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TCAC, Dream Defenders Among Those Speaking Against The Arrests Of Protesters

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Tom Flanigan
/
WFSU
Law enforcement officers move in to arrest some of the march organizers after Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell declared the protest an "unlawful assembly."

The Tallahassee Community Action Committee wants charges dropped against 14 people arrested Saturday during a protest march to the Capitol. The protest was spurred by a grand jury decision not to indict police in three different officer-involved shootings. Those shootings include the May killing of Tony McDade, a transgender Black man.

Organizers say they hoped Saturday’s protest would be peaceful. And it started out that way. But Saskiya Fagan, with the Dream Defenders, says that quickly changed.

“The blatant display for militarized policing and gross use of force was not community safety, in my opinion, it was brutality. I watched people I care about and strangers who I now care about arrested violently," said Fagan.

Police had warned protesters to keep their march on the sidewalk, but as some participants spilled into the road, police deemed the event an “unlawful assembly.” They then pulled over a car driven by Tallahassee Community Action Committee co-founder Trish Brown because they said it was “impeding the normal flow of traffic.” Officers attempted to arrest Brown and protesters surrounded the car. The arrest of several of those protesters followed.

Fagan says she saw a “stark contrast” between the way law enforcement treated protestors over the weekend and how they responded to an armed anti-protestor who drew a gun during a rally the week before.

“When a white supremacist that people have already talked about physically assaulted people last week and threatened the lives of peaceful protestors TPD nor Jack Campbell charged him for inciting a riot," said Fagan. "Which is a felony like they did one of the peaceful protestors.

Fagan says it felt like law enforcement put the blame on them that day.

“They blamed us for not having a permit for the protest itself as if that in some way was the qualifying factor that made him bring the gun or threaten our lives. As if not having a permit deemed us worthy of that kind of threat," said Fagan.

Fagan thinks the talk about a permit is just another tactic to try to silence protesters.

“That’s a tactic to quell us as well it’s nearly impossible to get a permit for a march or for a protest. It takes months to a year to secure a permit on those roads," said Fagan. "And I’m not sure how I or TCAC or anyone else should plan in advance if TPD is going to continue murdering people. That’s just not how protesting state violence works.”

Applications for a Special Events Permit must be submitted to the Tallahassee Police Department at least 30 days in advance of the event and no earlier than a year ahead of time.

TCAC and those in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter protests have a list of demands including dropping charges against any protesters arrested Saturday, releasing any video from the incident, and paying reparations to those arrested. Lakey Love is a leader of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee.

"We demand that you take part of the money from Tally PD and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and pay for what you have done to this community," said Love.

The group is also calling for the firing of TPD Police Chief Lawrence Revell.

Most of the 14 people arrested Saturday face misdemeanor charges.