Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Florida: Victims of police brutality in Lakeland hold press conference

By staff

Lakeland, Florida  press conference blasts police repression, demand justice.  | Staff/Fight Back! News

Winter Haven, FL – On Sunday, June 30, the voices of hundreds assembled at the Church of God the Bibleway echoed the demands for police accountability in nearby Lakeland, Florida as stories of abuses at the hands of the Lakeland Police Department were shared.

Attorney Bobby DiCello, representing the victims, moderated the press conference. Activists and victims spoke out about the abuse that Lakeland Police Department is responsible for. DiCello, on behalf of the victims, asked for a meeting between the victims and the Lakeland Chief of Police Sam Taylor, who has time and time again covered for the abuses and incompetence of his officers, as they beat, harass and invent bogus charges against African Americans in Lakeland.

The press conference included speakers from The Church of God the Bibleway, The Poor and Minority Justice Association (PMJA), Building Bridges, Black Lives Matter Grassroots, the Andrew Joseph III Foundation, and the Tampa Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (TAARPR). The assembled congregation cheered and yelled their support for the victims seeking accountability and justice.

Speaking on behalf of Building Bridges and Black Lives Matter Grassroots, Marquell Bridges summed up a large part of the problem, stating, “They kill us with impunity, because of qualified immunity,” referring to the doctrine of “qualified immunity” that shields cops from any accountability for crimes or misconduct they commit on the job.

Qualified immunity was the doctrine that another attendee at the press conference, Andrew Joseph, Jr. had to overcome to get some accountability for his 14-year-old son, Andrew Joseph III – who was killed by a driver after Hillsborough County Sheriffs illegally arrested him at the state fair and left him by the side of the interstate.

The Poor and Minority Justice Association, along with TAARPR, have been fighting with one of these victims of Lakeland PD, Antwan Glover, since his assault last December, when he was accosted, beaten, arrested and charged, for nothing more than sitting in his car in his family’s driveway. The charges against him were dropped after sustained pressure, and police incompetence, when they were faced with the reality that there was no crime they could charge Glover with.

But the joy of that victory was short lived as Lakeland PD hunted down another victim, a 16-year-old African American youth who was similarly beaten by the police for no other reason than being Black. Despite the fact that the police had to drop the charges on this boy quickly as well, he and his family joined the assembly to get justice so that he and other victims like Kieanna Garrett, Phillip Lightsey, DeAnthony Williams and others will no longer be targeted by the racist terrorists at Lakeland PD.

The Tampa Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has circulated a list of seven demands for the City of Lakeland, including:

“Establish an elected Community Commission for Community Safety and Accountability and extend the Powers of the Civilian Review Board.

Resignation of the current police chief Sammy Taylor.

Firing and charging all officers who brutalized members of the Lakeland community.

Resignation of the current Lakeland city manager Shawn Sherrouse.

Open investigation with public input into all cases of excessive police violence.

A pardon for all those falsely accused and incarcerated.

Lakeland Police must ensure all officers have working body cameras at all times.”

The press conference ended with a call from the speakers for all members of the congregation, but also the Lakeland community, to join a sustained campaign to pressure the city of Lakeland to accept these demands, and to not stop fighting until real police accountability comes to Lakeland and ends the reign of racist terror.

#WinterHavenFL #FL #InJusticeSystem #PoliceBrutality #OppressedNationalities #AfricanAmerican #NAARPR #TAARPR