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TPD, Leon County Sheriff Defend Law Enforcement Response To Protesters; State Attorney Won't Say Whether He'll Drop Charges

A black, armored truck behind City Hall in downtown Tallahassee
Jason Tereska
This black, armored police truck is one of several parked behind City Hall in downtown Tallahassee on Saturday, September 5, 2020 ahead of planned protests following a grand jury report on the use of force in three officer-involved shootings.

State Attorney Jack Campbell says he won’t commit to dropping charges against the 14 people who were arrested in a weekend skirmish with police. The protesters were arrested Saturday after a car with the group was stopped for impeding traffic.

Protesters linked arms to prevent the car occupants from being arrested. Some officers were kicked and punched by protesters.

“We’re lucky we have a tremendous amount of video. Both from the protesters from the media and from law enforcement, and we’re going through that case-by-case and will make a decision. I have to follow the law. I don’t get the luxury of deciding which laws I follow, and which laws I don’t," Campbell said in a response to a question by City Commissioner Curtis Richardson. Richardson asked whether Campbell would drop charges against the protesters. Those charges range from impeding traffic and unlawful assembly, to inciting a riot and assault on an officer.

Police Chief Lawrence Revell says he’s heard from plenty of people who were pleased with the law enforcement response to the protest. Previous ones have resulted in blocked traffic during unannounced marches to the Capitol. Earlier this month a counter-protester drew a gun on protesters and earlier this summer, another impromptu march led to a car driving through protesters, after it revved its engine at them to get them to move.

The number of protesters on Saturday numbered in the low 100s, compared to around 250 police. Tallahassee Revell says the large law enforcement presence downtown was done in anticipation of protests following a grand jury report finding the use of force justified in three local officer-involved shootings. The weekend social justice protests also coincided with a planned rally for President Donald Trump, and local agencies estimated up to 500 people on both sides could show up and converge at the the capitol at the same time. As WFSU previously reported, the vehicle caravan for President Trump was re-routed before it reached the capitol. Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil believes had the caravan made it to downtown, the situation could have escalated.

“We never knew what we need that or when we would need it, depending on what was taking place or could take place. Had those trump supporters gotten on North Monroe Street at the same time this was going on, we’d have had a different outcome all together" McNeil told the commission.

Revell says his agency has spent $850,000 so far this year in overtime responding to protests.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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