Tallahassee and Kenosha: A Tale of Racism, White Supremacy and Police in Two Cities

TALLAHASSEE, FL., September 1, 2020 – by Lakey Love and Delilah Pierre

Background of Racist Violence During Tallahassee Protest

On August 29th, 2020 in the early evening Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), Dream Defenders, More than a Name, and other partner organizations took to the streets in protest of police crimes in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Tallahassee, FL and nationwide.  These police crimes include the senseless murder of two black Tallahassee residents, Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade in 2020 by Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) officers and the 1996 murder of an unarmed black teenager, George “Lil Nuke” Williams, by TPD Chief Lawrence Revell.  This peaceful protest was put together by experienced local organizers and included trained safety marshalls, a medic team, and an organized de-escalation response to hostile counter-protestors and armed police.

After an hour of peaceful protesting a white man entered the crowd as an agitator after shaking hands with police.  Within minutes the man pulled out a loaded gun, aiming it directly at protestors. After detaining the gunman, TPD officers turned on the crowd and threatened “use of force” and “arrest” if individuals did not disperse. Less than 24 hours after the incident, TPD placed a statement on Facebook with a surveillance video of the incident stating that the gunman was released without arrest because he was “lawfully defending himself.”

Structural Racism and Violence in Kenosha and Tallahassee

If we look at the parallels between Tallahassee and Kenosha we start to see a pattern.

  1. Police officers who gunned down unarmed black men in both Tallahassee and in Kenosha go completely unpunished. No criminal or disciplinary charges have been filed in either case.   
  2. In Tallahassee, body camera footage of the murder of Tony McDade and Mychael Johnson was blocked by the TPD Chief of Police Lawrence Revell and the police union (Police Benevolent Association). In Kenosha, no body camera footage of the shooting of Jacob Blake’s was available, despite a 2017 decision by Kenosha city officials and the local police force to place body cameras on all officers.
  3. In the cases of Tony McDade and Jacob Blake the police union came to the rescue of the officers involved in the shootings.
  4. Tallahassee and Kenosha both experienced an armed backlash of white men aligned with Trump and a contempt for the black lives matter movement..
  5. The media rushed to condemn Black lives matter protesters and the victims of police brutality while giving sometimes even positive coverage of violent and armed white counter-protesters.

The situations parallel each other too closely to be coincidences.

Tallahassee and Kenosha have a few things in common. Both are in states that have a Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBOR).  LEOBOR creates state protections for police and correctional officers that makes it nearly impossible to get a criminal, or even disciplinary, conviction for officers for any action – including misuse of force.  Second, both reside in states where Stand Your Ground (Florida) or the Castle Doctrine (Wisconsin) exists in a criminal justice system predisposed to racist sentencing and prosecution. In the end, both Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine encourage white privilege and power in the judicial and criminal justice system and uphold the murder of black people and unarmed protesters by armed white aggressors an act of “self defense”.

Both LEOBOR and Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine uphold systems of white supremacy and white economic power that enables white domestic terrorism and criminalizes poverty, blackness, and the right to free speech and self-determination. Both laws enable and support police control over black and brown bodies.

TCAC stands in solidarity against white supremacist acts of terror and the judicial, legislative, and criminal justice systems that uphold these systems of power.  We stand against TPD and Kenosha police collaboration with white supremacist power in their collusion with armed aggressors at peaceful protests.  Regina Joseph, President of TCAC stated, “We know, if a Trump rally occurred in Tallahassee and we attempted to infiltrate their spaces, that we would face repercussions that could have been deadly.” Joseph, a long time black liberation and working class organizer of Haitian descent, argued, “We dispersed the rally (after threat of arrest and use of force) while also reiterating the importance of staying in the streets.  We are not afraid.  Even in the face of white supremacist violence, we still fight for justice for all victims of police crimes.” 

