Protestors marched on the streets of Naples this week to condemn racial injustice for the fourth time. Last week, there was also a protest on Marco Island, bringing the grand total to five in Collier County.
“We are pushing for change and direct action from our communities,” said Camila Serna, cofounder of The Hippie Circle, a local talent agency that helped organize the event along with Standing Up for Racial Justice, Southwest Florida, an activist group. “We feel that it is time to do something about this, there are enough people to be angry about it.”
Serna believes the work that she, the Hippie Circle and demonstrators are doing can lead to a transformation.
“There’s so much momentum going around the country, we need to focus on initiatives that drive real change,” said Serna.
Protestors were upset after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer. His death has sparked protests all over the world in support of Black Lives Matter and against racial injustice.
Various speakers took the podium to release their frustrations with current events, describe their encounters with Collier County authorities and call for action within schools and police departments.
One notable speaker was Angela Cisneros, a paralegal for Collier for Dreamers, a group that helps immigrants. She laid out a five-part proposal to revamp the county’s sheriff’s department. Its tenets include amending union contracts to kick out corrupt officers, reallocating sheriff’s department funds, placing a moratorium on the memorandum of agreement that allows federal authorities to pick up immigrants in Collier County, removing confederate symbols and passing a resolution in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Last year, the county sheriff’s department took up 44 percent of the countywide budget, amounting to about $200 million. Cisneros and other speakers called for defunding the sheriff’s department.
”We are the change that we wish to see in the rest of our community and in the rest of the world,” said Cisneros.
After the rally ended around 7:30 p.m., protestors marched almost five miles north on Airport-Pulling Road, west on Davis Blvd, and northwest on US 41 to Fifth Avenue South in downtown. There were plenty of police officers, but no arrests.
Though protestors have been kept from entering the luxurious avenue in the past, they were allowed on Wednesday.
They chanted “No justice, no peace,” and “I can’t breathe,” as people who were having dinner or walking on the street watched in wonder. Unlike the first protest on June 1, there wasn’t a wall of officers clad in riot gear. Instead, police in uniform stood in front of various closed businesses.
The march reached its climax at around 9:30 p.m. when protestors crowded the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street South. Then members of the crowd stopped moving and were silent. Some laid on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs to mimic the position in which Floy died. Others knelt on one knee with a fist in the air. That lasted for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
Dani Patarroyo-Avila was astounded to see the overwhelming support from her community. Avila’s hopeful that long-overdue change will come to Collier County.
“Those of us who grew up as minorities in this town have been discouraged or ignored for speaking out against systemic discrimination,” said Avila. “More than anything it was inspiring to realize we are not alone and that many of us don’t just dream of change.”