Over the last two weeks, tension has continued to increase between St. Petersburg protestors in the movement for Black lives, and counter-protestors that can fall anywhere on a vast spectrum of ideals, including Trump supporters, “Blue Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter,” “Back the Blue,” or any number of right-wing extremist groups like Proud Boys, Three Percenters, or the Patriot Action Network.
A series of recent events in the area, covered here on str34m, can directly be traced to the increased tension as of late. Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, recently proposed what could only be described as anti-protest legislation that seems to have emboldened counter-protestors to take the law into their own hands, as they claim to “protect the city” from protests that block traffic, or march through business districts. Even though the legislation would have to be voted on before becoming law, counter-protestors appear to feel validated and empowered by its verbiage.
The proposed legislation was seemingly the result of a pair of incidents (linked above) involving the St. Pete Peace Protest marches, which have continued for over 115 days with $0 in property damage. However, over the last few weeks, the increased presence of both local and out-of-town counter-protestors coming to the area (including known right-wing provocateurs) has drastically increased. The tension reached its zenith on September 26th, when a counter-protestor who had been drinking and stalking protestors, assaulted a woman, and drew, racked, and pointed a gun at media and protestors.
In the days following the event, St. Petersburg Police Department released screen-captured footage from a low-quality live feed where they digitally circled what they claim to be a knife and a shank in the hands of protestors, in an attempt to preemptively control the narrative that reached the public.
ABC Action News and WFLA 8 were among some of the press outlets that took this highly questionable evidence and ran with the narrative that was fed to them by the St. Petersburg Police, without researching all of the live streams and footage available.
We have been following this story on str34m, keeping tabs while SPPD was asking for help on social media to identify the subject that they failed to question, or even take information from, when they spoke to him following the incident on the 26th. On October 1st we noted the announcement from SPPD that the gunman had been identified, and that Police Chief Anthony Holloway had admitted the department made a mistake in not questioning the gunman, as reported by Tampa Bay Times.
High-definition footage provided by str34m’s coverage of the event has led to evidence that the weapons in question were actually a belt, bandana, and a cell phone, according to press releases from Fernandez Bardine Law and the St. Pete Peace Protest. Five days ago, Police announced via social media posts that they had identified the gunman. However, no mention of the revelations, or the gunman’s identity, has been made by local law enforcement or government in the five days since Fernandez Bardine Law’s first press release on October 1st, and the updated second press release on October 3rd.
Also absent from any announcements or communications from SPPD is the fact that the protestors who were inaccurately accused of drawing weapons, are actually now being treated as victims in the case, and not suspects, as is addressed in the below press release.
Tensions continued to rise on Saturday when counter-protestors again descended upon downtown to antagonize protestors under the guise of “protecting and supporting downtown businesses.” The below news broadcast from WMNF 88.5 provides some of the most accurate coverage available from Saturday’s counter-protests, and other recent events.
Other local media coverage from ABC Action News (included below) shows clips of counter-protestors flashing known “White Power” symbols to police.
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