Part of TCAC’s organizing is aimed at developing a statewide coalition to repeal the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights in 2021 and gain community control of the police through the passage of a City of Tallahassee ordinance to create a freely elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).  As a collective, TCAC invites City Commissioners, County Commissioners and the Mayor to endorse CPAC as a platform and create a Civilian Police Accountability Council that:

  1. Elects its members directly by the voters, similar to the Leon County School Board, with one member from each of the police districts within Tallahassee;
  2. Restricts these elected members from receiving campaign funds from anyone outside of their district;
  3. All candidates must be free of attachment to law enforcement and Tallahassee city government and must sign a conflict of interest form stating they have no former, or current, attachment to law enforcement, law enforcement unions, the Police Benevolent Association and/or City of Tallahassee government.

Community members of TCAC have drafted an ordinance that would give this democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council the authority to:

  1. Hire and dismiss the Tallahassee Police Department Chief of Police;
  2. Write and determine TPD policy and maintain final authority over TPD policy;
  3. Have the power to compel testimony and witnesses, except where current provisions in the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights excludes it;
  4. Have the power to examine, and act, concerning all claims of police misconduct including, but not exclusive to, inappropriate use of force;
  5. Negotiate the TPD union contract;
  6. Coordinate with the Tallahassee City Commission for TPD budget oversight.

The struggle we face in the streets, City Hall, the state legislature, and in our daily lives fighting against armed and unarmed white supremacist and police terror only strengthens our resolve to move forward.  The same police department that murdered Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade allowed an armed agitator to wave a gun at a crowd and walk away. The police department that paralyzed Jacob Blake for life allowed 17 year-old Kyle Rittenhouse to gun down protestors, leaving two dead and one injured.

TCAC demands that the City Commissioners, Mayor John Dailey, and City Manager Reese Goad address us directly and: 1) remove Lawrence Revell immediately, 2) join the call to promote community control of the police by supporting a Civilian Police Accountability Council, 3) stand against the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights and the police union (Police Benevolent Association) that supports and expands LEOBOR at the legislative level,  and 4) join us in our demand to State Attorney Jack Campbell to get justice for all police crimes perpetrated by Tallahassee Police Department officers. 

Furthermore, the coalition of groups that organized the August 29th protest recognize and stand firmly against the unjust and biased narrative presented against the Black Lives Matter movement in Tallahassee and across the nation. BLM protesters are expected to be totally non-violent while counter-protesters and police are free to use guns, and other weapons, to restrict the movement in the streets. Mainstream news outlets uphold the structure of white supremacy by criminalizing and blaming black victims of police crimes while making white perpetrators of violence against protestors heroes with a legacy of “doing good”. Examples are easy to find, such as, The New York Post and NBC News focusing on a knife in Jacob Blake’s car and Fox News showing murderer and violent insurgent Kyle Rittenhouse removing graffiti. Local Tallahassee and national reporters have painted a picture of Tony McDade as a violent unhinged murderer while refusing to release the name of the man who put five bullets in his back. TCAC and our affiliates refuse to accept these narratives as true or accurate in any way. 

We will not back down and will honor the words and actions of our predecessors, the struggle of those who have fought for working class power and black liberation. Despite the fear, trauma, and suffering the attack perpetrated by the far right has sown into the Tallahassee community, TCAC knows there is no option but to continue to struggle for a system that ends the injustices of policing for good.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

It is our duty to win.

We must love and support one another.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

-Assata Shakur: Assata: An Autobiography

#FreeThemAll from LCDF

TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Tallahassee Community Action Committee, Tallahassee Dream Defenders and Tallahassee Democratic Socialists of America will host a social media action to apply pressure to Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, State Attorney Jack Campbell and Public Defender Andy Thomas to take action to protect people incarcerated at the Leon County Detention Facility from the Covid-19 pandemic.

As of August 14th, 67 people incarcerated at the Leon County Detention Facility have tested positive for Covid-19. Contemporary jail designs are not conducive to CDC guidelines recommending social distancing, mask wearing, and constant sanitization. A recent Johns Hopkins study found that incarcerated people in jails and prisons are five times as likely to contract Covid-19 and three times as likely to die from it. As of April 2020, 871 people are incarcerated in LCDF, and around 70% of those were pre-trial. Some simply can’t afford bail. We cannot allow jail sentences and pre-trial detention at the Leon County Detention Facility to become de facto death sentences.

