Osceola County

‘You absolutely matter’: Protesters, officers unify in Kissimmee against police brutality

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Protesters gathered in Kissimmee on Monday for a march against police brutality – and police marched with them.

Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell said his officers will be marching alongside protesters through downtown.

The demonstration is in response to the video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he was unresponsive then later pronounced dead.

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O’Dell said he wanted to do something bigger instead of just releasing a statement.

The march began at 6 p.m. at the Civic Center, with plans to march a half-mile through downtown and eventually end up at the Kissimmee Police Department. After it ended around 7:30 p.m., another crowd walked through the downtown and ended up at the police department. About 500 people gathered in the first march.

O’Dell said he heard community leaders were planning the march and immediately reached out to the organizers to let them know the Kissimmee Police Department wanted to march alongside them.

“You absolutely matter. You absolutely matter to me, you absolutely matter to anyone who works in this police department and if I found out otherwise, they wont work here its pretty simple,” O’Dell told the crowd.

At one point several officers also took a knee, and the protesters erupted into cheers.

He said the video of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis horrific and disturbing. He said he is committed to denouncing that behavior with this march, and that he wants to have meaningful conversations with the people who show up.

Protesters at the march said they are glad to have law enforcement with them.

“It makes me feel empowered,” demonstrator Anissa Flowers said. “I’m happy to see they are stepping up and that they see the wrongdoings that are happening among their brothers and sisters, and I just want to make sure that they hold themselves accountable.”

Some downtown business owners are worried things could tun violent as they have in other cities, so they have boarded up their buildings.

O’Dell said he and his team are ready to deescalate the situation if necessary.

Businesses boarded up against the threat of looting, but no violence took place.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

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