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Residents of Fort Myers driving through the city might have noticed something a little different on Saturday, Feb. 4.
Starting at 10 a.m., members of FGCU’s National Black Law Student Association along with other FGCU students, walked alongside officers from the Fort Myers Police Department down Martin Luther King Blvd. during the Blue and Green Goes Blue and Black Unity Walk.
“I’ve always wanted to plan a walk,” sophomore and member of NBLSA Simone Nelzi said. “I noticed that there was a distrust between the community back home, and then when I got here I’ve seen it with the recent events with the racial slur written on the whiteboard.”
Nelzi then told her mother about her idea, who encouraged her to create an event based around unity.
She then presented her idea to the NBLSA.
“They loved it,” Nelzi said. “They wanted to incorporate it into our organization event this year.”
Attendees gathered at the police department on Saturday morning before starting their walk that ended at the Williams Academy Black History Museum. FMPD officers walked alongside students, and a few officers blocked roads with their cars to help make way for the walk.
Participants walked holding signs and chanting, “peace, unity, culture, pride” and “united we stand, divided we fall.”
Following the walk, participants ate food and listened to music together at the museum. Nelzi spoke to the crowd, along with Student Body President Thieldens Elneus.
Sophomore Anisa Bills, who attended the walk, said that her favorite part about the event was watching the officers help students.
“Seeing the officers help us through traffic and try to keep us safe and protect us as much as possible because that shows that they are on our side,” Bills said.
Bills said that due to the whiteboard incident, tensions grew between students and police officers.
“I feel like that kind of made people feel like police officers weren’t doing their job, they weren’t trying to find the person who did that,” Bills said.
Lieutenant Jay Rodriguez, a FMPD officer that participated in the walk, believes that the relationship between civilians and police officers is getting better.
“I can definitely see both sides of it,” Rodriguez said. “I have an open mind.”
Rodriguez believes that events like the walk help bring together the community.
“This is the kind of stuff that we support,” Rodriguez said. “We support events that will unify the community and the police department, not just for specific this or that, just to bring the community together.”
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