Members of the Southwest Florida community peacefully protested through downtown Fort Myers Saturday afternoon amid protests across the country calling for justice after George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Nearly 100 people showed up to the protest. They marched through Centennial Park and through downtown chanting “don’t shoot” and holding signs that read “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.”
People of all races and backgrounds participated.
The protest began with a small meeting and grew in size about a half-hour before the protest started around 1 p.m.
Dozens of people came out for the discussion, which was an open forum for people to share their experiences and grieve. Then they discussed a plan of action to address police brutality in America and in our community.
The scene was more peaceful than some cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, where the incident occurred. But the emotions were not any less raw. “I’m sad. I’m mad. I’m hurt,” said protester and Cape Coral resident Tristen Lucre.
Many of the protesters say it’s bigger than this one isolated incident. “I think everything has come to a head with the George Floyd incident,” said Michelle Gemma of Fort Myers.
“I rewatched the video of Eric Garner being murdered in New York and it reminded me of George,” Lucre said.
It’s the fear that they’ve carried for generations. “Four hundred years of black men having no value to our lives,” said James Muwakkil, president of the Lee County NAACP.
“They’re always after me; it feels like I’m a target for them,” Lucre said.
“My grandson is a month old. My biggest fear is him not reaching his 18th birthday. Heck, him not even reaching his fifth birthday, with the aspect of his color,” said Monique Smith of Fort Myers.
Many of the people present really just want to see some change happen so that, as a country, we don’t continue to repeat this cycle. “If we don’t talk and get new reforms in, we’ll be right back next month, new hashtag,” said W. Earl Sparrow, one of the event’s facilitators.
The protests in Fort Myers were peaceful but the message is the same, no matter how they’re going about it, the protesters just want to feel safe and be happy and healthy in their own communities.
“I hope to see just better times, less police brutality. I just want to be safe and happy,” Gemma said.
Protest facilitators said that for anyone who wants to continue the conversation, they can use #EnoughisEnough239. There is another protest in the works for another week.