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Activists protest, hold candlelight vigil in Navarre

Annie Blanks
Pensacola News Journal

Chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” and “end police brutality now,” about a hundred activists gathered on U.S. 98 near the foot of the Navarre Bridge on Wednesday night for a protest in response to the death of George Floyd and in solidarity with other protests around the country.

The protest, which was peaceful, spanned multiple generations of Santa Rosa County residents. The protesters said they were there to remember Floyd and others who have died at the hands of police around the country.

“I’m going to keep coming here every day until I see change. Too many people are being killed,” said 16-year-old Andre Bush, a rising senior at Navarre High School. He organized the protest along with his friend, 17-year-old rising senior Jeremy Robertson.

“Some people have flipped us off, some honked their horns,” he said of the response to the protest. “But we’ve had way more support than I expected.”

A poignant moment came at the start of the protest when a Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office squad car approached the group. Bush and Robertson went to speak to the deputy, Sgt. Jeremy Snow, who they said shook their hands and pledged his support to their safety.

“(The deputy) said that we should march across the (Navarre) bridge, and if there’s anybody who’s harassing us, to call him personally,” Bush said.

Kiahra Baxter and her mother, Raishell Baxter, also showed up, along with Kiahra’s four children, 11-year-old Jalen, 9-year-old Jovon, 6-year-old Julian and 1-year-old Jaliyah. Baxter said she wanted to attend the protest to affect change for her sons, whose safety she fears for as they get older.

“I don’t like the fact that instead of having to teach them the rules of the road, I have to teach them to keep your hands where they can be seen and don’t ask questions,” she said. “As soon as they were born, they were born with a target on their back, and it shouldn’t be that way.”

After standing by the highway and chanting with signs for about an hour, the group moved to a pavilion at Navarre Park, where they held a candlelight vigil to remember Floyd and all victims of police brutality.

Bush and Robertson pledged to march across the Navarre Bridge on Saturday afternoon to continue advocating for change.

Annie Blanks can be reached at ablanks@pnj.com or 850-435-8632.

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