ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The nation celebrates the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday and every year, one of the largest celebrations happens right here in the Tampa Bay area.
Thousands of people are expected for the MLK Dream Big Parade.
But last year, not everyone was thrilled with the ways things went. Some were especially critical of the police department blocking off roadways and using crime scene tape.
“The community had some concerns with some of the ways police were patrolling on MLK Day after the parade,” said St. Petersburg Police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez.
This year, the agency says it will be making changes to keep people safe while also allowing people to celebrate the way they want to.
“The chief met with a lot of different community groups and talked about the concerns and he heard them," Fernandez said. "So this year, the police are going to do things a little differently."
Among the changes police will use blue event tape this year instead of the yellow crime scene kind.
“I think some of the complaints last year were that it looks too much like a big crime scene instead of a celebration,” Fernandez said.
Officers also promise not to mess with people trying to sell T-shirts and other items.
“We won’t be interfering with vendors on private property," Fernandez said. "We will only address that if the private property owner calls us and asks us to trespass people or intervene.
"We’re not going to be blocking off any parking lots or any businesses.”
The city says its top priority is still protecting the public. Fernandez says they just want to do it in a way that’s least obtrusive.
“To be able to come up with some kind of compromise where we can keep people safe and we can respond but we won’t interfere with people’s rights to be able to celebrate however they want to,” she said.
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