Countryside mall closes Wednesday amid protests, police to monitor shopping areas

CLEARWATER — The Westfield Countryside Mall is closed through Wednesday “for the welfare of our customers, employees and retail partners,” according to a statement on its website.



a basketball in a parking lot: The Westfield Countryside mall shown here on Thursday, March 19, 2020 in Countryside. Westfield is closed through Wednesday as protests to police killings of unarmed black Americans continue throughout the U.S. Clearwater police are aware of "unsubstantiated threats" of looting of malls in the area.


© Chris Urso /Times/Tampa Bay Times/TNS
The Westfield Countryside mall shown here on Thursday, March 19, 2020 in Countryside. Westfield is closed through Wednesday as protests to police killings of unarmed black Americans continue throughout the U.S. Clearwater police are aware of “unsubstantiated threats” of looting of malls in the area.

The closure comes amid nationwide unrest in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer detained Floyd and knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said he did not direct the mall to close but was aware of “various unsubstantiated threats of looting at malls in the area.”

“We will have a strong presence at the malls throughout the day,” Slaughter said.

A Westfield Countryside spokesman declined to comment on the closure on Wednesday. But the mall’s statement on its website alludes to the nationwide protests.

“We strongly believe in the importance of inclusivity and in the strength of our community,” according the statement.

The closure follows peaceful protests in Tampa and St. Petersburg on Tuesday that turned chaotic in the early morning hours. Police in both cities dispersed the crowds with force. In downtown Tampa, officers deployed nonlethal rounds, smoke grenades and pepper canisters. Near St. Petersburg police headquarters, they used smoke and what appeared to be flash bangs.

Dozens were taken into custody.

Protests across the U.S. have been steady since Floyd’s killing, with demands for systematic police reform, racial justice and an end to the killings of unarmed black Americans.

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