SARASOTA, Fla.— 30 black lives matter protesters walked through the University Town Center Saturday, wearing shirts that read “please don’t shoot.”
There was no violence, and not even any conversation.
“We’re not here for any trouble. We’re not here for any violence. We just want to be the conversation at the dinner table,” said protest organizer Jocelyn Merren.
It did catch the attention of mall goers, and mall management asked the protesters to leave. They then moved to cattleman road, where they blocked traffic on one of the mall’s busiest weekends.
“It cannot continue to be business as usual given that our people are being killed,” said protester Ruth Beltran.
“We want to start seeing justice and until that happens we will disrupt things if we have to,” added protester Greg Cruz.
Merren says the protest was a reaction to an incident that happened one month ago when she says she was turned away from the mall for wearing a shirt that read “please don’t shoot.”
“I’ve been wearing these shirts everyday since the week that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile got murdered,” said Merren, “and every other establishment has allowed me to walk through and continue business as I do.”
Mall management says security didn’t asked her to leave because of her shirt though. Instead, the mall says it became aware on July 8th that Merren was organizing a protest at the mall via Facebook. When Merren arrived the next day, mall management says she was gathering with others outside to protest when they asked her to leave.
Merren did post a call to action on her Facebook page to organize a silent protest, but says only one person outside of her family showed up.
“While we greatly respect the right to free speech,” said mall management in a statement, “the mall is private property, and it is our policy and our right not to permit protests of any kind.”
Still Merren feels the protest accomplished what they were looking for.
“They all just kind of banded around me and helped to accomplish what I wanted to do in the first place,” said Merren, “which was to bring awareness to what’s going on right now in the justice system.”