LGBTQ leaders, activists attend Black Lives Matter rally downtown, address police use of tear gas

LGBTQ leaders, activists attend Black Lives Matter rally downtown, address police use of tear gas

ORLANDO | LGBTQ leaders and activists joined the thousands of protesters for the Justice for George Peaceful Protest rally outside Orlando City Hall June 2 to demand justice for the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers and to hold local officials and police accountable for abuses of power against predominantly black Central Floridans.

State Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna V. Eskamani, Watermark contributor Jerick Mediavilla, Equality Florida’s Brandon Wolf, LGBTQ activists Boyd Lindsley and Michael Thomas Farmer and more were among the community leaders who attended the rally.

The event was organized by local political activists Akristionna King and Angela Herrera, both of who spoke to the crowd, before turning the microphone over to Osceola County Democratic Black Caucus president Tamika Lyles, State Attorney candidate Monique Worrell and several members of the Orange County Black Caucus to address those in attendance as Orlando Police (OPD) stood behind them at the top of City Hall’s steps with bicycles. After the rally concluded, protesters marched from City Hall to the OPD headquarters on South Street.

Protesters on social media started posting about OPD using tear gas and mace ahead of Orange County’s 10 p.m. curfew. Community activist Christopher Cuevas commented on a Facebook post from Zebra Coalition executive director Heather Wilkie that officers “began throwing tear gas and sprayed mace in the faces of protestors in front of the Amway Center” an hour before curfew began.

“For the third consecutive demonstration in our community Orlando Police Department assaulted peaceful demonstrators with tear gas, mace, and wooden sticks all night,” Cuevas wrote on their own Facebook. “From the moment we crossed the Amway Center at 9:00pm, and beyond, we were met with unrelenting violence at the hands of the police. Chocking from the burning of the gasses. Countless people crying out in pain. Crying out because of injustice. Crying out because of a loss of hope. This is not what reform looks like, this isn’t what justice looks like, this is what a state sanctioned violence looks like.”

Protester Brandi Fliegelman recounted the events in her own post on Facebook.

“This is my detailed account of Tuesday evening, June 2nd in Orlando. It’s personal and I want everyone to hear the stories of the real people out here. They are brave under terrifying situations and I appreciate the street medics and organizers who gathered donations (water, gatorade, snacks, milk, baking powder) to sustain us,” Fliegelman began.

Fliegelman also shared a video from Twitter showing the police firing tear gas into a crowd of protesters. From the video, it appears the protesters were peaceful. The 15 second video was posted to @noelforest’s Twitter account at 8:44 p.m.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, OPD arrested 13 individuals for breaking curfew. Other arrests were made as the Sentinel reported, “according to police, a 27-year-old protester ‘became agitated’ and assaulted an officer near Division Avenue and South Street about 9:30 p.m. When officers were arresting her, other protesters started throwing rocks and bottles at them.”

A total of 28 arrests were made according to OPD.

The Sentinel also reported that one of the individuals arrested for disorderly conduct was not a local protester, but rather David Michael Froess Jr., of Middleburg, just outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Froess was found to have a hammer, crowbar, spray paint, fireworks, a gas mask, rocks, gloves and a knife inside his backpack when he was detained by police.

Reps. Smith and Eskamani both tweeted about their anger over OPD’s use of tear gas and the tactic of kettling against protesters.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and OPD Chief of Police Orlando Rolon addressed the use of tear gas in a press conference June 3.

“As you know last night we had to deploy tear gas as a measure to respond to the aggression that was being displayed against the officers,” Rolon said. “But I have to highlight the fact that during the entire day the largest crowd we have had in the downtown area it was very peaceful but unfortunetely some choose to not leave and throw rocks and bottles at the officers before the gas was deployed.”

The current city curfew of 10 p.m.-5 a.m. will still be in effect. A new curfew of 8 p.m.-5 a.m. will be in effect for the downtown area.

Photos from the City Hall protest rally earlier in the day are below.

Photos by Jeremy Williams.


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