George Floyd protests: Protesters leave Okeeheelee Park around 6 p.m., marching west along Forest Hill Boulevard when PBSO deputies in protective gear and on motorcycles demand they get out of the road.
2:15 a.m.: More than 30 protesters end their march at Forest Hill Boulevard and U.S. 441, across from Wellington Regional Medical Center. “They got tired before we got tired,” Pierre says. “But we never get tired of fighting for justice. … We’re tired of being tired.” The group celebrates, take photos, and leave. After more than nine hours, this Black Lives Matter march is over.
1:45 a.m.: After about six hours of standoff, Lt. Kennedy tells protesters they can continue along Forest Hill Boulevard in groups of five.
1 a.m.: Protesters are playing the “COPS” TV show theme song through a megaphone.
Traffic has just about stopped. It’s just the deputies, who are passing out water bottles to one another, and the protesters.
12:40 a.m.: Protesters kneel as organizer Weidmayer Pierre leads them in prayer.
About 20 PBSO cruisers and SUVs remain, with maybe 30 deputies in all. Marchers number about 50 marchers in the standoff on Forest Hill Boulevard outside the Olympia community in Wellington. Most of the protesters are in their teens or 20s.
Midnight: About 55 marchers are sitting or lying along the grassy side of the road saying they will not leave until they are allowed to complete their march.
Bryce Graham, regional director for the central Florida chapter of the National Action Network, just spoke with PBSO Lt. Eric Monath to negotiate a resolution.
Graham asked for marchers to be allowed to continue west on Forest Hill. Monath said something to the effect of you didn’t stay off the road, so no. Monath refused to comment to The Post.
PBSO had agreed to let marchers leaving Okeeheelee Park east of the turnpike to travel on the sidewalk to reach their destination two miles west at State Road 7, a point captured on video, WPTV-Channel 5 reported.
But some parts of the route along the busy Forest Hill Boulevard have no sidewalk. So organizers let marchers take to the right lane of the six-lane boulevard.
Worried that people could get hurt, PBSO said, they stopped the march. That was at about 7 p.m.
Now, protesters are prepping for an even longer standoff. Someone brought them chicken McNuggets and fries from McDonald’s, two Pizza Hut boxes and an order from Taco Bell, with 15 Gatorades and a case of bottled water. One complained that deputies won’t let a food delivery driver come through but all the rest of the traffic is OK.
Ten protesters are dancing to a song that’s hard to hear.
Organizer Weidmayer Pierre dances with six women on the sidewalk as armed deputies watch from two yards away, beanbag guns at the ready.
The most commanding light over the scene, a powerful truck light, goes out.
About 50 deputies remain on the scene, including several with riot shields.
As a half-dozen deputies walk toward the most formidable vehicle on the scene, an armored truck, protesters taunt: “You leaving already? We were just having fun.”
11:30 p.m.: PBSO Lt. Mike Kennedy tells The Post that the reason for the standoff is that the protesters broke the rules. “They blocked traffic. This is what happens.”
10:45 p.m.: About 50 protesters remain at the standoff with sheriff’s deputies outside the Olympia community on Forest Hill Boulevard in Wellington.
Although it’s nightfall, the scene is brightened by lights from squad cars and the glare of a big fluorescent light hauled in by deputies.
The crowd is chanting: “My skin is not a weapon.”
The number of police vehicles surrounding them, including motorcycles, squad cars and an armored truck, total about 60. Another 12 deputies have bicycles.
Around 10 p.m., an ambulance made its way through the crowd to remove a marcher who protesters said was dehydrated and “passing out.”
8:40 p.m.: As night falls, many marchers have departed but several dozens remain, along with dozens of PBSO deputies on bicycles, motorcycles and in cruisers. No physical clashes have occurred but the situation remains tense, as leaders continue to speak, passing a bullhorn. They talk and they lead the crowd in chants.
Many deputies wear bulletproof vests and carry shields and large guns that may fire rubber bullets or pepper spray. But nothing has been shot toward the crowd.