Since March, community organizations have been demanding the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney Jack Campbell take steps to A.) reduce the number of people housed at the jail and B.) establish stringent protocols to protect those still incarcerated. While around 300 people were released in March, Jack Campbell has allowed the jail to begin filling back up again by not adjusting bail conditions, and Sheriff Walt McNeil has provided little information on what his jail is doing to prevent spread and protect the lives of people incarcerated there.

TCAC is demanding that our elected officials:

  1. Release all incarcerated people at LCDF, with priority given to people who:
    1. Are aging or immunocompromised
    2. Are eligible for bail
    3. Have 90 days or less on their sentence
  1. Set up re-entry programs for all people who are released from LCDF to support their quarantine and safe return into Leon County,
  1. While there are still people incarcerated at the jail,
    1. Continue to provide adequate, clean, and sanitized PPE masks for all incarcerated people in LCDF at all times, including in housing pods, and continue to provide PPE for staff,
    2. Provide daily temperature checks for every person who is incarcerated in LCDF, as well as for staff,
    3. Provide COVID-19 initial testing for all those incarcerated in and working at LCDF now, and continue with routine preventative testing every month,
    4. Release public weekly COVID-19 treatment/care updates on the Leon County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) website and host bi-weekly town hall events where the public and media can ask questions in response to these reports,
    5. Release a primary report in the next two weeks demonstrating health oversight of Corizon Correctional Healthcare by LCSO, the City of Tallahassee, and Leon County government.  This should include practices relating LCDF public health protocols for the following: 1) testing, 2) treatment, 3) mask distribution, 4) hand washing and disinfecting practices and regulations, 5) trash can regulations, 6) sanitization of laundry, surfaces and food trays, 7) primary access to healthcare providers, 8) daily screening and mask use protocols of staff and guards, and 9) public health training for incarcerated people and all LCDF staff.
  1. Modify bail conditions to reduce the number of people coming into the jail.

WHO:              Tallahassee Community Action Committee

Tallahassee Dream Defenders

Tallahassee Democratic Socialists of America

WHEN:            Monday, August 17th, 2020

WHERE:          Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

FB EVENT:      https://www.facebook.com/events/307907263854539/

REMOTE LEARNING ONLY in Leon County Schools

REMOTE LEARNING ONLY in Leon County Schools

COVID-19 positivity rates in Leon County continue to rise at extremely high levels and the county has already lost two school staff members, one only 19 years old. People are dying and schools have not even opened and still the Leon County School Board and Superintendent Rocky Hanna continue push for in-person brick and mortar school opening in August. Send an email to tell them that you want REMOTE LEARNING ONLY for our students, staff and teachers until we have 14 consecutive days of COVID-19 positive testing rates below 5%. It is NOT safe to have students and staff inside closed buildings with COVID19 positive rates so high in the county.

Send an email to Superintendent Rocky Hanna, Assistant Superintendent Michelle Gayle, and Leon County School Board Members demanding that they protect our kids, school staff and community by promoting online remote learning until the COVID-19 numbers are safe.

Start Writing!

Open Letter to Tallahassee City Commission in support of a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC)

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Mayor John Dailey
Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox
Commissioner Curtis Richardson
Commissioner Jeremy Matlow
Commissioner Elaine Bryant

June 16, 2020

Dear Mayor and Commissioners:

We are an alliance of organizations, faith groups, businesses, and community leaders from across Tallahassee.  As an alliance we have marched in the streets, met with you personally, held town halls, given speeches, and hosted press conferences on the issue of police violence, racial profiling, and police brutality in Tallahassee. We are fired up and angry about conversations around police accountability in Tallahassee that go nowhere.  We have engaged in too many “listening sessions” where the problem of police violence, racial profiling, and police brutality are a focus but no sustainable policy changes are made to correct the problem.

There is no denying that a problem exists.

We saw it six years ago when Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) Officer Terry Mahan tasered 61 year old Viola Young in the back.  We saw it again in 2014 and 2016 when Tallahassee Police Department was exposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Human Rights and Privacy, and USA Today for racial profiling through phone trackers called “Stingray” operations used mostly on Black Southside community members. And, we are seeing it again in the brutal murder of Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade by TPD Officers this year.

