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Monday, June 21, 2021
<p>Stephanie Birch, a 32-year-old UF African American studies librarian, attends the Unite Against the Far Right rally at Gainesville City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. She said police were more hostile toward Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer than to the violent President Donald Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol Wednesday, so she came to protest. </p>

Stephanie Birch, a 32-year-old UF African American studies librarian, attends the Unite Against the Far Right rally at Gainesville City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. She said police were more hostile toward Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer than to the violent President Donald Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol Wednesday, so she came to protest.

About 45 protestors gathered Thursday evening in front of Gainesville City Hall in response to the Wednesday riot in the U.S. Capitol. The crowd held signs that read “Fight Fascism!” and “Working People Reject Trumpism!” 

The protest was held in response to supporters of President Donald Trump who barraged past Capitol Police, climbed walls and broke windows to enter the Capitol building as legislators inside certified the Electoral College votes that named Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election. Legislators were evacuated from the chambers as the mob took over the Senate floor, vandalized the building and ransacked legislative offices. Four people died in the riot and dozens of Capitol Police officers were injured.

The event was organized by Gainesville Socialists Alternative, the Alachua County Labor Coalition and the North Central Florida chapter of Indivisible, following a similar chain of protests throughout the U.S. Local activist groups have been holding protests since the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Protest attendees clad in masks and holding umbrellas listened as speakers condemned the attack on the Capitol and vowed to retaliate against the far right. Dark clouds and a steady drizzle didn’t keep protesters around long.

The small crowd chanted “F--- the police” and “F--- Cammack,” referring to newly elected U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, a Republican representing Florida’s 3rd Congressional District.

Cammack, who has sparked controversy since being sworn-in on Sunday, was one of 147 Republicans who opposed certifying the results of the election. She condemned the Capitol violence in a press statement Wednesday. 

“The fact that I was 20 feet away from Capitol Police with guns drawn and my colleagues from Texas throwing furniture together to barricade windows and doors is still an image that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake,” Cammack said in a Fox News interview. “Right now, we need to come together and condemn this violence.”

The joint session reconvened late Wednesday evening and Congress certified Biden’s win early Thursday morning. After months of fighting the election results, Trump, through an aide’s Twitter account, released a statement conceding the election.

One resident who watched the events from home said she was enraged. 

Mary Savage is a member of the North Central Florida chapter of Indivisible, a progressive nationwide movement founded in 2016 as a response to Trump’s election. She said her father was a World War II veteran and believes the riot was a violation of the rights he fought for.

“What happened Wednesday was not America,” Savage said as she proudly waved around an American flag. 

The events at the Capitol drew criticism for how police and security handled the mob. Kyoti Carmar, a 55-year-old founder of the North Central Florida chapter of Indivisible, shared these concerns, drawing a contrast between the treatment of Black Lives Matter protestors and the rioters on Wednesday. “The thought that kept coming into my mind is that if those were Black people,” she said, “They would be dropping like flies.” 

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Sean Trainor, a 35-year-old UF Warrington Business School professor who helped organize the event, emphasized the importance of grassroots organizing and said activists can’t rely on elected officials to advocate for progressive policies. 

“No one's coming to save us,” he said. “Not our elected officials, not the National Guard, and certainly not the police.” 

Trainor said that activists deserve credit for condemning white supremacy, like in 2017 when white supremacists rioted in Charlottesville, Va., led by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who made a controversial appearance at UF in 2017.

“It wasn't elected representatives who made Richard Spencer and his flunkies stop organizing,” he said. “It was people being out in the streets.”

Contact Corbin Bolies, Lucille Lannigan and Alan Halaly at cbolies@alligator.org, llannigan@alligator.org and ahalaly@alligator.org. Follow them on Twitter at @CorbinBolies, @LucilleLannigan and @AlanHalaly.

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Alan Halaly

Alan Halaly is a first-year journalism and Spanish major and the East Gainesville Beat Reporter. This is his second semester on staff, and he previously worked as a news assistant on the Metro desk. He's excited to use this semester to shine a spotlight on underserved communities in Gainesville.


Lucille Lannigan

Lucy Lannigan is a second-year journalism student from Key West. She works as a news assistant on the metro team. When Lucy’s not reporting, she loves to paint and spend time outside. 


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