By Anna Bryson
Protesters gathered in front of St. Petersburg City Hall Wednesday in the wake of the recent violence between white nationalist protesters and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va.
The rally, organized by Communities United for Reparations and Economic Development (CURED), marched from City Hall on Fifth Street N to the Police Department on 13th Street N as a stand against white nationalism.
Speakers at the event included International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel and District 6 City Council hopeful Eritha “Akile” Cainion. In their speeches, they drew parallels between violence in Charlottesville and the systematic white nationalism they say continues in St. Petersburg.
Standing on the steps of the City Hall, Nevel referred to the building behind him as the headquarters of white nationalist violence against the black community. He drew a parallel between the white nationalist who drove a car through a crowd of counter protesters in Charlottesville, and the city of St. Petersburg running an interstate through the black community, displacing an entire neighborhood.
Nevel also cited the construction of Tropicana Field as an instance of white nationalist violence. According to him, it was built on what was the oldest black community in the city.
In Cainion’s speech, she said that white nationalists don’t always hold tiki torches and yell Nazi chants. She said they hide behind police badges and in city hall.
Citing an auto theft incident last year where three African-American teenage girls drowned after driving a stolen car into a pond during a police chase, she believes that the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department murdered the girls, calling the department criminals.
Cainion and Nevel both believe the solution to racism and white nationalism is to tear down the social system where they thrive. They have hopes that St. Petersburg will be a model to the world to seek unity by giving reparations to its black community.
Taylor Russell, a literature and cultural studies graduate, attended the march and said that although the candidates’ platforms were something she could get behind, she was perturbed that very little was said of Charlottesville.
“The events in Charlottesville were sickening. I feel like it’s our responsibility to show up to any event that allows us to voice our anger and intolerance towards white nationalist and neo- nazis,” she said.
Russell believes that not enough has been done to the injustices and violence against the black community in St. Petersburg.
“It is our duty to stand up for those voices and groups,” she said.
An earlier version of this story had misspellings of the name of City Council candidate Eritha Akile Cainion.