Tallahassee students rally against police brutality and repression, demand community control of campus police
Tallahassee, FL – On October 22, more than 40 students and community members gathered at Integration Statue and marched to Wescott Fountain. Students for a Democratic Society held the annual protest at Florida State University in honor of the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality. The assembly gathered with the demands of community control of FSU Police Department, that State Attorney Jack Campbell drops all charges levied against the #Tally19, and permanent removal of the Francis Eppes statue.
The protest took place in the midst of recent violence towards protesters. On August 29 an assault on a Black Lives Matter protest took place with a white supremacist threatened protesters and police with a gun. The next day, State Attorney Jack Campbell announced that no charges would be levied against the racist, citing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in saying that his actions were justified as they were in self-defense.
This, among other acts of violence taken against Black Lives Matter protesters, is part of a pattern from both the municipal and state law enforcement agencies and government officials of allowing anti-racist protesters to be the target of violence and using the opportunity to declare assemblies gathered in anti-racist protests ‘unlawful’ and arresting as many attendees and leaders as possible. When local organizations involved with the Black Lives Matter movement gathered on September 5 in response to a grand jury finding the police officers who killed Mychael Johnson, Wilbon Woodard and Tony McDade justified in their use of deadly force, a mass arrest of these organizers occurred, with police outnumbering protesters three to one. Those unjustly arrested by police and charged with misdemeanors and felonies have been dubbed the Tally 19.
Among the speakers at the October 22 protest were two of the #Tally19. President of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee Regina Joseph addressed the assembly, speaking on the targeted attack on organizers by state and municipal law enforcement agencies, including Tallahassee PD and FSUPD. Having marched to Wescott Fountain, she informed the crowd about the little-known history of the spot where protesters stood.
Joseph stated, “Right here where we stand is where they hung Black people, and it is very fitting that they would put Francis Eppes’s statue, the so-called ‘founder’ of FSU, who owned 91 slaves and used money from his slave-catching militia and the Confederacy to fund one of the first police departments in the entire country, the Tallahassee Police Department. FSU is very much tied to the racist subjugation that the people are experiencing.”
Another member of the #Tally19, recent City Commission candidate Trish Brown, addressed the crowd and spoke about the need for community control of the police to combat the ongoing political repression occurring nationwide and particularly in Tallahassee.
Brown stated, “We must unite together. We must strategize, we must organize, and we must come together and take power away from the police and put it into poverty-impacted people’s hands; put it into student’s hands; put it into Black and brown people’s hands where it belongs! It belongs with the citizens and civilians and the people of our community and across the nation. The people united will never be defeated!”
“We need a CPAC; we need a Civilian Police Accountability Council. Having control over the police, like I said, and having money being put back into student’s and civilian’s hands, they won’t come after us no more!” continued Brown
This is the first time a protest has been held since COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, limiting certain gatherings to ten people, were lifted on campus. In the previous months, a protest such as this may have been shut down. Meanwhile home football games, with Doak Campbell stadium filled with tens of thousands of people, many of whom were not required to wear masks or social distance, as during the first home game, were allowed to go on. After a subsequent spike in cases on campus, FSU President John Thrasher and his wife tested positive for COVID-19.
But now that risks of COVID-19 infection are gradually lowering about six weeks after that spike in cases occurred, Students for a Democratic Society plans to continue mobilizing the campus and greater Tallahassee communities to put FSUPD under the community control of a CPAC and drop all charges against the #Tally19.
Jonce Palmer (they/them) is a Tallahassee activist.