TALLAHASSEE, FL – Another day, another “peaceful” protest, this time in Florida.
According to WTXL in Tallahassee, 15 people were arrested during an “unpermitted protest” on Saturday afternoon.
In a press release issued Saturday evening, the department said:
“As part of an unpermitted protest, a motorist was stopped for impeding the normal flow of traffic on South Monroe Street. During the traffic stop, the driver did not comply with law enforcement instructions.”
The outlet said that police attempted to arrest the driver, at which time some members of the “peaceful” crowd attempted to interfere in the arrest, and also refused to comply with police officers’ commands.
Once officers attempted to arrest those interfering, others in the crowd of “peaceful” protesters started to attempt to block police, including assaulting them.
The department said:
“Due to their actions, and again, unwillingness to comply with officers’ commands, they were also arrested.”
Police announced that 15 individuals were arrested, and that an investigation into the incident was continuing.
Besides Tallahassee, other agencies involved in the operation included the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Capitol Police, and the Florida State University Police Department.
According to the Martinsville Bulletin citing an AP story, the protests started after a grand jury exonerated police relative to three officer-involved shootings of black suspects earlier this year.
The protest, according to the outlet “drew an unusually high number of law enforcement officers clad in riot gear despite months of mostly peaceful demonstrations.” Apparently police do not have the right to protect themselves.
Trish Brown, founder of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee and one of the first to get herself arrested Saturday, said:
“It was like stormtroopers rushing across the street. I was in disbelief of what I was seeing.”
Police said that the organizers of the protest did not have permits for the Saturday afternoon march, which drew a few dozen people.
Leon County jail records showed those arrested were primarily charged with resisting officers and assembling unlawfully. Nearly all were eventually y released on bond.
“This is our first time having this type of aggression.
“Why did they need all of those police geared for riots. They were ready and set. They came with this kind of force for people with tennis shoes and shorts and T-shirts and just their bodies. We didn’t have any weapons. We didn’t have any sticks. We didn’t have any stones. It was just our bodies.”
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The show of force by police sparked criticism on social media, as well as by some former and current officials.
Former mayor Andrew Gillum said:
“I’m shocked to see a city where I once served as mayor display this level of presence for a peaceful protest. Never saw this in 16 years of public service there.”
Gillum you may recall is the former Democratic nominee for governor of Florida who overdosed in a Miami hotel last year.
City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow was concerned how much money the response cost the city taxpayers to, as he said, “handle a traffic infraction.”
“This did not look like any type of de-escalation I have ever seen. We need to bring this down to a common sense, human level. Protesters in Tallahassee have by and large remained peaceful. We haven’t seen riots in our city and do not need folks in riot gear elevating tensions.”
Conversely, others saw the response differently.
The treasurer of the Leon County Republican Party, Bill Helmich, said:
“It seems to me that the main complaint by the TCAC, BLM, Antifa, etc., groups is that TPD and other agencies were ready to deal with the road blocking shenanigans. “Don’t break the law and then complain if the law is enforced. As a wise man once said, play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”
To address the complaints by some of inconsistent responses by the Tallahassee Police over demonstrations, the department said in an email:
“As for the different scenarios that have unfolded over the last several months, each is unique, and each therefore must be addressed by the facts and laws applicable to them.”
The demonstration was called for by Black Lives Matter after the grand jury declined to indict the Tallahassee officers relative to the deaths of Mychael Johnson, Tony McDade and Wilbon Woodard.
The AP continued:
“Dozens of officers equipped with shields and battle gear (emphasis added) formed lines outside the Capitol.”
The demonstrations have been going on for months after the Floyd death. Most have been peaceful, according to the AP however last week a man pulled a gun on protesters. That incident led to the implementation of a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
This week, Tallahassee police said that they would start to enforce traffic laws at future protests, to prevent blocking of roads and highways by protesters, the Tallahassee Democrat said.
Despite the grand jury declining to hand down indictments against the officers involved in the three shootings, there were some areas of concern found.
First, in the case of Mychael Johnson, who was violently struggling with police, one officer yelled, “I’m going to kill you,” then shot him in the head.
In the McDade shooting, the officer violated department policy by not activating his body camera; McDade had stabbed and killed a 21-year-old, police said but there were differing accounts about the interaction between McDade and police.
Woodard was shot after an altercation in a restaurant parking lot. Police officers said that he was armed.
The TCAC (Tallahassee Community Action Committee) has helped to organize the protests and they claim that the police department’s change in tactics were what led to the arrests.
“All protests organized by TCAC have been peaceful, and arranged under readily identifiable leadership,” they said in a statement. “It is right-wing vigilantes who have driven trucks through protests, pushed into protesters, and physically attacked attendees.”
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