CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Flanked by police officers, hundreds came together Tuesday in the heart of downtown Coral Springs to shout civil rights chants, bang on drums, hold up signs, and find strength as a group demanding justice for the death of George Floyd and other African-Americans in recent years.
With light rain coming down, Dexter LaMont, 46, and his two young sons stood watch in the crowd of strangers of different age, color, and experience.
“My kids have been seeing everything going on in the news and I thought it was important for them to come and be a part of a peaceful protest and understand the message,” said LaMont of Coral Springs.
His son, Kaelym, 10, said he wanted to support a movement.
“We are here to fight for equal rights just like Martin Luther King Jr. and I’m happy to be part of it,” said the fourth-grader.
Coral Springs joined many other cities in the nation in permitting what was billed as a peaceful protest on the northwest corner of the intersection of University Drive and Sample Road.
Many of the estimated 300 people who attended the gathering from 2 to 4 pm wore face coverings and masks, but at times most people crammed next to each other in the middle of a parking lot without much regard for social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
They came close together to hear speakers including Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook and City Commission candidate Nancy Metayer. Vice Mayor Joy Carter, Commissioner Joshua Simmons, and Florida Rep. Dan Daley were in the crowd as well.
“This is great,” said Simmons, the first elected African-American to the Coral Springs City Commission. “This is our moment. We have to take hold of that and make sure that what we get out of this is that no more black men, black women, black children are killed because of how they are viewed and because they simply exist.”
To prevent trouble, police got involved in planning the gathering, meeting with young organizers, setting up a tent, and bringing bags of water.
Alana Pearlman said she came to send a message.
“We have a broken system, and we can’t continue to be silent anymore,” said Pearlman, 23, of Coral Springs. “With me being a white woman, I have privileges and I need to speak up for people who don’t have privileges. I want to be the megaphone behind their voices.”
Her friend, Amber Gonia, 28, of Coral Springs, said she teared up when she saw the crowd gathering and shouting: “This is what Democracy looks like.”
“We came to fight for justice for people whose voices are not being heard,” she said. “All lives matter at the end of the day. We’re all a part of God’s creation, and we have to love everybody.”
Know a story we should share with our readers? Email editor Leon Fooksman (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell him about it.