Hundreds of protesters marched across Ocala on Sunday in a movement that has swept the nation.
Clad in masks and wielding signs, protesters chanted “I can’t breathe” and “No Justice, No Peace,” among other phrases in recognition of George Floyd, who died while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department last week.
Protesters marched throughout all parts of Ocala, including the historic downtown square, SR 200, and Silver Springs Boulevard, with Ocala Police Department escorts blocking off intersections at various points to allow the group to cross.
Video showing Floyd, 46, and the arresting officer, Derek Chauvin, surfaced last week and has gone viral, yielding protests in major cities across the country. Various video accounts of the incident have surfaced, with multiple angles showing Chauvin placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and head for over 8 minutes. Floyd was unresponsive after 5 minutes.
Sunday’s demonstration was not scheduled to begin until 3 p.m., but a separate protest was staged at 1 p.m. According to Ocala Growth Management Planning and Zoning Manager David Boston, that 1 p.m. protest could not be authenticated and was believed to be a hoax.
“Both [protests] seem to be protesting widespread racism and murder of black citizens, but it seems that the 3:00 pm protest is legitimate and the 1:00 pm protest is not,” said an email from Boston to Ocala-News.com.
Boston says the NAACP was able to verify the 3:00 p.m. protest after making contact with its organizer, but was unable to get ahold of anyone for the 1:00 p.m. protest. That protest was allegedly set up by an account that has previously “created fake protests in other cities as well,” according to Boston.
Those efforts went unnoticed, however, as protesters that showed up at 1:00 p.m. were eventually joined by those marching from the ED Croskey Center in West Ocala. Protesters united from both groups and marched well into the evening.
Although the protests have prompted counties across the nation, including Lake County in Florida, to implement curfews, Marion County has yet to announce one.