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#Tally19 stands with Ben Grant and against HB1

By staff |
February 24, 2021
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Tallahassee, FL - On February 23, at the Leon County Clerk of Courts, the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) held an outdoor press conference to amplify demands of the #Tally19 - activists arrested last September during and in the days following a Black Lives Matter protest to condemn a grand jury decision that let three Tallahassee killer cops walk free.

A large banner behind the press conference podium read: “#Drop the charges #Tally14 19,” reflecting that on September 5, militarized police arrested and charged 14 protest attendees, and in the days after, also arrested four protesters and issued a fill-in-the-blank warrant that still remains nameless. Two of the three Tallyers initially charged with felonies have since had their felonies reduced to misdemeanors. Some of the Tally19 accepted diversion offers requiring community service. Zero individuals among the Tally19 have had all their charges dropped outright, and Ben Grant still faces a felony charge.

Guest speakers Reverend Lee Johnson, Miami-based Trey John of Dignity Power, and Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Mattlow, followed by several of the Tally19, including Ben Grant, took to the mic for two urgent goals: drop the felony charges along with all the September 5 charges and defeat HB1 and SB484, companion bills that would further criminalize nearly all public assemblies while giving a free pass to reactionaries for intentionally killing protesters with their vehicles.

Speakers pointed out that activists in Florida already organize under threat of mass arrest; already experience criminal and political repression by law enforcement and the court system; and already suffer vehicle attacks by reactionary drivers who consistently enjoy total leniency from law enforcement. Speakers called out Tallahassee’s repeated leniency for drivers of vehicle attacks against Black lives matter marches, and simultaneous criminal and political repression against the Tally19 as specifically inconsistent and unjust, and more broadly as a foreboding test case for the rest of Florida.

Trish Brown, press conference emcee, stated, “We are here to demand that State Attorney Jack Campbell and Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Bogenschutz drop the felony charges against Ben Grant, my friend, my community member, and fellow Tally19er. We need all charges to be dropped against all of the Tally19. And we need the community to stand against Governor Ron DeSantis’ anti-protest bills HB1 and SB484.” Brown is a founding member of TCAC, serves as TCAC’s outreach director, ran for city commission in 2020 on a community control of police platform, and was the first arrestee of the Tally19.

In addition to hosting Tuesday’s press conference, TCAC also joined with other local organizations to call in to State Attorney Campbell and Assistant State Attorney Bogenschutz in a mass appeal to drop the felony charges against Ben Grant. A sample script published by TCAC for the call-in day reads:

“On September 5th, community members gathered to protest the unjust grand jury decision which allowed the Tallahassee PD cops who murdered Mychael Johnson, Wilbon Woodard and Tony McDade to walk free. Heavily armed police, who outnumbered protestors 3-to-1, began to brutalize, detain and arrest protestors, with some of them ending up in the hospital. I am calling to demand that State Attorney Jack Campbell DROP ALL FELONY CHARGES against Ben Grant! Protesting injustice in Tallahassee should NOT be criminalized and should NOT be met with militarized brutality from the police!”

Ben Grant is facing a felony charge of up to ten years and $10,000 in fines. His next pretrial is on February 25 and he goes to trial on March 1.

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