As a collective we are writing to ask you to make long-term transformational change in Tallahassee. This is a critical moment in the nation’s history. Tallahassee has a chance to emerge as a leader promoting police accountability to defend black lives, end racial profiling, and establish democratically elected communtiy control and oversight of the police.

In order to determine what is actually happening in police-civilian encounters, to be confident that police wrongdoing is not being hidden, to evaluate police department management, to accumulate the facts needed for effective reform, and to maintain democratic control over law enforcement, we need review of police behavior by an agency that is independent of TPD, and of TPD’s employer, the city manager and the city commission. We believe that a democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) can do all this and differs from the proposed “TPD Citizens Review Board” currently under review.

We are asking you to put forward a motion to create a democratically elected Tallahassee Civilian Police Accountability Council that does the following:

  • Elects its members directly by the voters, similar to the Leon County School Board, with one member from each of the police districts within Tallahassee;
  • Restricts these elected members from receiving campaign funds from anyone outside of their district;
  • All candidates must be free of attachment to law enforcement and Tallahassee city government and must sign a conflict of interest form stating they have no former, or current, attachment to law enforcement, law enforcement unions, the Police Benevolent Association and/or City of Tallahassee government.

We have drafted an ordinance that would give this democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council the authority to:

  • Hire and dismiss the Tallahassee Police Department Chief of Police;
  • Write and determine TPD policy and maintain final authority over TPD policy;
  • Have the power to compel testimony and witnesses, except where current provisions in the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights excludes it;
  • Have the power to examine, and act, concerning all claims of police misconduct including, but not exclusive to, inappropriate use of force;
  • Negotiate the TPD union contract;
  • Coordinate with the Tallahassee City Commission for TPD budget oversight.

We have reviewed the proposal that city staff has prepared for the city commission’s June 17, 2020 meeting. We find that this proposal fails to adequately address the problem or the need.   The Citizens Review Board that staff has proposed has neither the independence nor the power to do what needs to be done.

We call on the city commissioners and the mayor to adopt an ordinance that includes the elements we have described and stand-up against the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights which was put in place in 1974 to maintain Jim Crow era systems of power.  Only this way will the new entity be able to make the public, especially Tallahassee’s traditionally underserved, low-income and/or Black community members, feel confident that police misconduct will not be hidden, and guarantee that patterns of police brutality and racial profiling will be exposed.

We are pleased that Tallahassee City Commission is listening to the outpouring of concern by community members and has made clear its commitment to addressing this issue.  We ask you to complete what you have started in a way that will make sustainable change in our community and allow our city to emerge as a leader in the nation during these troubled times. We trust you will continue to make us proud of our city and of our city government.

