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'Are We Next?': Small South Florida Protests Hit The Same Notes As Larger Ones

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has spurred protests around the world.

In South Florida, demonstrations sparked by his death, police violence and systemic racism are happening across the region. Both in bigger metropolitan cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale and smaller ones, too. 

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In smaller cities, people are holding their own protests — in groups of 3, 30, and 300, mostly wearing masks. Here's a snapshot from three events:

HOMESTEAD

DeMario Lee, a lead organizer of a protest in Homestead, said it was significant to hold it on Sunday.

"I’m a very religious man. I do believe in God," he said. "A lot of good things happen on Sunday."

The peaceful protest stayed in front of city hall. Speakers and performances marked the event rather than a march that's more challenging to control, Lee said.

"I knew if we marched, I was opening up a Pandora's box of an array of things that could've possibly went wrong," he added. "With the performances we wanted to highlight what they’re trying to kill. We wanted to show them the beauty of our culture and hopefully that would give them second thoughts before they put their knee on our neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds."

That's the length of time now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd. Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder.

Lee said Homestead faces its own troubles with police. There’s one case of a shooting death that involved a Homestead police officer five years ago. Miami-Dade prosecutors say an investigation is still ongoing.

"I feel so sorry about what happened to Mr. Floyd, but we understood that this was an opportunity to really start putting some of our concerns out there," Lee said.

WILTON MANORS 

Jeffrey Georges organized a protest because he wanted something different from the bigger protests he’s been to in Fort Lauderdale, he wanted people to talk.

“Protests don't have to be big. If anything, sometimes it's easier to speak and talk to people and be more intimate in the smaller ones,” he said. 

He led a group of about 40 people, mostly his friends, from Holiday Park to the Wilton Manors police station, near his apartment. 

Read more: Protesting? Here's how to help keep your family safe from COVID-19 when you go home

There they sat in a circle and spoke about race, sexuality, police violence and discrimination — and the voices they think are getting left out. 

“Not enough people are letting black women and trans women and non-binary people in the black community — you know — be comfortable," Georges said. 

On the march back to the park they chanted the name Tony McDade, the transgender black man who was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee in May.

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Credit Gerard Albert III / WLRN
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WLRN
Georges leads the march from Holiday Park to the Wilton Manors police station.

Georges puts on punk shows, and many people in attendance at the protest would usually show up to his concerts.

One of them held a sign that read: “Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses.” Lyrics by the rock band Rage Against the Machine.

BOCA RATON

Earlier this week, a group of high school students led a protest called “Are We Next?” in Boca Raton. More than 100 people attended. 

Ja’dan Johnson, a student at the Watson Institute at Lynn University, wasn’t thrilled when the protest ended after only an hour. It just wasn't enough, he wrote to WLRN. He had a lot more to say. 

“This is not a today problem, this is not a last week problem and this did not start with George Floyd," said Johnson. "He’s just one of the thousands of black individuals who have been assaulted at the hands of the police.”

So he and two friends, Pablo Cuellar and Myron Dace, Jr., went elsewhere, first to Boca Raton City Hall because "they needed to see [their] message" and then to the intersection of North Dixie Highway and West Palmetto Park Road, a block away from the city's police station.

The three of them wore masks and held white poster board signs. His read: “My grandma protested this, too.”

“This is something that my family has stood in the streets for to protest about. So it’s quite shameful that me, being like two generations down, are still protesting about this issue today," he told WLRN over the phone. 

Johnson protested for a total of six hours that day. He said he’ll be out again this weekend, whether it’s just him or the three of them again — or a bigger group — to protest decades of racial injustice, and daily prejudice against black people.

"Why? Because it's could've been me instead of George Floyd."