Organizer Weidmayer Pierre, a 19-year-old who just quit his job at Walmart, addresses the crowd, expressing his anger and frustration over the PBSO decision to halt the march. At first, his words are drowned out by a police announcement giving the crowd five minutes to clear out.
Pierre continues to speak, his words amplified by a portable loudspeaker.
He doesn’t blame the rank and file officers. “Without that uniform you guys are human, too,” he tells the crowd of the deputies surrounding them. “We forgive you. It’s not your fault.”
He tried to do the right thing, he says, reaching out to PBSO in advance to discuss the 2-mile march, to avoid just this outcome.
He blames the chain of command. “I’m sorry you have the people you have in power —because they’re liars. They’re cowards,” he says. “We need better leaders.”
7:50 p.m.: Dozens of Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies in protective gear and on bikes or motorcycles are in a standoff with about 200 Black Lives Matter marchers on the entryway to Wellington.
The marchers, who started around 6 p.m. from Okeeheelee Park, have been peaceful so far but have expressed their outrage to deputies, who made them take to the sidewalk rather than walk on Forest Hill Boulevard.
They stopped outside the entry road to the Olympia community in Wellington. A legal observer from the American Civil Liberties Union has joined them.
Organizer Weidmayer Pierre, a 19-year-old who just quit his job at Walmart, said a PBSO SWAT team captain was ready to let marchers continue west to a major Wellington intersection, where they planned to meet up with members of Corey Jones’ family, but PBSO Capt. Rolando Silva said “No, we are far beyond that.”
Warning: The video below contains potentially offensive language. After a few minutes of overlapping noise, a single speaker, Weidmayer Pierre, can be heard clearly:
Cristie Sennett, the Florida ACLU legal observer, and Pierre, talked with PBSO deputies. PBSO blocked marchers, Sennett told The Palm Beach Post, because marchers didn’t get on the sidewalk when they were asked and officials thought the march was too dangerous because they might get hit by cars or block traffic.
Traffic is still slowed to one open lane in each direction on the six-lane roadway.
7:19 p.m.: PBSO arrests a driver and passenger passing through who slowed down to honk in support, carrying a cardboard sign “Black Lives Matter.” Deputies pulled them from the car and cuffed them.
Marchers continued to voice outrage.
“You ask us to get in the right lane, we get in the right lane! You ask us to get on the sidewalk, we get on the sidewalk! Look how y’all still treating us!” yelled marcher Nelly Brown on the megaphone.
The march of about 200 protesters Saturday evening aimed to wind up at Forest Hill Boulevard and State Road 7 near the Mall at Wellington Green.
When they made it there, they had planned to rally with family members of Corey Jones, the stranded motorist killed by a plainclothes police officer on an Interstate 95 exit ramp at PGA Boulevard in 2015.
But police stopped them about halfway between the turnpike and SR 7, also known as U.S. Route 441, outside the entry to the Olympia community in Wellington.
The march had been moving peacefully in the early evening twilight until Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies rolled up to the front and one said calmly through a loudspeaker: “If you would take this opportunity to get up on the sidewalk that would be great.”
Dozens of armored @PBCountySheriff deputies blocking at least 200 nonviolent Black Lives Matter marchers at the Wellington, Fla., border. At Forest Hill Blvd and Olympia Blvd. pic.twitter.com/FFAamyhGhd
— Chris Persaud (@ChrisMPersaud) June 13, 2020
Protesters, who said they had been given permission to march along the right lane of the busy roadway, started yelling “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these racist cops have got to go!”
Organizers beseeched the crowd to follow police direction. One yelled through a bullhorn, “Sidewalk! Get on the sidewalk!”
While some marchers obeyed, others didn’t.
Deputies on motorcycles tried to corral the crowd toward the sidewalk. “If you do not immediately clear the roadway, arrests will be made,” a deputy said on the loudspeaker.
As they neared the Olympia community, a PBSO chief said the protesters were conducting an unlawful assembly. Through the loudspeaker, police told the marchers authorities can fire less than lethal rounds if protesters don’t get off the road.
Given two minutes to get off the road, protesters took a knee.