Sincerely,

Regina Joseph, President of Tallahassee Community Action Committee
Trish Brown, Founder/President, Power Up People!
Haley Gentile, Community Member
Lauren Brenzel, Statewide Organizing Director, Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida
Delilah Pierre, Communications Director, Tallahassee Community Action Committee
Karen Woodall, Executive Director, Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Opportunity and Florida People’s Advocacy Center
Robert Lee, Member, Tallahassee Community Action Committee
Isabela Casanova, FSU Student, Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society
Isadora Spagler, Community Member
Kathryn Lane, Co-Founder, Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation
Linda Miklowitz, Chair, National Council of Jewish Women Tallahassee Action
Susan Petty, Co-owner and Chef, The Bark
Laura McTighe, The Sunday Collective and Queer Tallahassee
Sampson Reichard, Owner & Director, The Halfway Point
Lakey Love, MA, MAIS, Director LGBTQIA+ Task Force, Florida National Organization for Women
Dr. Michael Nair-Collins, Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences & Social Medicine, Florida State University College of Medicine
Food Not Bombs
Hannah Schwadron, Member, The Sunday Collective
Alexandra “Xan” C.h. Nowakowski, Ph.D, MPH, Assistant Professor, FSU College of Medicine
Buddy Austin, Food Not Bombs
Kyle Rose, Food Not Bombs
Malia Brujer, Member, The Sunday Collective
Gary Griffith, MSW Student, FSU College of Social Work
Mx. Callia Blake, Member, Queer Tallahassee
Matilda Parker, Vice Chair, Tallahassee Democratic Socialists of America
Katie Logue, Co-Owner, Tally Cat Cafe
Courtney Kendrick Co-Owner, Tally Cat Cafe
Paul M. Renfro, Assistant Professor of History, Florida State University
Elizabeth Georges, Vice President, Native Nurseries of Tallahassee
Shaw Patton, Co-owner, The Bark
Jordan W. Scott, President, Florida Future Labor Leaders
Wisnerson Benoit, Community Member
Tracey Fletcher, Member, Queer Tallahassee
William Earnest, Community Member
Ms. Christine Reilly, Humanists of Tallahassee and League of Women Voters
Leslie M. Beitsche, MD, JD, Community Member
David O. Akintonde, Regional Director, For Our Future
Barbara Devane, Vice President, Tallahassee National Organization for Women
Ivanna Pengelley, Community Member
Reo Morris, Community Member
Fiona Borger, Community Member
Sara Green, Community Member
Dr. Nicole Ennic, Associate Professor, FSU College of Medicine
Scott Pickett, Associate Professor, Florida State University
Laeticia Hollant, Community Member
Justin Tyler Hover, Community Member
Robin Callahan, Community Member
Sylvie Naar, Professor, FSU College of Medicine
Dr. Samatha Goldfarb, Community Member
Michael L, Nichols, Community Member
Angelina Sutin, Community Member
Susan Epsetin, Community Member
Carolyn R. Blue, K. Scholar Program Coordinator, FSU/CoM – Council on Diversity and Inclusion
Jeffrey Harman, Community Member
Pascal Jean Pierre, Associate Professor, Director, CNTRL, FSU College of Medicine
Dr. Brian Johnson, Clinical Research Director, Bond Community Health Center
Edwine Jean-Pierre, Community Member
Martin Wood, Librarian and Community Member for Over 16 Years
Illana Goldman, The Sunday Collective
Charissa Obeng-Nyarko, Community Member
Rebekka Sheetz, MSW, Community Member
Savannah Calleson, Community Member
Malika Parchment, Community Member
Barbara Pierre Louis, Medical Student, FSU College of Medicine
Richardson Laurent, Health Informatics and Information Management Student, FAMU
John Sheetz, Trainer, FSU College of Medicine

TCAC Guiding Document

Copy of TCAC Infographic (2)

What is TCAC (Tallahassee Community Action Committee)? 

We are a local, grassroots organization committed to fighting for peace, justice, and equality through direct action.

We recognize that we live under a capitalist system fueled by imperialism and white supremacy that upholds itself via systemic oppression. We are dedicated to fighting this system in order to improve the lives and material conditions of all who suffer underneath it. While our focus is local, our struggle is connected to that of oppressed people everywhere. 

All people have the right to food, shelter, safety, security, healthcare, education, and a healthy environment. We strive to build communities and social services that uphold these rights, with a focus on the most disadvantaged in our society.

I. Food

  • Rights: Everyone has the right to food that is fresh, healthy, and accessible
  • Barriers: Food deserts affect poor, working class people, and predominantly people of color
  • Solutions: We encourage the addition of affordable food options to food deserts, including grocery stores and community gardens; increased meal programs for people in need; increased free school meals, after-school meals, and summertime meals for children

II. Shelter

  • Rights: Everyone has the right to safe, comfortable housing that affords individuals with enough privacy and control over their space to preserve dignity. As shelter is a fundamental need necessary to our survival, it should be provided and allocated accordingly. 
  • Barriers: There is a high population of homeless, housing insecure, and transient people in Tallahassee and Leon County. There are not enough assistance services to satisfy the needs of this population. Additionally, many people live in substandard housing that is hazardous to their health. 
  • Solutions: We support initiatives to provide free housing to those in need. This is not only the right thing to do in a moral sense; it has proven to be more cost-effective for local governments than leaving people on the streets in a number of U.S. cities. We emphasize the importance of public housing over private, and emphasize the rights of tenants over developers and property managers. To this end, we support rent control and strong tenants’ unions.

