ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The situation grew tense Wednesday night during a protest calling for rent control in St. Petersburg.
Protestors set up tents, pallets and sleeping bags on the sidewalk in front of City Hall, demanding that city council members declare a housing emergency. But police officers, including St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway, spoke to organizers of the "tent-city" protest, telling them that an ordinance prevented their ability to set up tents on the sidewalk.
Eventually, police gave a citation to a representative from Allendale United Methodist Church, who claimed responsibility for the tents.
Protestors like Joya Butler said fighting for rent control is a cause worth speaking out about.
She’s lived in St. Pete her whole life, and now, she’s just one of many facing a rent hike and wondering if and when city leaders are going to intervene.
“We just went through a whole pandemic,” Butler said. “People are struggling. People are trying to survive. People are just trying to get back on their feet.”
Organizers from the coalition of advocacy groups that put together the protest are demanding that city council leaders declare a housing state of emergency so the decision for rent control will fall to voters at the ballot box.
“The city has explored a number of options, but it’s moving at a pace of incremental change,” said Nick Carey from the group Faith in Florida.
With pallets, sleeping bags and tents up, protestors say this lifestyle will become a reality for more people if something doesn’t change.
“What kind of St. Petersburg do we want to live in,” Carey asked. “Do we want to live in one that is every person for themselves, or one that is a collective community?”