ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — More than a dozen St. Petersburg citizens stood in front of the mayor and council at a regularly scheduled meeting to voice their outrage and concern for how the city planned and executed the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade and festivities that followed.
Residents said they felt police containment, oppression, and racism.
“The overwhelming police onslaught of black St. Pete was and is oppressive, uncalled for and appalling,” Jason James said. “The city has been placing parts of black St. Pete under occupation on MLK Day for years. I asked a police officer why were they corralling us and this cop said ‘because ya’ll can’t manage yourselves.’”
St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway told the crowd of citizens that he has no issues with how police enforced their MLK day plan.
“The plan worked. I’ll tell you that right now,” Holloway said as people in the meeting yelled out in disdain. “The plan worked,” the chief continued “except we did one thing, we did a bad job communicating to the community how and when we would direct traffic through the community.”
Residents said some officers were rude to citizens. They wanted the chief to apologize for that as well. The chief didn’t. He also reminded residents that he swore through community policing to make MLK day safe for the entire community following the murder of two men on MLK day in 2014 and 2015.
The chief went on to say this was the safest event in recent years. Holloway said noise complaints were down 28 percent and his officers were finished by 9:30 p.m., compared to finishing their extra duty at 12 a.m. or 1 a.m. for noise calls and calls for violence.
“Am I going to apologize for keeping us safe? Am I going to apologize for the plan working like it always worked? No, I am not. I will apologize for us not communicating to the people and I will tell you that won’t happen again.”
Mayor Rick Kriseman said moving forward the chief will have to brief him on plans for future events in the city. The mayor also said they will start a task force of community members to help plan and organize the event for next year. Kriseman said he wants to make sure the city addresses the concerns about such a heavy police presence in St. Pete.