Kissimmee Police Department to march in solidarity with anti-racism protesters on Monday

click to enlarge Kissimmee Police Department to march in solidarity with anti-racism protesters on Monday
Photo via Kissimmee Police Department/Facebook

The Kissimmee Police Department announced on Monday they are joining protesters calling for an end to police violence.

"The Kissimmee Police Department will be marching in solidarity with residents in Downtown Kissimmee tonight during a peaceful protest against police misconduct or brutality," said the message, attributed to Chief Jeffrey M. O'Dell.

Police will meet residents at the Civic Center at 5 p.m. and begin the march through downtown to the Kissimmee Police Department at 6. They will be closing down Broadway beginning at 4:30 through the end of the event.

It's a notable gesture, considering the significant mark left by white discrimination and institutional racism throughout Kissimmee's history, including homes owned by Black residents once having been subject to inspections by the city health officer and chief of police in 1922.

Even though the city's own history page omits references to it, Kissimmee was once completely segregated. In the 1920s, Black residents could only build houses and buy land in areas designated by the city commission as "black neighborhoods," located far away from white areas. Prospective Black land buyers first had to receive permission from the Kissimmee Development Commission and the city commission.

Even though the city's own history page omits references to it, Kissimmee was once completely segregated.

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In the 1930s, Blacks voters could not cast a vote in the Democratic primary, and a poll tax was established during general elections. In the 1940s, the city actively steered businesses away from "the Negro section" when planning Orange Blossom Trail, and prohibited development by Black people on Bermuda Avenue north of Hill Street. In the 1950s, when Black residents asked for improvements in their neighborhoods, the city rejected them and also refused to build a sewage lift station in a black neighborhood, leaving them with septic tanks.

In 1986, former judge Judge James Watson, a retired judge from the U.S. Court of International Trade then serving on the U.S. District Court bench in Orlando, ruled that the city had historically practiced discrimination against Kissimmee's three black neighborhoods, when it refused to keep roads up to code in majority-Black neighborhoods.

The Orlando Sentinel noted at the time that Watson, in deciding the suit, studied the city's history and concluded, "the present conditions of which plaintiffs complain are directly rooted in past events."

The announcement comes after a weekend of protests across Central Florida and around the world, decrying racist police violence and the killing of George Floyd under the knee of now former-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin. Chauvin, who owns a home in Windermere, was arrested Friday morning in Minnesota, while the other officers involved remain free as of Monday morning.

You can find out more about Monday's event with Kissimmee law enforcement on the KPD's Facebook page.

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