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Thousands peacefully protest in Lakeland Sunday

Posted at 11:12 PM, Jun 07, 2020

Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Lakeland Sunday afternoon, converging on a downtown park with songs and messages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The protesters marched three miles to Munn Park, calling for an end to police brutality against the Black community. Hearses with the names and photos of those who have died in police custody, including George Floyd, led an emotional march.

"They will not silence us," said Moesha Foster. "They cannot silence us with tear gas. They can't silence us with rubber bullets. They cannot silence us by pepper spray. We will fight until we have justice in this country. We will fight until we have justice for every Black man, Black woman, Black kid, minority woman, minority person that has died by the police's hands."

Staff photos by Erin Smith

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About 2,000 people gathered on the park Sunday afternoon.

"We need to see to see change because America's not great with hate, and it's better if everybody loves each other," said 11-year-old Rain Winona, who came out to Munn Park with her mom.

Organizers of the event and those who attended told ABC Action News it's just the beginning of their continuing push for change.

"We just want to be treated as human beings," said Zambia Clark of Lakeland.

Lucy Buford, an account manager who lives in Lakeland, told ABC Action News, "We're tired of this. Change has to happen and now. That's why people are coming out."

Sunday's protest and police response were far different than one week earlier when police called in the SWAT team and used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters.

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"Looking back at it, one of my fears was, was someone going to die?," said Pastor Carl Soto, one of the organizers of Sunday's event. "Was I going to have to prepare another funeral, sit down with another family to explain to them what happened to their loved one? Could have been avoided. It's going on actually all over the U.S., where officers are being now finally held accountable for using excessive force."

The protest in the park ended around 7 p.m. Sunday, with the crowd peacefully dispersing.