Tampa Police Chief Tells Peaceful Protesters to "Stay Home"

TAMPA -- At a joint news conference with Mayor Jane Castor, Tampa's police chief urged peaceful protesters responding to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis not to take to the streets Sunday, after his officers arrested 41 adults and juveniles during unrest Saturday evening.

Brian Dugan told reporters that "there will be a different tone today." He says they took "a hard stance" last night and plan to take an "even harder stance" tonight. Dugan says they've "called everyone in" to address any unrest that may crop up Sunday. He says they had enough officers on hand Saturday night but protesters were broken up into small groups.

Dugan said he noticed "a different intensity" in Saturday's protests, with tensions rising as the day went on. "You saw the peaceful protesters go home... and realize that some people didn't have the best of intentions."

Dugan says Saturday night's unrest could have been much worse. "Thank God for the cops who were out there last night," he told reporters.

Both Dugan and Mayor Castor marched with a peaceful protest Saturday afternoon. The mayor said young people who were part of the earlier protest were asking her what they could do to make things better. Castor said she noticed the change in tone around 6 p.m. Castor called the violence "shameful and heartbreaking."

"I'm against police brutality. The mayor's against police brutality," Dugan said. "(Castor) never put up with it when she was chief... and she would fire me if I (did)," Dugan said.

The mayor and chief reported that some 40 businesses were attacked in the city Saturday evening. At least five were set on fire. An officer suffered minor burns when fireworks went off. 27 police cars were damaged, ranging from slashed tires to broken windows. The unrest in the city was centered around 30th Street and Busch Boulevard, near Busch Gardens theme park.

Meantime, in unincorporated Hillsborough County, Sheriff Chad Chronister says seven people were arrested overnight in violent unrest related to Floyd protests. Charges include burglary, grand theft, petit theft, battery on a law enforcement officer and carrying a concealed firearm. Two deputies sufered minor injuries and 15 sheriff's vehicles were damaged.

Sheriff Chronister says individuals arrested "were focused on chaos instead of change." He praised deputies for "working tirelessly to contain and deescalate" violence.

More than 1700 people were arrested overnight in cities around the nation in violent incidents related to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Four officers have been fired and one is facing murder and manslaughter charges.

Photo: Tampa Police

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