It's been a busy month for South Florida's Black Lives Matter activists. Two weeks ago, they rallied for justice in the wake of Greg Frazier's shooting death in Pompano Beach. On Sunday evening, activists gathered once again, this time to protest the shooting death of Keith Scott Lamont, another black man who was shot dead by police in his apartment complex in Charlotte last week.
"It is really important to stand with our comrades all around the country and take opposition," says Jasmen Rogers, an organizer with the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward. "We can't let that happen here or anywhere."
At 5:30 p.m. Sunday, more than a hundred activists gathered outside Broward Sheriff's Office headquarters on Broward Boulevard just west of I-95. They waved signs and banners, banged on buckets, and chanted in unison as they took over seven lanes of traffic. The activists marched from BSO headquarters down Broward Boulevard to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, blocking intersections. More folks from the neighborhood joined along the way.
"That's right; they need to start convicting these police who are killing all these boys," said Barbara Watkins, a woman from the neighborhood who joined the rally as activists stomped past her street. "There's more white people and than black people — I love that! That's just powerful."
As the activists marched, some people in cars shook their heads in frustration. Others yelled, "All Lives Matter!" Tensions flared as drivers inched behind the activists in their cars, nearly hitting them. One activist, Jillian Pim, said on social media that she had been assaulted by an angry bystander — she posted a photo of a bruise. Fort Lauderdale police, state troopers, and the Broward Sheriff's Office chaperoned the march and cordoned off intersections.
But for the most part, drivers in dozens of cars trapped in traffic (or just whizzing past) honked in solidarity with protesters. When organizers shouted, "Hands up, don't shoot," drivers and passengers rolled down their windows to stick their arms out too. "Some people might be annoyed at the traffic, but I don't mind at all," said a woman who was stuck in the gridlock for almost a half-hour.
At the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, speakers took the microphone. An 11-year-old girl named Maria was among them. With tears in her eyes, she explained that she is scared of police and doesn't want any more people to die. Others described the need for body cameras and recounted personal stories about run-ins with police. But activist St. James Valsin summed it up best: "We need to keep marching for people who get killed by police. From Tulsa to Charlotte, Charlotte to Miami, Miami to Palestine, all around the world, Black Lives Matter."
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On the march back to BSO headquarters, activists were tired and many children had to be carried. One man was even pushed in a wheelchair. Organizers handed out water, but everyone was fatigued. Activists ended the march with a moment of silence at the intersection outside BSO, blocking it for several minutes. Though it was a treat to rest their legs, most activists weren't just physically exhausted; they were tired because honoring black lives that have been lost in police shootings has become all too familiar. They banded together a little more than a year ago in response to the Charleston Massacre.
Activists said the names of the dead one by one in a solemn role call: Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Jermaine McBean, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Corey Jones, Trayvon Martin, Greg Frazier, and now Keith Lamont Scott. At the end, Jasmen Rogers sighed. "My heart is full," she said.