III. Safety 

  • Rights: Everyone has the right to a safe community for themselves, their loved ones, and the personal belongings they need to live full and happy lives.
  • Barriers: 
    • Property crime occurs primarily because people are economically disadvantaged.
    • Hate crimes occur because of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and cultural/religious prejudices such as islamophobia and antisemitism. These things often intersect with class and economic conditions. 
    • Rape culture and domestic violence occur because of a patriarchal and misogynist culture that rewards a violent masculinity. 
  • Solutions: We fight against systems of oppression by holding people accountable, recognizing that these issues are systemic, and recognizing and addressing the role of class structure in systems of oppression. 

IV. Security

  • Rights: Everyone has the right to a community that protects their security when it is threatened.
  • Barriers: Law enforcement officers in the United States shoot and kill at least a thousand people every year. That number is gathered by watchdog groups, as these statistics are not collected by the federal government. The number killed could very well be higher; many deaths in police custody are reported as “suicides”. It is not known how many people are brutalized by the police every year, but it is known that many cities and counties throughout the country pay tens of thousands of dollars in lawsuits to victims of police violence, often while keeping the guilty officers employed. Policies like the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEBOR) protects police officers who commit these crimes and prevents them from facing consequences.
    • Police brutality affects predominantly people of color, first and foremost black people. Queer and trans people, especially trans women, are also frequently targeted by the police, especially if they are also black. Any conversations about police brutality must center around these members of our community.
    • Modern American policing grew out of slave patrols and crowd control of urban areas, namely in the context of striking or protesting working class people asking for better working conditions. Any conversations about police brutality must take this history into account.
  • Solutions: We need community control of police and a citizen oversight process independent of police control that has the power to discipline officer misconduct, up to and including dismissal. We support a Community Police Accountability Council, such as the ones that have been proposed by activists in Chicago and Jacksonville. 

V. Healthcare

  • Rights: Everyone has the right to free, accessible healthcare.
  • Barriers: At market rates, health insurance often costs more than monthly rent. Access to affordable health insurance is often tied to an individual’s job, their spouse’s job, or their parent’s job. A loss of full-time, benefited employment also means a loss of health insurance. Any medical services provided in an absence of health insurance often leaves an individual with a huge amount of medical debt. 
  • Solutions: We support publicly funded healthcare for all. We support the establishment of free clinics and community health initiatives. 
    • Women, trans people, and people of color have the right to have their pain believed by medical professionals and their needs taken seriously.
    • All people who can get pregnant have the right to a safe, legal, and accessible abortion.
    • Everyone has the right to birth control.
    • Trans people have the right to hormones and sex reassignment surgery. 

VI. Education

  • Rights: Everyone has the right to a free, quality, and accessible education, from pre-K through the post-graduate level, in a healthy and safe learning environment. 
  • Barriers: The quality of a child’s education is often decided by where their parents or caretakers can afford to live, as public schools are funded by local property taxes. How well a school does on standardized tests, which are both historically and currently classist and racist, determines whether  a school receives additional funding. Schools in low-income areas often perform poorly on standardized tests, which further reduces opportunities for students. While wealthy parents can send their children to private schools or charter schools, or can at least afford to live in an area with a “better” public school, poor, working-class parents do not have the same options. At the college level, ever-increasing tuition costs make education inaccessible.
  • Solutions: We are in favor of reducing education costs at all levels, disincentivizing charter schools, removing standardized test requirements for public school funding and admission to colleges and universities, and providing equal funding to schools via alternate revenue options at the state and federal level, especially via increased income, gains, and asset taxes for the wealthiest people in the country. 
    • Students have the right to learn history that fairly and accurately represents people of color, queer people, and women. Students have the right to learn the history of colonialism, imperialism, and systems of oppression in a way that is accurate and not whitewashed. 
    • Students have the right to comprehensive sex education that is queer and trans inclusive.

