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SPC President Tonjua Williams condemns police brutality, encourages empathy and education

The school promotes equality and diversity.

St. Petersburg College President Tonjua Williams is the latest local leader to weigh in on the George Floyd death and subsequent nationwide protests.

Williams expressed heartache over the May 25 killing in which a Minneapolis Police officer put his knee over Floyd’s neck, causing his death.

“My heart is heavy over the act of brutality that occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week, and the subsequent protests that began peacefully, but have in some cases turned violent in recent days,” Williams wrote in an open letter about the civil unrest continuing throughout the nation.

“I know you are hurting, too. We grieve with the families and friends of those lost through recent senseless acts of violence and everyone across the country, and in our own local communities, who are affected by these horrible events.”

Williams offered her institution as a safe haven for values that promote equality.

“At St. Petersburg College we value the sanctity of all human life. We honor diversity, equity and inclusiveness. We denounce racial injustice, classism, sexism, gender bias, religious persecution and bigotry in all forms. We believe all people should be treated with dignity and respect,” she wrote.

“In standing firm on these principles, we show the world that we are committed to equality and opportunity for all people, all the time.”

Williams described SPC as a “rich tapestry of people of many races, ethnicities, religious affiliations, gender identities, sexual orientations, political beliefs and physical abilities.”

“At SPC, we are uniquely situated to be a part of the solution to the deeply disturbing issues we are facing. Our institution can provide a voice for disenfranchised and marginalized individuals by acting as a convener and supporting respectful discourse to affect change,” Williams wrote.

The Tampa Bay area joined cities from across the nation this weekend in holding robust protests calling for radical changes to end police brutality and systemic racism. In most cases, the protests were peaceful, but in some, things got heated.

The University area in Tampa suffered heavy damages as building were burned and businesses burglarized and looted in a demonstration that began as a peaceful protest, but devolved into chaos Saturday night.

Williams hopes that by encouraging equality in all its forms on SPC campuses, people can work productively toward drastic change.

“The very premise SPC is built upon –providing equity and excellence in education for all – provides the foundation for us to listen to one another, learn from each other and teach others,” she said.

“It is said that a house divided cannot stand. We must unite in our efforts to spread awareness of social injustices, use kindness to bridge differences and work tirelessly to find solutions to move our country forward, peacefully. Let us work together to be the change we want to see. I pledge to be a part of the solution, and I hope that you will join me.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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