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Over 1,000 protesters gather in East Naples, hundreds march downtown

Hundreds of people walked down 5th Avenue in downtown Naples Wednesday night during a Black Lives Matter protest.

These were protesters originally gathered at the Collier County courthouse in East Naples, who then marched together to the downtown area.

More than 1,000 protesters gathered outside the Collier County courthouse in East Naples during the daytime Wednesday to publicly admonish racial injustice.

“Saving lives like myself,” said Danny Joseph, an organizer of the day’s protest. “That should go without question, but it does.”

Organizers we spoke to said they are in public to honor the life of George Floyd and also seek reforms in law enforcement.

“We have an opportunity to breathe, but, when a man says they can’t breathe, we would ask the sheriff’s office honor that,” said Vincent Keeys, the president of the Collier County NAACP. “And, if another police officer is there and sees excessive force that he stop and say, ‘You are using too much. Back off. Get off the man’s neck. Get off his back. Flip him over. Allow him to breathe.”

One form of change has already been committed to by local law enforcement.

The Collier County sheriff says he signed a very clear and specific policy that will make the duty of Collier County deputies to intervene, to prevent or stop excessive force by another law enforcement officer or corrections officer.

Technology also happened to be a feature at the protest. Qr codes were used by organizers to ensure protesters had resources at their fingertips, helping to promote and educate the cause.

“I think it is very important that we have an action plan for how do we move forward,” demonstrator Gary Petitdor said.

Chris Blakely went to the protest with his son. Blakley held a sign that said, “When do I go from cute to dangerous?”

“I want them to recognize that he is the same person whether he is 10, twenty, 25,” Blakely said. “He’s a young man who has life, who will be able to change this world.”

People of all ages were in attendance.

“Because enough is enough,” demonstrator Voncile Whitaker said.

Local speakers, poets, community organizers and local artists were among those present at the gathering.

“What happened to George Floyd from the beginning to the very end … we were traumatized,” Dr. Peter Ndianjui said. “It was personal. I just couldn’t sleep after that.”

“It’s not just about white or black,” Ndianjui said. “All the issues of diversity are coming into the forefront.”

Dr. Ndianjui is originally from Kenya. He said he faced discrimination in Kenya, growing up during a time of colonialism in his country. He is currently the president of the African Network of Southwest Florida.

“In 2002, I was hired as the first black teacher in Canterbury School in Fort Myers,” Ndianjui said.

Protesters we spoke to at the day’s demonstration have sought to make a difference for human rights in different countries and have had their own experiences with racial injustice.

”How do you describe racism?” Ndianjui said. “It’s how you feel with someone.”

Racism is a familiar word to Iliar Hassan Aydin. He was born Kurdish in Turkey and was forced to leave in 2016 after being targeted as a human rights advocate. He could have been killed.

”I left the country,” Aydin said. “I left my two kids and wife.”

”I can’t have this conversation in Turkey right now,” Aydin said. “What I suffered, what George Floyd death, I cannot say anything.”

But the message for justice was heard nationwide in the United States. Organizers say everyone must respect each other for change to happen.

“Police work must be done,” Ndianjui said. “They are not the enemy.”

”A huge hope that these young generations will solve these issues and racisms and inequalities in the future,” Aydin said.

“One thing that scares me: I see children out here,” organizer Joseph said. “So I hope we do our job.”

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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