VII. Environment

  • Rights: Everyone has the right to live in an environment that promotes wellbeing and is not harmful to people’s physical and mental health.
  • Barriers: Environmental health affects people in their homes at the individual and family level, people at the community level, and people at the global level. 
    • People in poverty cannot afford to live in a healthy environment. Many low-income people are forced to live in housing with mold, pests, and other health hazards. Predatory landlords and leasing companies take advantage of a lack of legal protections for tenants, or use their position of power to discourage tenants from demanding better conditions. 
    • Environmental hazards like waste treatment plants and polluting factories are more common in low-income areas, where people can neither afford to fight nor move away from these conditions. The term environmental racism refers to how this disproportionately affects people of color. In cases such as in Flint, Michigan, the conditions themselves prevent people from leaving: those who own their homes are trapped in a mortgage and cannot sell them. 
    • The mining and burning of fossil fuels pollutes our air, water, and soil and is causing climate change that is rapidly leading us towards a global environmental catastrophe. While the main perpetrators are a small number of companies that burn the vast majority of fossil fuels, it will be poor people and people of color who will suffer the most as a result of the environmental disasters caused by climate change.
  • Solutions: Tenants need increased protections in the form of new laws, free legal counsel, and tenants’ unions. We support protests and movements against hazards such as destructive mining and polluting factories in low-income areas. Laws and sanctions designed to curb pollution and the consumption of fossil fuels by large companies are necessary measures against climate change, as any consumption on the individual level is miniscule by comparison. However, we also support “green” initiatives on the local, municipal level, especially if they are implemented with the aim of making energy more affordable and accessible. 

VIII. Social Services

  • Rights: Everyone has the right to a community in which they can move freely and easily accomplish tasks necessary for their wellbeing.
  • Barriers: The most economically disadvantaged in our community often cannot afford a car, a home computer, or an internet connection. This greatly impacts an individual’s ability to go attend school, either in person or online, apply for jobs, and get to work. Factoring in transportation time on the city bus can add hours to a simple task. 
  • Solutions: We support public services such as free and comprehensive public transportation, parks, and libraries. We support services such as municipal broadband. 

IX. Working Class Justice 

  • Rights: The rights to shelter, safety, security, healthcare, and education as outlined in this document should not depend on an individual’s ability to work. 
  • Barriers: An individual’s well-being overwhelmingly depends on their ability to work, or that of the person or people supporting them, or the availability of jobs. For those that depend on wage labor, a long period of unemployment can result in the loss of all assets, from which it is very difficult to recover. A decrease in real wages over the past several decades means that many people with full time jobs cannot afford their living expenses, and some work two or three jobs to make ends meet. This system also traps people in abusive relationships, as an increasing number of people cannot afford to live alone, whether they are working or not, and must share a living space with another person. 
  • Solutions: We support publicly funded housing, food, healthcare, and education. We are in favor of rent ceilings and a minimum wage that is a living wage. We are in favor of job assistance and placement programs for those struggling with unemployment. 
    • Unions: The decline in real wages has coincided with a decline in union membership since the 1980s. One of the causes of this was Reaganomics and continuing oppressive economic policies that break up unions, reduce job opportunities, and lower wages. We support organized labor and worker-owned businesses.

