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FL – SELF-PROTECTION – A white man pulled a gun at a Florida protest. Black men took the blame.

Javon Cloud crouched in front of City Hall, listening as the protest leader spoke. “Please pay attention to your surroundings,” she cautioned. “There are literal fascists out here trying to start a conflict.” Cloud, shirtless on a September night, wasn’t worried as he surveyed the gathering crowd. He’d always felt safe with the group. But it was three days after a grand jury in Kentucky had announced no officers would be charged with Breonna Taylor’s killing and two days since videos had gone viral of protest confrontations in St. Petersburg. For the first time, a group of counter-protesters had advertised plans to stop Black Lives Matter demonstrators from marching in the streets. Soon, scuffles and threats filled Beach Drive’s restaurant row. Diners gawked from sidewalk tables. A woman leaned out her car window and screamed over and over into the night. As the march reached a boiling point, a white man named Laurence Davis ran up to protesters, looking to disrupt them. He shoved one so hard, she ended up in the hospital for head trauma. Then, he drew a gun on Cloud, who is Black. When an officer arrived, Davis was not stopped. He walked back into the crowd, where he shoved others. All of it was captured on video. St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway would later say that failing to detain Davis was a mistake. But Davis will face no criminal charges for his actions that night. Instead, police relied on blurry images to blame Cloud and another Black protester for provoking Davis. Prosecutors agreed Davis acted in self-defense. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed hours of footage, spoke with eight people who were on the scene that night, examined investigative records and interviewed the police chief, the prosecutor who oversaw the case and criminal justice experts to understand what happened that night and in the aftermath. [full article]

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