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1000 protesters brave Tropical Storm Cristobal to rally in Tally against police brutality

By Satya Stark-Bejnar |
June 9, 2020
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Tallahassee march against police crimes.
Tallahassee march against police crimes. (Lakey Love)

Tallahassee, FL – Tallahassee has been host to months of regular protest since the January 2020 swearing-in of killer cop Lawrence Revell as chief of police. Protests became more frequent after three murders in the last three months by the Tallahassee Police Department, and now daily protests have continued for the past ten days after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and Tony McDade by Tallahassee Police Department.

TPD’s recent killings robbed Tallahassee of 31-year-old, Black, unarmed, father of four, Mychael Johnson on March 20; 69-year-old white man Wilbon Woodard on May 19; and 38-year-old Black trans man Tony McDade on May 27.

For ten days and counting, Tallahassee residents have organized two to four independent, often simultaneous, and mostly spontaneous protests on any given day.

Regina Joseph, president of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) expressed complex feelings about the upsurge of local protests, “A lot of these are actual protests against police brutality, both local and nationwide, and I am encouraged when people take to the streets. I do feel some kind of way, though; some of these events don’t mention the three people that local police killed since March alone. Some even promote forgiveness, and hugging cops, before any material changes to policing have been made. That is out of touch and premature, and it’s dangerous to the movement. We need community control of police, not photo-ops with killer cops.”

Many local actions indeed centered on well-known but far away police killings, and they varied greatly in vision. The largest local actions this week (organized by th Tallahassee Community Action Committee) focused primarily on local police killings and a set of demands issued to the Tallahassee Police Department, the Tallahassee city manager, Mayor Dailey, the Tallahassee city commission, and the local State Attorney Jack Campbell.

TCAC’s demands have been affirmed by a series of high-volume call-in days, social media blasts and emails sent to these officials and entities by over 120,000 civilians. TCAC organizer Lakey Love said, “The refusal to include public comment in local commission meetings is illegal, COVID-19 or not, and their refusal to even acknowledge those 100,000-plus emails - the biggest outpouring of unsolicited public input on a single local topic [transparency and justice for civilians killed by local police] to date - is unconscionable.”

During the Wednesday, June 3, protest outside Tallahassee City Hall, an elected official proudly announcing the formation of a toothless Police Review Board was shut down by the horns of hundreds in a nearby car caravan and a thousand people chanting, “No fake review board; we demand community control of police!”

The June 3 and June 6 protests were a combination of car-caravan and street marching in-person rallies with hundreds of on-the-ground attendees protected from agitators and law enforcement by brightly vested safety marshals, red masked medics, and car caravans.

Posters and banners on display at Wednesday and Saturday’s events reflected TCAC’s demands: Release the Names (of TPD killer cops); Release the tapes (body cam, dash cam); Fire Revell/ Revell step down; Indict killer cops; Community control of police; and CPAC Now.

Black speakers at these events emphasized the white supremacist origins and practices of policing in the United States; the exhausting and often deadly intersection of Blackness, queerness, poverty, police brutality, and inadequate mental health access; and the proven power of organized masses to demand and achieve history-shifting material change.

TCAC organizers distributed masks to attendees on Wednesday and Saturday, and a local chapter of Food Not Bombs supplied snacks, prepared meals, water and tent shelter for protesters outside the TPD Headquarters on Saturday.

On Saturday, June 6, after having blocked off TPD Headquarters for hours with 1000 people on foot and hundreds in procession in a follow-up car caravan, protesters moved to take and hold a long stretch of nearby N Monroe Street for the conclusion of the event. Halfway between TPD’s current headquarters at Lake Ella and TPD’s soon-to-be headquarters at a condemned mall, TCAC President Regina Joseph and fellow founding member Patricia “Trish” Brown stood atop Trish’s big red truck and led the soaking wet crowd in protest songs including Step by Step the Longest March and Ella’s Song: We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest Until It’s Won.

The June 3 and June 6 protests organized by the Tallahassee Community Action Committee saw considerable traffic disruption efforts by police but suffered no arrests and no serious medical emergencies. Nonetheless, TCAC maintains a reserve of recently donated funds for bail and other organizing-related expenses and a supply of first-aid materials donated by community members. TCAC continues to promote online fundraisers for the families of Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade. Later this week, TCAC will co-host a COVID-19 Unemployment Justice event and a remembrance of the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub.

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