Port Orange, FL - Things seemed calm and quiet on the drive south from Daytona Beach to Port Orange. Then, once you turned down Dunlawton Avenue to head east to Daytona Beach Shores, the scene soon changed.
Motorists headed over the bridge were met with the sight of hundreds of demonstrators marching east over the Dunlawton Bridge, protesting the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer earlier this month.
Demonstrators first gathered near the northwest base of the bridge before beginning the march over, around the base and then back over Dunlawton Avenue before continuing west over the bridge to the initial starting point.
Many different signs could be seen, some with the simple phrase "Black Lives Matter," others with messages saying "All live can't matter if Black lives don't matter," and others that actually asked the question "am I next?"
Multiple drivers headed westbound over Dunlawton began to honk in support of the protesters. And while some decided to show their support as they drove past, others decided to take a more crass approach to the demonstrators. Two large diesel pickup trucks could be seen speeding past protesters as their vehicles belched out black smoke at those walking eastbound across the bridge.
Police were also present as protesters began their demonstration. The Port Orange Police Department could be seen around the west side of the bridge, while Daytona Beach Shores police handled traffic and pedestrians on the east side of the bridge.
"We're making sure that they're safe with all the traffic," said Captain Michael Fowler with Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety. "We got pedestrians in traffic intermingling and we're just out here to make sure that they are able to have a safe and peaceful protest."
Fowler could be seen with other officers working to keep the protesters safe as others thanked him and his officers for helping keep the peace as the demonstration continued.
Once at the base of the bridge in the Shores, protesters began to take a knee, which has become symbolic in the protests for George Floyd. Demonstrators could also be seen holding up fists as they chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Their Names."
Traffic over the westbond section of the Dunlawton Bridge was soon shut down as protesters began to spill into the street. For their protections, officers soon shut down the westbound lanes and let protesters continue over the bridge and back to the Port Orange side. Drivers were then rerouted north towards Daytona Beach to join the beachside from other bridges such as International Speedway Boulevard or Main Street.
Online, readers could witness a variety of comments. Some praised the protesters and thanked them for keeping their demonstration peaceful. Other readers were worried that the demonstration would get out of hand.
Protesters were also chastised by people online and in public for gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic and for not abiding by social distancing guidelines, which aims to limit gatherings of 10 or more people. Some even asked when the looting and burning would start. But, despite the expectations of some, the demonstration remained peaceful as protesters continued marching on Dunlawton.