Students traded in their caps and gowns for bullhorns and signs, as they spent their graduation day protesting in support of Black Lives Matter.
After a virtual graduation on Wednesday, students at Somerset Arts Conservatory organized a peaceful sit-in at Pembroke Pines City Hall.
“Black lives matter and all lives can’t matter until black lives matter,” said student protester Jada Woullard.
The group of about 200 raised their voices calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality.
“I would like to see that cops are held accountable for their actions. It’s really that simple,” said Woullard.
Many protesters also reacted to the latest update that Minnesota prosecutors upgraded Officer Derek Chauvin’s charges to second-degree murder.
Minnesota's Attorney General Keith Ellison confirmed the charges against the former officers and the elevated charge against Chauvin during a news conference. Protesters say it was about time.
“He murdered him in cold blood. He deserves whatever comes to him. It was a mistake, but it was a mistake that cost a man’s life. That should have never happened. Ever,” said student Reynaldo Sigers.
Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis also came by in solidarity with the protesters and showed his support.
While Wednesday’s demonstrations were peaceful, some business owners in Downtown Miami have boarded up their windows as they continue to recover from a weekend of vandalism.
The owners of Solid Gold Jewelry have had their business in Downtown Miami for over 35 years. They have shutters and cameras so their business was spared, but they say their neighboring storefronts were damaged.
“It is their right to protest and what happened was very sad,” said Eliseo Perraza, owner of Solid Gold Jewelry.
“If they protest in peace, no problem. No problem whatsoever, but when they do vandalize businesses, it’s not good,” said Josue Leon, co-owner of Solid Gold Jewelry.
The business partners say they fully support the right to peaceful protest, but a combination of closures from COVID-19 and the threat of looting over the weekend has affected their bottom line.
“Imagine two and a half months closed without any business, and now this situation. It’s getting worse,” said Perraza.