Tallahassee, FL – During the early evening of September 9, community members gathered for a rally in front of Tallahassee City Hall called by the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC). The event was initially planned weeks before as a protest to demand community control of the police through the establishment of a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) in Tallahassee. However, police violence against and mass arrest of protesters, known as the Tally 14, at a September 5 demonstration obliged organizers to widen their demands to include dropped charges and reparations for the arrestees.
The roughly 75 masked attendees formed a loose, single-file line as they paraded through the sidewalks in front of city hall. Medics stood by with a supply of water and Gatorade as marshals worked to keep the line moving at a steady but moderate pace. A lap was completed for each protester who had been arrested as of the September 5 event, 14 in total, with chants like “When the Tally 14 is under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” and “Drop the charges!” echoing throughout the nearby area. Signs and banners with messages including “CPAC now!” and “End police violence now!” could be seen as the line moved along.
TCAC Communications Director Delilah Pierre led the crowd along with TCAC Deputy Treasurer Lakey Love, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor, and Florida National Organization for Women (NOW) lobbyist Barbara DeVane.
Pierre began her remarks by addressing the popular conception of police, stating, “We like to be told that the police department is this objective force, that they’re here to protect us…but we know that the opposite is true.” Pierre continued, addressing Tallahassee’s summer-long string of protests against police murder and brutality, “and that’s why we came out to protest…thousands of people came out to protest for Black Lives Matter…for community control of the police.”
Pierre went on to admonish Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and the city commission, who were holding a city commission meeting concurrent with the rally which included discussion of a proposed Citizen’s Review Board, for their lack of a meaningful response to the protests. She declared, “Nothing has been done in response [to the mass-attended Tallahassee protests]. John Dailey and the city commission passed a $60 million police budget JUST NOW…so we know they don’t care…We are fighting for community control of the police. I am not going to settle for your pitiful little [Citizen’s] Review Board. Not when I had to watch Tony McDade and Mychael Johnson die on camera.”
Tony McDade and Mychael Johnson were two Black men murdered by Tallahassee Police Department officers earlier this year. Their killers, along with the killer of Wilbon Woodard, an elderly white man who was also murdered by a TPD officer this year, will walk free due to a grand jury decision that was released on September 4. This grand jury decision is what spurred the September 5 protest that resulted in a force of about 300 police officers, many clad in full riot gear and outnumbering protesters three to one, brutalizing and mass arresting peaceful protesters. Addressing the contradictions between the treatment of killer cops and protesters, Pierre called out, “Why are my friends…people I love, facing charges that could lead [to] up to 10 years in prison? When people who kill Black people, murder us in the streets in cold blood, get away with it? Why? Because we protest? Because we speak back?”
This lack of accountability for perpetrators of racist violence in Tallahassee has been consistently reflected in recent decisions by State Attorney Jack Campbell, including those related to the actions of white vigilantes. At a May 30 protest in Tallahassee to demand justice for George Floyd, Tony McDade, and other victims of police violence, white vigilante Travis Mixon drove a pickup truck directly into the crowd of protesters. Campbell decided not to press any charges against Mixon, who he claims was acting in self-defense.
At an August 29 TCAC-led event in front of the Florida Capitol, white vigilante Jon Pickett entered the peaceful crowd, instigated violence, and then brandished a handgun at protesters. Pickett was detained by police but was later released with no charges. Despite a significant outcry from the Tallahassee community calling for Pickett to be held accountable, Campbell affirmed on September 9 that Pickett will not be charged, once again identifying racist violence as self-defense.
Although the September 9 rally was centered around calls for all charges against the Tally 14 to be dropped, that number has since expanded. In the hours after the rally, TPD executed two warrants related to the September 5 protest, tracking down one protester at their home and the other as they were returning home from the gym. Due to the quick work of the Tallahassee Bail Fund Coalition, in coordination with TCAC, Tallahassee Dream Defenders, More than A Name, and other organizations, shortly thereafter both protesters had bail posted and were released. To respond to these continued acts of police terror and intimidation, an emergency virtual press conference was held by TCAC the following day, with representatives from the ACLU of Florida and Florida NOW joining the panel of speakers.
The content of that event however, which called for all charges against the now Tally 16 to be dropped, would soon be outdated as well, with the existence of three more warrants targeting peaceful protesters present on September 5 becoming known later that afternoon. As of this writing, once again due to the work of the Tallahassee Bail Fund Coalition two of those three protesters, who turned themselves in to the police, have been released. The status of the third is unknown.
The Tallahassee Community Action Committee is currently collecting a community support fund in an effort to relieve the arrested protesters of the significant legal, physical and mental health, missed wage, and other costs which they may face. The GoFundMe can be found here: tinyurl.com/tally16
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