Four lanes of road separated Black Lives Matter protesters and protesters supporting police Saturday afternoon in Parkland.
The opposing protesters stood diagonally from each other on the corner of Holmberg and Pine Island roads.
One side chanted “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice No Peace, No Racist Police” and “All Lives Matter When Black Lives Matter.”
The other “U.S.A,” and held signs that read “We Support the Police.”
Each side contained a crowd of around 80 people.
“This is a very difficult moment,” said Juan Carlos Hernandez, 55, from Fort Lauderdale, who was on the Black Lives Matter side. “They need our help right now.”
It was Sandra Karriem’s first protest.
“I’m Black, and my life matters,” Karriem, 61, said.
Speaking of the protesters on the other side, Karriem, from Parkland, said she thinks they’re misguided.
“I don’t think anyone thinks police officers’ lives don’t matter,” she said.
Patrick Harbison, 58, from Margate, stood in the north side of Holmberg Road carrying a sign stating “All Lives Matter.”
He said he coached some of the police officers working protest duty when they played youth baseball.
“That’s my connection,” he said.
Harbison said that although he was there in support of the police, he respects the other demonstrators’ point of view.
“They have one side of the narrative and we have our narrative,” Harbison said. “And, we need to find middle ground because all lives do matter.”
The Black Lives Matter demonstration was organized by Manuel and Patricia Oliver. Their son Joaquin was shot and killed along with 16 others Feb. 14, 2018, inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where he was a senior.
Before his death, Joaquin, who was 17, was very involved in the racial justice movement and was a supporter of Black Lives Matter.
“We are following his path,” Manuel Oliver, 52, said Saturday. “We are learning from our son.”
Although Joaquin, who his parents called “Guac,” is a well-known victim of the Stoneman Douglas mass shooting, the focus of Saturday’s demonstration is police brutality and in honor of those who’ve died unjustifiably at the hands of police, Manuel said.
“We don’t want to be the main cause today,” he said. “It’s about Black Lives Matter.”
Joaquin participated in a February 2017 Black Lives Matter rally in Fort Lauderdale, carrying a sign quoting Malcolm X saying, “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
Following their son’s death, the Olivers started the Change the Ref nonprofit aimed at passing stronger gun legislation and getting younger people more involved in social justice causes.
Manuel Oliver also wrote a one-man play titled, “Guac: My Son, My Hero,” in which he dedicates a portion to Black Lives Matter.
“I will support my son until my last day here,” Oliver said.
Regarding the counter protesters, Oliver said he supports their right to assemble and speak, but he said he doesn’t pay attention to them.
“Whoever shows up today is just trying to piss me off, and they won’t accomplish that goal,” he said.
After about an hour, the Black Lives Matter protesters marched about a mile on Pine Island Road to the City of Parkland Park amphitheater.
Along the way, they were met with cars honking in support, as well as people in cars yelling expletives at them. Some of the marchers also yelled expletives at the pro-police side.
At the park, orange flags were placed in the grass marking places for people to stand while social distancing.
Several people spoke under overcast skies.
“Many of our neighbors don’t think Black Lives Matter is their issue,” said Hannah Karcinell, 20, from Parkland..
Karcinell, who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, said one way to end systemic racism is shrinking police department’s budgets.
“We can start by defunding the police,” she said.
At the amphitheater, Manuel Oliver told the crowd that he had hoped more people from the affluent Parkland community participated in the march.
“We believe we already went through our gun violence,” Oliver said.
However, Oliver was happy about the turnout, and the fact that most of the protestors were young adults, pointing out that many counter protestors were middle aged.
“That is where the big difference is,” Oliver said. “They’re the ones who are going to take care of business in the next six to eight years.”