a true moratorium not to protect the landlords who has historically mistreated their tenants with unbelievable rate increases, high eviction rates, slum landlords and the list goes on. We wanted all the promises regarding unemployment to be true. But we are left with a broken system that still does not work. And because it doesn’t work, the government still blames us. He’s blaming on user error instead of taking the responsibility about it.”

Hillsborough County Commission candidate Rev. Thomas Scott held a prayer for the lives lost at the protest and supported expanding county healthcare.

“And so I want to reexamine that and see how can we really broaden that so that we can help more of the poor community grab black and brown or where inequities exists, when we look at ways how we can make sure people get health care.”

Jefferey Rhodes drove with one of the hearses from Ray Williams Funeral Home to underscore the impact of the lives lost. His industry is also being impacted by social distancing.

“Right now we have 25% for its building capacity, and we’re gonna stay that way, even if the state gives the go-ahead Monday for 50% of funeral homes. I’ve talked with my other colleagues within the funeral industry. And we’re gonna stay at 25% of our building capacity for a while until not only to ensure the safety of a public but as well as the families we serve, and also our staff. We have to we have to protect them as well.”

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office has already broken up at least one funeral in the last month. So, the protest organizers took special care to ensure all attendees were masked and social distancing. About 40 people attended the gathering, and no law enforcement appeared on the scene.