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Demonstrators block Jesse Jewell, fill Gainesville square on second night of protests
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People take to downtown Gainesville Sunday, May 31, 2020, on the second night of protests in Gainesville that blocked traffic and resulted in vandalism on the square. - photo by Scott Rogers

People gathered along Jesse Jewell Parkway for a second night of protesting Sunday, May 31, in Gainesville, blocking traffic along the road before heading for the downtown square where at least one person was arrested.

Officers took one man into custody after an incident in which a protester allegedly spray painted “KKK” on Old Joe, a statue of a Spanish-American War soldier that was modified and placed as a Confederate monument in 1909.

Elsewhere between the square and Jesse Jewell demonstrators lay in a parking lot with hands behind their backs feigning arrest.

A large law enforcement presence was at the square, many in riot gear, but otherwise, protests along Jesse Jewell were largely peaceful and without police presence — unlike Saturday, May 30, when protesters and law enforcement were nearly face-to-face in the middle of Jesse Jewell’s intersection at Main Street.

The crowd started out very small — about 20 people — when demonstrations began on Jesse Jewell between Main and Bradford streets.

“I feel like it’s important for me to stand up for what I believe in,” said Shyderica Young, one of the protesters. “There has to be an end somewhere — the cycle has got to stop and needs to stop.

“I’m a white American male — I have every advantage over everybody, but this (injustice) has got to stop,” said Josh Hogan of Gainesville.

The crowd steadily grew through the evening and included onlookers from the pedestrian bridge that crosses Jesse Jewell near Bradford Street.

Malcolm Prather of Gainesville held a sign, “I can’t breath, #black lives matter,” on the bridge overlooking traffic pouring underneath.

“This has been going on for so long and I’m so sick of it,” he said. “This is a way they’re going to hear us.”

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Protesters block traffic on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville during a second night of demonstrations Sunday, May 31, 2020. - photo by Jeff Gill

About 50 people were chanting peacefully at about 8:45 p.m. on either side of the downtown Gainesville road before moving out onto Jesse Jewell Parkway, blocking traffic. 

Police began arriving shortly after 9 p.m. ordering the demonstrators out of the road.

Protesters streamed to the square, where the vandalism took place and police arrived, before heading back to Jesse Jewell.

The crowd, which had grown to about 200 people, headed back to the square late in the demonstration, where the crowd started thinning.

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Protesters hold their hands behind their backs feigning arrest during a second night of demonstrations in Gainesville Sunday, May 31, 2020. Crowds blocked traffic on Jesse Jewell Parkway before heading to the downtown square. - photo by Jeff Gill

Gainesville protesters have joined many across the country demonstrating in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded that he couldn't breathe after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes. 

Local protests began peacefully Saturday and escalated as the night wore on, with some tense moments and damage to police cars and a neighboring store but no injuries.

Gainesville Police made this statement Sunday on Facebook:

“To our community, we hear you and we love you. Our community has come a long way when it comes to understanding each other. We are hurting with you and we want you to know that we stand with you. We know our community, and our community has had many peaceful protests and demonstrations in our city. We know that others from the outside have come to try to divide us, but we will stand with you and stand for you. Please do not forget that we are Gainesville, and Gainesville stands united. We will continue to work hard to protect and serve our great community, while standing up to those who choose to drive us apart.”