We seemed to have enough energy to power a small city as we marched from downtown St. Petersburg through a half-dozen neighborhoods.
I’d say most of the hundreds of people in the crowd ranged in age from late teens to mid-30s. I was an outlier. Many of us wore face masks and some people held homemade signs. (Silence = Complicity, one read. Another one, affixed to a bike, brought a surprising chuckle: “The revolution will not be dehydrated.” It was placed on a saddle bag that a cyclist had loaded with complementary water bottles.)
Filling darkening streets, we made enough noise to bring people to their front porches. Was a parade coming? Some folks seemed bemused, others cheered. Some motorists honked their horns. They all heard our call-and-response chants, which were sometimes led by those with bullhorns.
“What’s his name?”
“When are we going to do this?”
EVERY DAMN NIGHT
From my vantage point, in the middle of the sweat-packed group, uniformed law enforcement officers accounted themselves admirably. At first, for about the first half hour after I joined up, I’m not sure I saw a single police officer. (I mentioned this to a woman who was clearly a newspaper reporter. “It’ll be peaceful as long as the police don’t show up,” I remarked. “Yeah, where are they?” she responded, looking over her shoulder to see if she could spot any police. Here’s the Times’ story.)
But a few minutes later several police vehicles rolled around us into a parking lot, lights spinning, and soon enough we saw them at virtually every intersection. I was relieved to see that the officers were strategically moving along the route to give us easy passage. They parked their cars in the middle of side streets to block traffic until we passed by on the main thoroughfares.
All remained peaceful when I peeled off at almost 9:30 p.m. to head home, and I hoped it would remain so as the hour got later. I heard an organizer say they planned to continue on for roughly two miles south to the city’s most historic predominately black neighborhood.
My voice now feels scratched and I’m hoarse. In the distance, I hear a police helicopter circle. In my head, I just hear the chants, over and over.