Posted: June 3, 2020
Updated: June 5, 2020
In light of recent events throughout our nation of protests that have begun peacefully and ended with rioting, looting, and violence, as well as rumors that have been circulating locally, I felt it was important to address our community regarding the protest that is planned for the evening of Friday, June 5, 2020 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. here in the City of Punta Gorda.
We want our community to know that we fully support and encourage the peaceful protest of our citizens. We have been in close contact with the event organizers and have assured them that we will be present to ensure the safety of those peacefully protesting and to ensure that their constitutional right to gather and protest is not infringed upon.
The organizers of this event have stated, “We are organizing an entirely peaceful protest, therefore no actions of vandalism or violence are permitted in our activities.” We have every reason to believe that they are being sincere. The organizers understand that we too will not condone criminal acts of any kind and they have expressed their support for and cooperation with the police department should we need to intervene in order to protect the safety of the public and those peacefully protesting. We also addressed concerns that citizens have expressed regarding the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Veterans Park. The organizing team responded, “Our message is in no way related to veterans, and we have no intent of even passing by the memorial.”
“We are organizing an entirely peaceful protest, therefore no actions of vandalism or violence are permitted in our activities.”Protest Event Organization Team
The protest will begin at Laishley Park and will travel down Nesbit Street turning right on East Retta Esplanade. The protest will cross Tamiami Trail North (US 41 North), travel through Downtown Punta Gorda on West Retta Esplanade, cross over Cross Street (US 41 South), and end in the rear parking lot of Punta Gorda City Hall.
The organizers of this event have said that they want to make it clear that to them “Black Lives Matter” is not an “anti-police” philosophy. They believe that “Black Lives Matter” simply means that racial injustice must be eliminated in this country in order to ensure that black lives are always given the same value as others. Treating our citizens with fairness, respect, and impartiality and ending racial injustice are philosophies that I wholeheartedly believe in and I will accept nothing less from my officers.
We have a very special community here in Charlotte County and I am proud to be a part of it. It is important that our citizens know that the Punta Gorda Police Department is dedicated to continuing to listen to our community, work with our community, and stand with our community to keep it that way. In order to show solidarity with our community and those exercising their rights, I plan on walking with the protesters on Friday.
UPDATES: We would like to address several rumors regarding tonight’s planned protest that have been spreading via Nextdoor and other social media platforms.
First, there have been reports of “bricks” located in Downtown Punta Gorda and speculation that they may have been “planted” by groups or individuals hoping to incite rioting and vandalism during the protest. This is NOT accurate information. A small number of pavers had been removed from the sidewalk and set aside as part of an ongoing Florida Department of Transportation project. These pavers were not located on the protest route and have been removed.
Second, there has been a good deal of social media posts about people being “bussed” into Punta Gorda from outside of the area and outside of the state for the protest. We have found no credible information regarding this and it appears to be speculation at this time.
Finally, there has been information being spread that threats have been made toward the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Veterans Park. Additionally, there have been reports that the police department has stated that we will not protect the wall and that we have “called for citizens” to come out to protect the wall. We have found no credible evidence that any threat has been made toward the wall and we have NOT “called for citizens” to come protect the wall. We have spoken with the event organizers regarding this concern. They have assured us that they have no intentions of even going to the wall.
UPDATE: I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers of tonight’s protest as well as to everyone who participated for making this a peaceful, respectful, and meaningful event. I would also like to thank the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Punta Gorda Fire Department, and Charlotte County Fire & EMS for their assistance in helping to ensure the safety of everyone involved.