LAKELAND, Fla. — The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody has spurred outrage and protests nationwide, including at Lakeland’s Munn Park, where at least 1,000 people marched against police brutality.
“This is not a black versus white thing. We just want people to hear us,” said Willie Stallworth, a protester.
Sunday’s March was organized by the local #BlackLivesMatter group and drew a crowd of all racial backgrounds.
"I think it's necessary that people who are Latino, who are white, are also standing by at these #BlackLivesMatter movements,” protester Briana Silveira said.
Michelle Fogleson of Polk County shared similar sentiments.
"The more that we stay silent, the more it's like violence,” said Fogleson, who admitted she didn’t always understand accusations of police brutality along racial lines. She recalled an old traffic stop she now views very differently.
“I jumped out of the car like, “Why are you pulling me over?’ and I'm screaming at them. At the time, I didn't realize, until about two years ago that I realized had I been a black man or even a black woman, I probably would have had my butt shot."
Fogleson said her awakening led her to be more active, and joining today’s protest is one step.
"People look at just the black people and go, ‘Oh, you're just trying to cause trouble...’ All races need to stand up and say no, no, no, no, no—We need to stop the hatred and start the love," she said.
While protests and Munn Park were peaceful, just a few blocks away, protesters said police deployed tear gas to disperse a different crowd along Memorial Boulevard.
Several hundred people continued to block traffic even after police left the area.
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