Facing officers in bullet-proof vests and shields they moved to the sidewalk, where a standoff began about 7 p.m.
This is a breaking story, please return soon for updates
Mayor Anne Gerwig, who had outraged protesters earlier this month with comments on Facebook, attended a rally with them Saturday as about two dozen gathered near the Mall at Wellington Green.
Village resident Kyla Edme, founder of Black Lives Matter Alliance Palm Beach, said she first met with Gerwig on Wednesday to discuss the group’s goals.
Edme wants her group and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, which patrols Wellington, to hold a panel discussion on assuring training for racial sensitivity, deescalation of events and community policing.
So if police have to be called, “it’s not automatically DEFCON 1,” Edme said.
“When they stop me or my husband (driving) I don’t want to think, ‘They pulled me over just because I’m black and in a nice neighborhood,’” Edme said.
Edme said she also talked with Gerwig about having more community events for “families of color” to educate them on applying for government benefits through coronavirus relief payments passed by Congress in April.
Gerwig sounded receptive, Edme said. The mayor visited the protesters on the southwest corner of Forest Hill Boulevard and State Road 7 before the rally started at 11 a.m.
In Boynton Beach on Saturday, protesters marched three miles to Sara Sims Park, closing Boynton Beach Boulevard over Interstate 95 for a short time.
And later Saturday, more than 200 protesters gathered at Okeeheelee Park, at Forest Hill Boulevard and Florida’s Turnpike, to march two miles to the same Wellington intersection near the mall that had drawn protesters earlier in the day.
The march started around 6 p.m., with the chant “Say his name” and the response “George Floyd.”
“Say her name.”
They headed west in the right lane of Forest Hill Boulevard with a PBSO motorcycle escort.
Weidmayer Pierre, a 19-year-old who organized Tuesday’s Wellington protest, organized the Okeeheelee march. He said he quit his job at Walmart last week and plans to start a group called Black Reform Movement.
He wants to call for meetings with local police chiefs, mayors and county commissioners to determine “how can we get ahead of the curve” on addressing police reform in Palm Beach County, he said.
Cory Neering Jr., son of West Palm Beach City Commissioner Cory Neering, helped lead with his friend, Pierre.
“I‘m just fighting for my people,” said Neering, who recently graduated from Dreyfoos High School of the Arts. “I’m grateful I can breathe and I’m here for my brothers who can’t.”
On Tuesday, more than 200 protesters had gathered outside Wellington Village Hall, spurred by a Facebook post from Gerwig, who had warned on June 1 against the possibility of violent protests in Wellington.
Rumors had been circulating that the Mall at Wellington Green could become a target of looters, prompting the mall to close early and PBSO to add additional patrols.
After asking people to stay home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gerwig drew outrage by writing, “Gathering during a pandemic which could endanger everyone to protest something that happened very far from here is not helpful at this time.”
In another Facebook post, Gerwig denied being “insensitive to the issue of racism in my community,” adding “this is an unprecedented time of danger because of a deadly virus, along with social unrest.”
About 60 percent of Wellington’s 65,000 residents are white, 23 percent Hispanic and 12 percent Black, population estimates show.
By 1 p.m. about 30 protesters waved signs and heard honks from passing cars at the busy intersection.
Wellington resident Zac Gowdie, 24, talked about the fear of police ingrained in many young Black men.
“When you’re driving, and they follow close behind you — now it might be that they’re going the same way but you don’t know,” Gowdie said. “You’re wondering ‘uh oh what did I do wrong?’”
As Gowdie described a time when an officer followed him closely, a Black PBSO deputy drove by, honking and raising a fist in support.
“Oh it was racist back then,” Gayle Harrel, 64, said of the distant past. “They hung us from trees. But now they’re just killing us out in the open for everyone to see.”
Sheriff candidate Alex Freeman said he would like PBSO to identify officers with a history of excessive force and also to refrain from hiring applicants with that type of history at other departments.
Also in attendance was Democratic congressional candidate Guido Weiss, who supports decriminalizing marijuana and police reforms put forth Monday by congressional Democrats. Weiss is running against incumbent Lois Frankel.
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