After the string of police-involved fatal shootings of black men and the five Dallas police officers killed by a lone sniper, protests in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement have sprung up nationwide. South Florida alone saw three Saturday night, one in West Palm Beach, one in Fort Lauderdale and one in Wynwood that ended up at Bayside Marketplace on Biscayne Blvd.
Nearly 600 gathered at Stranahan Park in Fort Lauderdale Saturday night to march to the main Broward County Jail. Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace,” “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
To kick off the rally, Jodi Henningham pointed out police liaisons, legal representatives and neon-vested security guards to the crowd. There was a jail support form available to fill out in case of arrests and a number to call if there was trouble, but no one was injured or arrested the whole afternoon.
Someone lit a sage smudge stick, and held it above their head as they led the crowd over a bridge and toward the Broward County Jail, stopping traffic and chanting “Whose streets? Our streets.”
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The banner-waving crowd climbed the steps to the jail, and under a waving American flag, Saint James shouted into a bullhorn about modern-day slavery in prisons, the racial injustice in police brutality and the Dallas police shooting.
“My heart breaks for the families of those officers,” he said. “I know what it’s like to grow up without a father.”
After the fiery speech, a dance circle broke out in the plaza.
“We are the collective. We got the power cuz we does it like this. We does it like this,” sang Jasmen Rogers of the Dream Defenders. The joyful crowd danced and laughed as members of the group all took their turn with silly dances.
On the way back around the jail, as the crowd chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” Henningham stopped and cocked her ear toward the jail. There was an unmistakable thumping of support — a single prisoner banging on the cell. The crowd went wild with cheers as other inmates joined in.
Mei-Lin Young, a 20-year-old nursing student at Florida International University, was amazed. She got to hear the inmates banging on the walls, the same way they did in the Atlanta BLM protest.
“This was a really powerful moment for me,” she said. “I feel like it’s happening more and more and it’s not acceptable. The law is here to protect all of us.”
As the last speaker relinquished the microphone and Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” started to play, Emmanuel Williams looked at his sign, which read “Don’t Shoot / I promise my mom I’m coming Home!”
Williams, 25, took off from his job at Saks Fifth Avenue to attend his first Black Lives Matter protest. He said he’s not been much of an activist in the past.
“On Facebook I am,” he said with a laugh. “But this is my first time in the flesh.”
He was driven to lend his voice to the rally after the week’s back-to-back fatal police shootings of black men. Williams, a black man, said two years ago when he was pulled over by the police, the officer approached with his hand already on his gun.
“Now I see all these events,” he said. “That could have been my story.”