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Tallahassee demands police accountability, justice for Calvin Riley

By Thomas Spiers

Tallahassee community members gather to demand justice for Calvin Riley. | Ben Grant/Fight Back! News

Tallahassee, FL – On Saturday, June 1, around 25 community members held a rally at Leon County Courthouse to continue to demand that the false and racist charges against Calvin Riley be dropped.

Riley was sentenced to ten days in jail and a six month probation for DUI after Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) Officer Kiersten Oliver planted evidence in Calvin’s car, as shown by body camera footage of Oliver opening a sealed bottle of liquor, emptying it on the street, and then throwing the bottle back into his car.

The speeches placed demands on the city regarding Calvin Riley’s case, specifically the overturning of the charges, the reinstatement of a powerful Civilian Police Review Board, the firing of Officer Kiersten Oliver and the condemnation of TPD’s blatant misconduct and disrespectful “investigation.” The investigation supposedly “thoroughly reviewed the incident and did not find any evidence of misconduct,” to quote TPD Chief Lawrence Revell, who himself killed a young Black man, George Williams Jr., in 1996.

The event was organized by the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) with members of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), Dissenters, and Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) also attending.

Jason Carles, speaking on behalf of Tally SDS, related the miscarriage of justice against Calvin Riley with the police repression faced by members of Tally SDS protesting their university’s ties to Israel.

Carles stated, “At our most recent action on campus, we were approached by no less than three different TPD officers threatening arrest. I asked officers several times to cite a rule that we were violating. They couldn’t come up with it. As soon as I heard about the Calvin Riley case, these instances came to mind. TPD not only loves to selectively enforce laws to specifically discriminate against people of color, they love to just make up laws in general.”

The Calvin Riley case has caused a noticeable rift in the Tallahassee city commission: while progressive commissioners such as Jeremy Matlow have voiced support for Riley on social media and at city commission meetings, Mayor John Dailey publicly attacked Matlow and protesters demanding justice, saying, “I’m getting tired of members of this board [who] criticize police action after it goes before a jury of our peers.” Riley was convicted by an all-white jury, which is not “a jury of peers” for him, a Black man.

Tito Leadon, representing the Tallahassee Community Action Committee, closed out the rally with the following words: “We need a Civilian Police Review Board with some teeth, not the powerless one we have right now. Without it, we’ll keep having cops like Kiersten Oliver roaming the streets and terrorizing our communities.”

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