SARASOTA — Roughly 30 protesters wearing masks protested at City Hall on Saturday, condemning police brutality in the death of George Floyd.
The protesters ranged from teens to seniors who decorated their cars with messages. A rent moratorium was also a target of the protest.
Floyd’s death on March 25 has sparked violent protests in major cities, including Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York City and Washington D.C.
Video footage of Floyd’s death showed a white police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes while Floyd told him he couldn’t breathe. The officer, identified as Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department, was arrested on Friday on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, according to the Associated Press.
The protest was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
“We are here to stand against police brutality, to demand that killer cops go to jail. All of them — not just some of them,” said Ruth Beltran, a PSL organizer. “Why would anyone want to have a police force that is not held accountable?”
In a statement on its website May 26, the PSL condemned Floyd’s death and said it cannot rely on the FBI for justice.
“The FBI is a violent state institution that has been wielded as a weapon against the liberation movement of black people in the United States,” the statement said.
Meghan Ditmeyer, 18, attended the event in support of the protests around the country.
She also said she supports the PSL’s advocacy for rent cancellations. She said that issue and police brutality “are all really connected.”
Saturday’s protest overlapped with the party’s initial demand for the cancellation of rents and mortgages for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-94, foreclosures and evictions for non-payment in the state of Florida were suspended until May 17. On May 14, the governor extended that suspension to June 2 with Executive Order 20-121.
“As a result of this economic crisis, over 30% of renters will have trouble and will be unable to pay their rent come June 1 in a couple of days,” Beltran said. “No one should lose their housing for any reason during a pandemic.
The party is demanding that banks and corporations pay for the crisis, not the working class.
“It’s inhumane to expect people to pay rent at a time where they just don’t have the money,” Beltran said. “We don’t want the working class bearing this crisis, not only because they don’t have money, but also because we have just given corporations and banks over $5 trillion.”
According to its website, the PSL is an anti-capitalist movement with branches across the country.
Jimi DePriest, 22, has been involved with the party for about three years.
“We organize locally around issues of police brutality, imperialist warfare, environmental devastation and degradation and indigenous rights,” she said. “But on a national level, we’re united toward bringing the country into a phase of socialism.”
Saturday’s protest did not involve any encounter with law enforcement.
“It’s safer to have a car protest than it is to have protests with people in the street,” Beltran said. “We just want to drive around the city, giving our message with the signs and social distancing.”