Gov. Ron DeSantis reported that demonstrations like one held Sunday in Ocala have remained largely peaceful over the past 24 hours.
DeSantis also reported that no significant law enforcement or civilian injuries or deaths had been reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, nor had there been reports of widespread commercial or residential property damage.
“I appreciate all the hard work being done by our local officials, the Florida National Guard, the Florida Highway Patrol and our law enforcement to help ensure the safety of residents and visitors, as well as those who are engaging in peaceful First Amendment activity,” the governor said. “Over the past 24 hours, demonstrations have remained largely peaceful thanks to these collaborative efforts. We will remain vigilant and stand ready in the event something changes.”
DeSantis said the Sunshine State won’t tolerate rioting, looting or violence.
“We encourage all residents and visitors to continue abiding by local curfews and directives and thank everyone for their cooperation,” he said.
DeSantis said he is remaining in constant contact with law enforcement and state and local leaders to ensure all necessary actions are being taken to protect Floridians. He has mobilized 700 Florida National Guard soldiers specially trained to support law enforcement and worked with the Florida Highway Patrol to coordinate more than 1,300 sworn FHP troopers to support local law enforcement efforts.
On Sunday, hundreds of protesters marched across Ocala clad in masks, wielding signs and chanting, “I can’t breathe” and “No Justice, No Peace.” The effort was in in recognition of George Floyd, who recently died while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Derek Chauvin, who was fired as a police officer after a video showed him kneeling with his knee on Floyd’s neck as he said he couldn’t breathe, has been charged with third-degree murder and homicide.
Ocala City Councilman Matthew Wardell posted photos on his Facebook page showing Police Chief Greg Graham talking with the protesters and sharing how upset he was about the way Floyd was treated after he was taken into custody. Ocala Police officers also blocked off East Silver Springs Boulevard so the protesters could safely cross the roadway.
Wardell said Graham was “standing in dialogue” as he let the protesters know that he supported their First Amendment right to assemble.
“He gave his phone number out to the entire group inviting them to call him directly with any problems or issues they had today,” Wardell wrote. “He let the people gathered around know that he was sickened by what happened in Minneapolis. He answered tough questions, invited future meetings and asked everyone to please be safe throughout the day.”