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Tallahassee: Justice demanded for Tony McDade, murdered by TPD

By staff |
June 17, 2021
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Tallahassee, FL - On the evening of May 27, marking the one-year anniversary of Tony McDade’s murder by still-unnamed officers with the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD), activists and community members gathered at the Florida State Capitol to grieve, commemorate McDade’s life, and to demand justice for his murder.

Since McDade’s murder, TPD has used Marsy’s Law as a legal shield to protect their officers from public accountability, refusing to release the names of the officers involved in the shooting.

McDade’s death, occurring just two days after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis and six days after TPD officers killed Wilbon Woodard, helped spark last summer’s uprising for Black lives both locally and globally. McDade’s name and image appeared in news articles and social media posts, and thousands of people took to the streets of Tallahassee last summer chanting “Black trans lives matter.”

A year later Black and trans people in Tallahassee are still waiting for justice, and still fighting for a world where the police are held accountable through a democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council, CPAC, which would have full oversight and authority over TPD policies and budgets.

Speakers at Thursday’s vigil highlighted the correlation between the state sanctioned violence and transphobia he was subjected to, and the systems that overlooked and neglected him despite McDade’s decades-long battle with mental illness. McDade’s tragic death shows the combined violence of white supremacy, transphobia and capitalism. Not only did the criminal injustice system target McDade because he was Black, but it also refused to recognize his trans identity and incarcerated him in a women’s prison for nearly a decade.

Tony McDade’s mother, Wanda McDade, climbed the capitol steps to speak to those in attendance. Wanda McDade expressed that she is not much of a speaker, but because of the love shown to her and Tony by the community, she wanted to say a few words. With tears in her eyes, Wanda thanked TCAC for organizing the event and those who came out to show love and support, and prayed for peace, love and understanding, stating, “Tony loved everyone and would do for anyone, doesn’t matter who you are.”

Delilah Pierre, vice president of TCAC, pointed out the ongoing disrespect by TPD and the media, who continued to deadname and misgender Tony McDade. Delilah spoke specifically of the trauma that Black trans people experience every day at the hands of the police and the community at large: “When I go out somewhere, I look inside of my car and I see what clothes I have. I try to pick out the clothes I think will best disguise me, the clothes I think will best make me seem less threatening to other people, the clothes I think will make me less possible or able to be killed. I have a pocketknife, mace and a taser in my car. I try to protect myself because I know that as a Black trans woman at any time and any moment someone can just decide that they don’t like me. That they don’t like my identity, they don’t like the kind of person that I am and try to kill me, stomp on me, beat me down. That ain’t right.”

Regina Joseph, president of Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) and also one of the #Tally19, made the call for CPAC, and stressed its importance “We need to build a new society, not just in Tony's memory but for everyone else.” She continued, “Be about the work and figure out how we’re going to demand these concrete policies into reality so that another mother does not lose her child.” She closed with a question to the crowd, “What are you going to do after you walk away from this to make sure another Black person isn’t killed by the police? We need community control of the police. CPAC now!”

During the vigil, the people also condemned the actions of TPD for their racist, murderous tactics. Joseph pressed the crowd to remember that it’s important to not let this be just a moment, but part of a movement, exclaiming, “I would be arrested over and over again so Tony’s life would not be taken in vain.” She reminded attendees of the violent arrests made by TPD on September 5, when 19 community members were arrested en route to the capitol in protest of a grand jury’s decision not to indict any of the cops involved in the murders of Mychael Johnson, Tony Mcdade and Wilbon Woodard.

Delilah Pierre called out the inhumane conditions of the prison system, stating the only reason we got to this point is because of a lack of accountability and failure to listen to McDade’s pleas for help. Upon his release, just a few months before his murder, McDade spoke out about his struggles, vowing to take his own life. Pierre explained, “I think Tony was very angry - very, very angry - but you know where that anger came from? I can tell you as a trans person, as a Black trans person, that anger came from fear. From the constant fear of belittlement, the constant fear of death, the constant fear of the way you’ll be treated, the constant fear of not being accepted by anyone in your life. That constant fear that you sit with, that you live with.”

Alongside demands for police accountability and justice, Octavia Thomas of Movement 850 reminded attendees that it’s also important to remember McDade’s life and humanity, stating, “I want us to embrace ourselves in that love that his mother talked about. I want us to embrace that because that is what’s going to move us in the future, if we understand the value of life. If we understand what life truly means when you lose it. Because like Regina said, I don’t want to get desensitized to this.”

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