George Floyd protests across South Florida call for racial justice, arrests near FIU follow (includes photo gallery and interactive video) UPDATED

The eighth day of protesting George Floyd’s horrible death and police brutality against black citizens was a cloudy Saturday in South Florida.

From Florida International University to the Trump National Doral to Downtown Miami and Miramar, morale was high and attendance was strong. Among those protesting were Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and rapper Rick Ross n Miramar. 

What began as powerful protests in Minneapolis have evolved into a nationwide call to action. People from all 50 states have marched, donated, and made the public aware of the tragic killing of George Floyd by former officer Derek Chauvin. They have also highlighted racial injustice.

At Florida International University’s main campus, protesters, speakers and medics gathered in a gravel parking lot on SW 107th Avenue at 2 p.m. No one would have guessed there would later be four arrests after an unlawful assembly was declared in just a few hours. 

Kiyra Ellis, a recent FIU graduate, was the main organizer of this protest. “We are not alone!” she told the crowd. “Do not ever let them think that we are alone because that is when they attack us the most.”

Eliis giving a speech. (Photo by Alejandra Garcia) Elcoro

Many protesters gave their thoughts on the day’s important message.

Amber Valdes, 21, recognized the importance of these protests and praised the current generation’s willingness to enact change. “When you are alone you can’t really encourage change or influence people to do the same,” she said. “But when you come together in a group like this, you are able to send out a strong message. There is power in numbers.”

After various organizers and community members spoke about their experiences involving racism and their demands for change, the protest became a march. 

Holding up signs and chanting the names of black individuals who have lost their lives to police brutality, protesters marched throughout FIU. 

(Interactive video by Julian Quintana. Click the arrows to view the whole scene.)

At around 6 p.m. the march headed towards the streets. They blocked SW 107th Avenue, then continued onto campus. Police peacefully redirected traffic. At around 7:46 p.m, officers declared the remaining group of protesters an unlawful assembly. 

“We are nobody special,” Ellis told the crowd. “We are simply FIU students who saw a problem and wanted to speak out. This protest could not have gone any better and I’m so thankful for everyone that came.”

Just 15 minutes away, demonstrators were posted at Trump National in Doral. Alexander Mendez, a Miami Dade College student, and Nathalie Polo, an FIU student, organized this event. Their goal was to spread awareness of police brutality as well as make a statement to encourage people to vote out President Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election in November. 

The topic of voting was echoed during the protests held in Downtown Miami. “Today we protest, tomorrow we vote” read one of the signs out of several being displayed by demonstrators. 

Photo by Chuck Strouse

The event included about 1000 Black Lives Matters supporters and members. Demonstrators marched from the Torch of Friendship up Biscayne Boulevard to I-195. 

Police were visible and sporting riot gear, but the protest remained peaceful and energetic. 

Multiple chants were sung throughout the demonstration ranging from “What do we want? Convictions. When do we want them? Now” to “No justice, no peace.”

A Coconut Grove resident who wanted to be referred to as Annie was there with her three children ranging from 12, 10 and six years old. Like virtually everyone there — and protesters throughout the county — the entire family was wearing masks. 

Annie decided to bring her children to this demonstration to teach them an important lesson. “They need to learn to speak up,” said Annie. “They are growing up in a world of racism and brutality.”

Also present at the downtown protest was 30-year-old Shamiran Alkas, who wanted to stand in solidarity with people of color and make a difference in the racial injustice happening around the world.  “I think it’s important to get out and do something, and to have a voice about what’s going on with black injustice,” said Alkas. “I think as someone who is not black I am doing my best to follow black voices and highlight them in order to bring solidarity to the community.”

Solidarity was a key theme at these protests. In Miramar, hundreds of demonstrators were treated to several speeches given by Miami Gardens native and rapper Rick Ross.

Also in attendance was former Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Wayne Messam and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teen who was killed several years ago outside Orlando. 

Fulton is currently running as a candidate for Miami-Dade County Commissioner District 1.

Though the protests were mostly without incident, four people were arrested after the FIU event officially concluded, according to the Miami Herald and Panther Now. Around 6 p.m., police moved onto a sidewalk where several protesters were gathered, terming it an illegal gathering. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the Torch of Friendship on Biscayne Boulevard. 

Julian Quintana is Senior at Florida  International University pursuing a degree in journalism who is graduating in the spring. He has been reporting on stories in the town of Cutler Bay and wishes to pursue investigative journalism after graduation.

Helen Acevedo is an FIU student majoring in broadcast media with a minor in political science and international relations. She is passionate about giving people a platform to tell their truths.

Alejandra Garcia Elcoro is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Media and Journalism at Florida International University. With her passion and dedication, she will report vital stories that will leave an impact on her community.