Two More Tallahassee Protestors Arrested In Conjunction With What Police Call An Unlawful Protest
Updated Sept. 10, 8:09 p.m.
The past few protests in Tallahassee have ended with arrests. Two weeks ago, police arrested a man who pointed a gun at Black Lives Matter protesters near the state Capitol. Last weekend, 14 protesters were arrested after police deemed their demonstration unlawful. And last night two more arrests came as police served warrants stemming from the September 5th protest. The groups involved are raising concerns about what they see as unfair treatment, and they’re demanding that charges be dropped.
After the arrest of two protestors Wednesday, the Tallahassee Community Action Committee, ACLU of Florida and other advocacy groups are calling for a cease to what they call attacks on demonstrators.
"These were people who were unarmed, were walking on the sidewalk and holding car caravan protests to help protect people from COVID-19, speaking out about a grand jury decision where the officer who killed Tony McDade and Michael Johnson were let off on all charges," said TCAC member Lakey Love.
Love says Tesia Lisbon, one of the protestors, was arrested at her home. The other, Benjamin Grant was arrested on his way to the gym.
They both participated in a protest march toward the Florida Capitol last weekend. Police deemed the protest unlawful after protestors got in the street and attempted to stop the police from arresting a protest leader who had been pulled over for disrupting the flow of traffic.
ACLU of Florida’s Kara Gross says that traffic stop should have never happened.
"The police’s retaliatory stop of a car covered with messages of dissent for driving too slowly violates the First Amendment," said Gross.
Gross believes the police response to protestors is uncalled for.
"The police intimidation tactics and excessive use of force against peaceful unarmed protestors utilizing their first amendment rights was unjustified and barbaric," said Gross. "It is not something our community ever expected to see in Tallahassee."
Gross added that instead of arresting protestors, the police should be protecting them.
"Protestors need to be protected not arrested. Yet too often police have responded with provocation and violence," added Gross. "We urge the state attorney to ensure that charges be dismissed against those who should’ve never been arrested in the first place. And to hold law enforcement accountable for their unlawful actions."
Police say they were there to protect the protestors. TPD Chief Lawrence Revell says officers were on the lookout for a group of President Donald Trump supporters who were expected to come into the area on the same day and law enforcement wanted to ensure both groups could safely voice their beliefs.
As for dropping the charges, that’s something State Attorney Jack Campbell says he can’t commit to. He says he’s bound by the law--and that applies when it comes to charging protesters in this case, and not charging the man who drew a gun in a previous protest.
“As an ethical person, I don’t get to decide what the law is. You all do, you’re a legislative body and more importantly, the Florida legislature writes the criminal laws for the state of Florida," said Campbell. "If you go back the past 20 years prosecutors and law enforcement have been warning about Stand Your Ground and about the potential for us to have terrible tragedies."
Cambell says Stand Your Ground applies in the case of the man who drew a gun since he was protecting himself from people who were punching and kicking him. But Love believes protesters are being treated unfairly.
"I will say that that man entered a crowd pushed people around and didn’t get any inciting riot charges and didn’t get any unlawful assembly charges when all of those things could’ve been possible. And Jack Campbell found a way to make them possible for peaceful protesters following the law," said Love.
Delilah Pierre, a member of TCAC had stronger words for both law enforcement and local elected officials.
"You call us criminals but you’re the criminals. You’re the ones using undue force and power to do whatever you want in this city. You don’t own this city I am not scared of you," said Pierre. "And guess what you bootlickers – John Dailey, Curtis Richardson, Dianne Williams-Cox and Elaine Bryant I see you too because you haven’t said not a thing about it. What’s up with that?
Several city commissioners including Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox spoke about the incident during Wednesday night’s city commission meeting. Williams Cox says it’s an issue that’s important to her because she sees many of the protesters as people who could be her children.
"We’ve got to have some conversations with law enforcement, with leaders of the groups and other community leaders," said Williams-Cox. "We’ve got to embrace this moment and make it a teachable moment so that we as Tallahassee, we are not Portland, we are not Milwaukee and we’re not going to become that."
Williams Cox says she hopes to facilitate a discussion between law enforcement and community activist groups.
Original Post: Sept. 10, 10:27 a.m.
The Tallahassee Police Department arrested two protestors Wednesday night in connection with last Saturday's protest that led to more than a dozen arrests. This comes hours after State Attorney Jack Campbell said during a city hall meeting that he wouldn't commit to dropping charges related to the incident.
The two arrested were Benjamin Grant and Tesia Lisbon. Both are charged with resisting an officer, a misdemeanor. Grant has a second charge for battery on an officer, which can be up to a third-degree felony.
There have now been 16 citizens arrested in involvement with the protest.
The groups involved in Saturday's protests are responding to the arrests at noon to demand that charges be dropped and that TPD cease what they call attacks on demonstrators.
The story will be updated after the event at noon.