Hundreds rally in Tampa, St. Pete in response to violence in Virginia

Demonstrators gather across the nation and the Tampa Bay area to express solidarity against hate.

TAMPA BAY – Hundreds of people turned out in downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg on Sunday to honor those killed or hurt when a white nationalist rally in Virginia turned violent this weekend.

Violence erupted in the town of Charlottesville, Va. during a protest over the pending removal of a Confederate statue.

"It's just hard to believe that people still have hatred in their hearts,” said Debbie Singleton “We felt that we needed to be our here to support the people of Virginia.”

In an effort to stay involved after attending the Women’s March on DC in January, John Fleming brought his daughter to Sunday night’s rally in Tampa.

"I went to school at University of Virginia, he said. “And I took it personally when I saw them marching down the lawn, the Nazis with torches.”

In Tampa, the local Democratic Socialists of America organized a vigil that culminated with hundreds marching through the downtown streets, stopping traffic, before ending the march just outside of the Hillsborough County Clerk’s Office near the location of a controversial Confederate war monument.  

Last month, county commissioners voted to move the monument to a private cemetery.

Despite overarching calls for unity Sunday night, some marchers could be heard chanting "cops and Klan go hand in hand."

Hundreds of people also showed up for a vigil of solidarity in St. Petersburg, organized by Fired Up Pinellas and the Pinellas Chapter for the Women’s March.

“It made my heart hurt for America because I feel like we are diverse, and diversity is what makes this wonderful country,” said Lisa Perry, one of the organizers.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and others spoke to the crowd.

As night fell, attendees at Demens Landing lit candles and sang songs.

"I was almost to tears walking out here and seeing a unity in St. Petersburg,” said Carla Bristol. “To see that on a Sunday evening everybody wanted to come together because we needed it."

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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