‘We got you.’ A Collier deputy worried about walking with George Floyd protesters. Two women stepped up to escort him.
The blurring of the red and blue lights turned the night purple.
A barricade of MPs and armored vehicles prevented demonstrators from returning to Fifth Avenue South in the affluent city of Naples on the beach.
"Go south so we don't have to make arrests," boomed a voice on a megaphone.
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Earlier, when the sun was still outside, the protest had moved to the United States 41 unplanned and blocked a major thoroughfare. More people have joined. The group swelled to a few hundred before coming to Fifth Avenue, where a Wagyu steak sells for over $ 100 and palm trees with white lights make them look like vacations every night.
Not this night. It was last week, the first day of protests against racial injustices in Collier County.
People came out of fancy shops with concerned faces. An older man in a polo shirt mocked demonstrators, including many teenagers in color, and shouted, “Black life is important!” Gawkers licked ice cream cones from sidewalks.
There was no violence or looting, although there was trouble when some demonstrators slapped MPs in the face.
The demonstrators will walk along 5th Avenue South in Naples on Monday, June 1, 2020.
The police, with big guns and truncheons, stood with stone faces in front of young men who only wore posters and the T-shirts they had pulled off because it was so hot.
After Fifth Avenue South, friends Lisa Martinez (28) and Cherry Estelomme (26) joined the march. By then it had stalled near US 41 and Davis Boulevard.
The voice on the megaphone nudged: "Ladies and gentlemen, please go further south."
The crowd didn't move.
Lisa and Cherry used the time to speak to the police.
Why are they no longer like Officer Linda?
Lisa and Cherry met at Lely High School in East Naples and share the experience of growing up black in a 90% white district. In Naples, home to Fifth Avenue, it's 94%.
As a teenager, they felt uncomfortable when they ventured to fifth place. Cherry noticed how people were crossing the street when they saw them. They moved their wallets to the other side. She tried to win strangers by smiling as if to say, "I'm nice. I promise."
Members of the Collier County Sheriff's Office hold demonstrators on 5th Avenue South in Naples on Monday, June 1, 2020.
At that time, Lisa wondered if the people who stared at her would see her differently if they knew that she was the daughter of the clientess who lived in the mega-villas nearby.
It was the first protest anyone had attended. Lisa is a nursing student. Cherry sells furniture. The women had parked on a Walmart because the United States was blocked 41.
Earlier that day, Cherry had sprained her right ankle and cut her heel into a broken vase. She wore slip-on sandals that fit over the bandage. She limped, but pulled healing from the crowd.
"I don't care about the pain in my ankle," she said to Lisa. "People are dying on the streets, so let's go out. Let's just go."
Adrenaline masked her pain.
That evening, Lisa and Cherry were pushed onto the street by much more than a feeling of discomfort. Lisa has a black son. He is 10. Like other mothers, she had heard George Floyd's call for mom when the white officer knelt on his neck.
Cherry is fed up with unjustified traffic stops and coaching her brothers on how to survive. Call me. Break a record. Hang up the handset so that you do not believe that it is a weapon. A brother got so tired of being stopped in Naples that he moved away.
But she also knew good cops. There was Officer Linda, whom she had known since middle school. They were still hugging when they crossed the paths at 7-Eleven.
"Why are there no such bulls anymore? What are they afraid of? And if they are so afraid, why are they a cop?"
When the protest continued at the intersection, Lisa held up her cell phone, tapped Facebook Live, and started interviewing law enforcement officers guarding the street back to Fifth Avenue.
"How do you see what's going on, sir?"
"It is a group of people protesting peacefully," said one MP.
"Thank you! Who else? I want to talk. Can I speak to you? Because it's peaceful."
"I found it terrible how you killed this guy," said another MP.
In her next interview, a patrol officer, she said, "I have no opinion."
