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Tampa: The Andrew Joseph Memorial Weekend

By staff

Andrew Joseph commemorated in Tampa, FL.

Tampa, FL – The Tampa community, Black Lives Matter activists, and impacted families from across the country gathered in Tampa for the Andrew Joseph Memorial Weekend. The family-hosted event took place from Friday, February 17 to February 19. The weekend commemorates the ninth anniversary of his death with a vigil, a workshop to promote youth leadership, a fundraiser and a church service.

Andrew Joseph was a 14-year-old boy who was left by the side of the road after being unjustly ejected from the Florida State Fair by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on what was known as “student day,” where children were allowed to get in the fair. Joseph was arrested by Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, photographed, his parents were not notified, and he was killed crossing the interstate, after being left there far from where he entered the fair.

Friday, February 17

Speakers talked about Andrew Joseph, the importance of persistence in the struggle for police accountability, and real steps that can be taken to hold the cops accountable when they commit crimes, such as ending qualified immunity.

“The work that we are doing is inspiring others locally, it is inspiring others nationally, to continue and to commit ourselves to fight against police brutality and struggle for true police accountability,” said Gareth Dawkins, from Tampa Bay Community Action Committee

After the speeches, vigil attendees crossed the road to stand on an overpass overlooking Interstate 4, the highway where Andrew was killed, and where a banner commemorating him was put up.

This weekend comes on the heels of a victory for the Joseph family and all advocates for police accountability. In September of 2022, a jury awarded $15 million in a wrongful death suit the Josephs brought against the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. But, as the Josephs, Andrew and Deanna, both stated, the fight did not end for them there – they are fighting to end qualified immunity – the policy that protected their son’s killers. In the words of Andrew Joseph II, his father, so that, “no family ever has to be out here like this again.”

Qualified immunity is the legal doctrine from the 1960s and 70s, which exempts police from lawsuits and other accountability, unless absurdly high standards are met. This doctrine is used most often to protect cops when they kill African Americans, and the fact that it came on the heels of the civil rights movement was no accident, but a deliberate attack.

Saturday, February 18

The second day of the memorial began with a workshop teaching young people their rights when interacting with police. Opening with a somber video of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph detailing the night that they lost their son. Followed by a powerful speech by Mrs. Joseph, highlighting the need for young people to know their rights and keep themselves safe.

Around 15 young leaders ranging from eight to 16 years old were in attendance and participating in exercises to show how to keep themselves safe when questioned by a cop. The workshop concluded with Assata’s chant and a chorus of voices shouting, “We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

Sunday, February 19

The weekend concluded with a breakfast and fellowship at Victory AME church, with focus on how the struggle and fight for freedom “didn’t end with the book of exodus” but will be won because of fighters like Deanna Joseph, the family of Emmet Till, Michael Brown Sr. and Andrew Joseph Jr. who fight day in and out to make sure the terror that happened to their family doesn’t happen to another.

Andrew Joseph Jr. closed the weekend with powerful words from the pulpit, “They’re afraid of these little kids, because they’re the next generation. The last generation that has to deal with this. So we are planting seeds for tomorrow. So it’ll be on earth, as it is in heaven. Where our people will no longer have to deal with this.”

#TampaFL #PoliceBrutality #BlackLivesMatter