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Protesters disrupt Tampa Christmas tree lighting, chanting, ‘I can’t breathe’

By Gage Lacharite |
December 7, 2014
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Tampa march against police killings of African Americans.
Tampa march against police killings of African Americans. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Tampa, FL - Over 250 protesters gathered on Dec. 5 to protest police terror and to end the killing of African American men by the police. Protesters demanded “Jail killer cops” - like police officer Darren Wilson who shot Mike Brown to death in Ferguson, Missouri, and officer Daniel Pantaleo who killed Eric Garner in New York.

The nationwide protests follow the grand jury decision not to indict the NYPD’s Daniel Pantaleo, observed on video choke-holding Eric Garner who died saying, “I can’t breathe.” This failure to indict follows the Ferguson grand jury failure just two weeks earlier.

100 protesters initially gathered at Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa for the march. After several rounds of chanting and fiery speeches, protesters took the streets in an unpermitted march. The protest quickly grew in number, more than doubling to 250 people.

Protesters marched up Kennedy Boulevard, halting traffic across two intersections, before stopping on the Lafayette Street Bridge over the Hillsborough River. Protesters continued across the bridge, then turned around and headed back over the bridge. They then marched towards Curtis Hixon Park where Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was hosting a tree lighting ceremony. Protesters filed into the ceremony and drowned out a Christmas themed concert, chanting, “I can’t breathe!” and “No justice, no peace. No killer police!” The band finished their song and quickly filed off stage. Afterwards, protesters once again marched back to Lykes Gaslight Park, where they finished with more speeches.

Crystal Wilson of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee said, "It's obvious that people are angry and tired of this system of police violence, and if this continues the people will only get more sick and more tired. The only thing we want is an end to the violence against our communities."

Reign Hervey, a student at the University of South Florida had to say, "If we all don't get together we won't see any change. If the people want change, we're going to have fight for it here in the streets."

Protests are planned for both Sarasota and Saint Petersburg, Florida over next few days.