Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren is speaking out about police brutality and the subsequent rioting in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“George Floyd’s murder is a profound tragedy and a despicable injustice. I am struggling to make sense of Mr. Floyd’s murder, as are so many around the country,” Warren said. “We mourn for him and our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Floyd’s family as they cope with his loss. Make no mistake, murder is murder, and if this happened in our community, I would prosecute this ex-officer.”
Warren also praised the peaceful protests nationwide calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism.
“We must listen to these voices to build a better community,” Warren said.
“Peaceful protests are vital to our democracy — they provide an outlet for anger and frustration, as well as inspire change.”
Still, Warren spoke out against protests that turn to violence and destruction, which he said: “Put the safety of our citizens, their homes, their businesses, and their jobs, at risk.”
“Violence and destruction also drown out the voices of peaceful protest that we need to hear,” he said.
As of Sunday night, 68 people were arrested in Hillsborough County related to burglary, rioting and destruction of property during chaotic demonstrations, particularly on Saturday night.
Rioters held over from an earlier peaceful protest set fire to several buildings, including the Champs Sports and a Mobil gas station in the University area.
Images of the night showed a chaotic scene with law enforcement officers deploying tear gas to disperse crowds and, in some cases, protesters throwing them back at police.
One officer was burned by a firework lobbed at law enforcement.
“Our community will not tolerate criminals who are exploiting this moment. My office is in the process of receiving those cases and will prosecute these defendants,” Warren said.
“While we do our job to seek justice, we will not allow the wrongful actions of the few to stop us from listening to the voices of the many.”
Warren said his office will hold accountable anyone “who tries to take advantage of this pain in our community to commit crimes for personal gain or to perpetrate destruction.”
“We don’t have all the solutions. We do value the voices of protest. We will listen to these voices and welcome the opportunity to engage with all who are using their voices to find solutions. That is how we will heal—we will honor Mr. Floyd’s memory, and we will move forward to build a safer, stronger community.”
Another protest is scheduled at Tampa City Hall at 4 p.m. Tuesday.