May 31, 2020
By: Brian Burns
The peaceful protests that took place yesterday in Temple Terrace, were overshadowed today with burnt carnage, vandalism, and lack of any dignity.
Looting and destroying, in the name of George Floyd? Or was this all about something much different last night?
I was snapping photos and speaking with protesters yesterday and into the night. The mood was one of both frustration and meaning. But peaceful.
One gentleman, I met and spoke with said, “There’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd, but I feel like everyone’s on the same page here today. I feel like that’s an example that we can set and how we can be as a country, and as in the world honestly. It’s everyone being on the same page, everyone respecting one another, and just really just living your life. You don’t have to live your life and down someone else’s .” Greg Abrams Jr. from Lakeland Florida said.
He was right. Unity and awareness.
I felt yesterday, that documenting these events in the memory of George Floyd, was important. To watch our First Amendment rights in action and exercising that very right of my own, freedom of the press.
I didn’t think about skin color, mine, or anyone else’s. I didn’t really think about anything, except the reason we were there, George Floyd, speaking to people, getting their perspectives, and documenting free thoughts.
I was a person with other people.
This was important to me.
I watched the Temple Terrace Police and State Police interact with folks in the protest in a positive way. Again, as Mr. Abrams said, “It’s everyone being on the same page.”
Sometime, around 8 PM, I found myself at Bruce B Downs and Fowler Ave. The temperature in the crowd changed quickly.
New faces appeared that weren’t in the earlier march on Fowler Ave, and gathered at the intersection. The looting started in the CVS at Fowler and Bruce B Downs and police in riot gear swarmed the front entrance.
Thus far, it was the only incident I had seen that entire day that was illegal. I had hoped that would be it.
As the sun disappeared completely, the march proceeded down Fowler Ave, towards the University Mall. As I snapped pictures, I was asked to stop exercising my First Amendment right, by a man, that was exercising his First Amendment rights.
At that moment, the lady who was with that particular man (above) reminded me that I was white, then picked a brick up and threw it into the side of a vehicle trying to make their way up Fowler.
“You saw that,” exclaimed the young lady to me, that was driving the vehicle. Her male friend in the passenger seat yelling for her to get back into the car.
I suggested the same thing. Get back in your car.
I then realized that the level headed individuals that I had been with in the afternoon had been replaced with people that were full of anger and hate.
“It’s everyone being on the same page,” said Mr. Abrams. He was right. But not everyone was on the same page last night.
Yesterday, the afternoon, was about awareness, unity, and the fact that a cop squeezed the life from Mr. George Floyd, with his knee on his neck. This has to stop.
Last night, the violence, rioting, and the destruction of our neighborhoods wasn’t at all about Mr. George Floyd.
Today, I went back to the area that I was at last night, to try and truly understand what happened, after the peaceful march. The only word that comes to mind is sadness.
I will not forget the reason for yesterday’s protest, Mr. George Floyd. I will not forget the people that saw me as a person and not a skin color.
Thank you Greg Abrams for being a thoughtful man and sharing the spirit of unity.
Thank you Reggie Knox for sharing your story with me last night, as hard as it was.
Thank you Samantha for standing for something you believe in.
Thank you Norbert Vargas for your passion and commitment to the people in your community.