Lisa went on. A white woman, a spectator, stopped her. "I fled Sanford, Florida because I have a black chief of police, a black city manager, and I was attacked by a 400-pound black woman. ... What about white racism? "
"OK, phew, child," said Lisa, letting the stranger get ready. "Now I have a question for you. Are you interested in what happened 400 years ago? ... What is right is right. What is wrong is wrong. If this man had his knee on that man's neck, it's an assassination attempt. "
Cherry also approached MPs. She thanked them when they agreed that Floyd's murder was wrong. "How can we change that?" she asked some. "What can you do to help our community? So that we feel whole? "
Naples, she thought, was the perfect place for protesters and police officers to go together.
A white MP in his late 20s without combat equipment took several steps forward and approached the demonstrators. His name was Cpl. Dan McCoy.
Lisa Martinez and Cherryle Estlomme stepped forward to accompany Collier County's non-commissioned officer, Dan McCoy, when he expressed concern that, after George Floyd's murder, he was in a peaceful but heated protest in Naples on June 1st should go for a walk.
Cherry had previously seen him film himself on his cell phone in selfie mode while demonstrators sang, “Go with us! Go with us! "
It was like rooting her, she thought. She trusted him.
Lisa saw him talking to people. And listened.
The voice on the megaphone returned. "Ladies and gentlemen, he would like to go with you."
The announcement triggered a wave of voices. In a heated exchange, a handful of demonstrators questioned his motifs in a heated exchange.
"Why do you want to go with us?"
"You don't look the way you want."
"Why don't you take your vest off?"
Cherry and Lisa came closer to McCoy.
Lisa didn't like the angle at which some were approaching him. She wasn't there to have a hypocrite to say forget all the cops. What she wanted was to sort out the racist ones. She stepped between McCoy and a man who made sure he took off his bulletproof vest.
"He won't take his vest off," she defended him. "He is on duty!"
McCoy turned to face her. "If you make sure I'm not going to jump, I'll go with you."
The two women didn't hesitate. They moved to either side of McCoy.
Lisa asked: "Are you going or are you talking?"
"Let's go," said Cherry. "Let's go. Let's go, man, let's go."
She repeated the chorus as they bandaged her arms and led McCoy out of the crowd onto the open road.
"As long as I don't jump."
"You won't be jumped," said Cherry. "We have you."
"Thanks for the protection. I appreciate that."
"We are protectors here, just as you should protect us, as well."
Cherry held up her cell phone and filmed: "We are afraid to be with the cops and at the moment they are afraid to be with all of us."
"Let's just go together."
The demonstrators fell behind the trio as they talked and walked blocks. The women felt a change in the crowd. The tension eased. Hope opened.
It's hard to know what McCoy was thinking. The Collier County Sheriff's Office said he could not be interviewed. But his steps felt real to the women at his side.
Kirsch's heart exploded with happiness.
It had been dark for a long time, but for Lisa it felt like we were going into the sunset.
Necklace Sheriff's Cpl. Dan McCoy asked Lisa Martinez and Cherry Estelomme to walk next to him during a June 1 protest in Naples, Florida. "If you make sure I'm not going to jump, I'll go with you." "You won't be jumped," said Cherry. "We have you."
This story is based on interviews with Lisa Martinez and Cherry Estelomme, as well as videos and reports from the June 1 protest in which more than 300 people took part.
That night there were four arrests in the first of at least five protests in Collier County since George Floyd's murder on Memorial Day. There was no clear organizer for the first protest, observers said, and found that local youth made up the bulk of the crowd.
The Collier County Sheriff's Office declined to request an interview for Cpl. However, Dan McCoy, who has been with the agency since 2015, made a statement: “MEPs should enable participants to exercise their right to a peaceful protest and to protect demonstrators and others in the protest area. Cpl. McCoy acted within his duties. "
The Naples Daily News reporter Rachel Fradette contributed to this article.
Janine Zeitlin is a corporate author in southwest Florida. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JanineZeitlin.
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This article originally appeared in the Naples Daily News: George Floyd Protest: Women escort Collier County MPs worried about going with protesters
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