In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis ex-police officer Derek Chauvin, emotional anti-racism protests erupted across the United States – and around the world – with Central Florida no different over the weekend.
Protests began in earnest in Orlando late last Thursday night in Windermere, when news spread that Chauvin owned a house in the neighborhood, and had possibly fled there to escape (at that point) possible prosecution. Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the house for a peaceful demonstration that went overnight and well into the next afternoon, reported WFTV.
By late Friday morning, Orange County law enforcement stated that Chauvin was still in Minneapolis, where he had finally been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other officers on the scene with Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd's neck for over 8 minutes, and who did not intercede as Floyd gasped and stated that he could not breathe, have still not been fired or charged with any crimes as of Monday morning.
As Saturday dawned, protests and marches were held in cities large and small throughout the country, with activists in Florida making their voices heard. Some cities, like Jacksonville and Tallahassee saw protests disrupted by violence and confrontations with police – especially in Jacksonville – all too eager to break out the tear gas.
There were several concurrent protests in Orlando on Saturday – one originated yet again in Windermere, and several groups of protesters made their way to Downtown Orlando by Saturday afternoon. Large crowds of protesters marched through downtown to City Hall while another group of protesters gathered in front of OPD headquarters, according to News 13, for a protest that lasted late into the night.
Another crowd of protesters gathered Saturday evening, rain clouds looming overhead, first blocking Orange Blossom Trail and then State Road 408, reported the Orlando Sentinel, and Orlando police used tear gas to disperse those gathered. Pepper spray was also used on Saturday evening against protesters downtown, according to FOX 35.
Other news on Saturday included reports that Chauvin's wife, the co-owner of the Windermere home, announced she is filing for divorce as a result of his actions, which could present the former officer with additional legal complications when he is tried.
Closer to home, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the National Guard on Saturday, an ominous move given the president's trigger-happy tweets over the weekend cheering on violence. Even closer to home, there were reports of late-night vandalism, possibly related to the protests in the area around the Mall at Millenia.
On Sunday afternoon, there was another peaceful protest held in the Lake Eola and Downtown Orlando area, with a large crowd gathering at Eola in the afternoon and marching to Orlando City Hall in the early evening, reported WKMG.
Also on Sunday afternoon, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County announced an open-ended curfew beginning Sunday evening and continuing on nightly from 10 p.m.-5 a.m.
And though, on the one hand, Sheriff John Mina and Orlando Police Department Chief Orlando Rolon took a symbolic knee Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the protesters, on the other hand it looks as if tear gas was again deployed against Orlandoans on Sunday night.
The Sunday protest downtown initially continued without incident. However, as the 10 p.m. curfew hit, police officers donned gas masks and moved to disperse a crowd gathered at a downtown OPD substation. Soon after, tear gas was used again, this time to disperse another group of protesters heading for I-4, as the sound of helicopters hovering could be heard throughout nearby neighborhoods.Back in Minnesota on Sunday night, Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd was being interviewed by CNN's Don Lemon when reporter Sara Sidner broke in to offer to ask Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo a question on Floyd's behalf. Floyd asked why the other officers at the scene of his brother's videotaped killing were not arrested.
"Mr. Floyd died in our hands and so I see that as being complicit," responded Arradondo to Philonise Floyd. "Silence and inaction, you're complicit. If there was one solitary voice that would have intervened ... that's what I would have hoped for."
Arradondo said it is a decision for prosecutors to bring charges but that he considers his officers responsible for Floyd's killing on May 25.
The GoFundMe fundraiser created four days ago for the George Floyd Memorial Fund surpassed $7 million by Monday morning.The movement appears far from over, with more protests scheduled this week, along with anticipated decisions in the charging of the other officers.
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