X. Legal Justice

  • Rights: The legal system should reflect the needs of the people, with a focus on the most disadvantaged in our society. Laws should be just and enforced equitably. The goals of the justice system should not be punitive, but rather should focus on rehabilitation and restorative justice. 
  • Barriers: Class, race, gender, queerness, disability and immigration status unjustly impact how people are treated by law enforcement, charged with crimes, and prosecuted in court. Prison labor is exploited by both the government and the capitalist system, in which prisoners can be forced to work, punished if they refuse, and paid well below the minimum wage. This leads to practices like school-to-prison pipelines and the criminalization of entire communities, usually economically disadvantaged black and brown communities, in order to fulfill prison quotas that benefit the capitalist class. 
    • Race: Black and brown people, especially black people, are routinely brutalized and murdered by police more than white people, and go to jail longer for the same crimes. They are also falsely charged more often than white people.
    • Class: Poverty is criminalized under the capitalist system. Someone who cannot pay a fine may be sent to jail. Someone who is arrested and cannot post bail may lose their homes and their livelihood while awaiting trial, and are pressured into taking plea deals. Many plead guilty to spend less time in jail, even if they are innocent. As a result, poverty leads to a criminal record that gives people even fewer opportunities when they are released.
    • Queerness: People who are visibly queer, especially those who are black and brown, are more likely to suffer police harassment and brutality. Trans people are usually misgendered and placed in the wrong institution: trans men are placed in women’s prisons, and trans women are placed in men’s prisons. This denies them their rights and puts them in danger. Sometimes, the “solution” to this is placing the endangered individuals in solitary confinement, which is extremely detrimental to their mental and physical health. Trans people, and in particular trans women, are often unjustly sent to jail for killing someone in self-defense. 
    • Gender: Women who kill their romantic partners in self-defense are also often unjustly sent to jail and handed long sentences. They are on average given longer sentences than men who kill their wives and girlfriends out of anger or jealousy. The way sex work is criminalized leads to the arrest and imprisonment of people, primarily women and girls, trying to escape sex trafficking. 
    • Immigration: Borders are regulated unevenly across the world. In practice, borders with physical barriers such as fences or walls and practical barriers such as checkpoints, border patrols, and prohibitively restrictive immigration processes exist to restrict access to former colonial and present imperial powers. They are designed to protect resources from the people in the countries from which these resources were stolen. Many undocumented immigrants or people who cross the border and seek refugee status are fleeing dangerous situations in countries that have only become dangerous as a result of colonization and exploitation. The United States, for instance, has a long history of interfering in and destabilizing Latin American countries, and also of treating immigrants from these countries as criminals. The way this practice is enforced depends heavily on racism.
    • Disability and Mental Illness: Disabled people and people with mental illness are overrepresented in interactions with all elements of the criminal justice system from police, courts, prisons and jails. Courts and jails frequently fail to provide adequate accommodations and health care, and disabled people frequently face isolation and abuse in prison.
  • Solutions: We support comprehensive prison reform and immigration reform. Wherever possible, we believe in rehabilitation over incarceration, such as in cases of drug abuse. The capitalist exploitation of the prison system and prison labor needs to end. We support community oversight of law enforcement (see Section IV: Security) to combat police brutality. We support stronger legal protections for women and queer people, and the decriminalization of sex work. We stand against the human rights abuses of immigrants occurring in detention centers across the country, and affirm the rights of immigrants, regardless of immigration status, to humane treatment. We call for legalization for all undocumented, an end to deportations, and an end to the militarization of the border. No human being is illegal. 

All of these struggles intersect, and there is no way to have a full view of any single issue without taking the others into account. This document exists to provide definition and clarity to the position of Tallahassee Community Action Committee on important issues impacting the working class and oppressed people on both a local and global level. We stand with people everywhere who know and understand the importance of fighting against capitalism and imperialism. 

Protest to Demand Justice for Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade

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TALLAHASSEE, FL – Saturday, June 6, 2020, Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) in conjunction with state and local activists will hold a Black Lives Matter Car Caravan Protest of the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD).

This protest joins thousands of Black Lives Matter protests around the country with a specific focus on the injustice of local police killings of Tony McDade and Mychael Johnson in Tallahassee. In particular, TCAC is protesting against the decision of the Tallahassee City Commission and Chief of Police Lawrence Revell to not meet community demands.  

The creation of a “joint Citizens Review Board to review officer-involved shootings in our community”  put forward at the City Commission and Mayor on Wednesday, June 3rd while thousands were outside of City Hall protesting, is NOT what the community wanted.  TCAC stands firmly against a  toothless “review board” that will  be handpicked from a pool of volunteers by the very City Commission and City Manager that put the racist killer cop Lawrence Revell in as Chief of Police in the first place. 

In response, we put forward following demands:

  1. We demand that the City Commission instruct the City Manager Reese Goad remove Chief Lawrence Revell from office,
  2. We demand that the City Commission establish a freely elected group of civilians (not “citizens” – as immigrants would be elected as well) who are NOT affiliated with law enforcement or city government to create a Tallahassee Civilian Police Accountability Council,
  3. We demand the Chief of Police release of the body camera footage for all three police killings in Tallahassee this year and insist that the name of the officer who murdered Tony McDade be made public,  
  4. We demand that the City Commission defund TPD and start spending money on public services for the most impoverished and most vulnerable,
  5. We demand the City Commission put public comment back in the Tallahassee City Commission meetings and begin answering the 95,000 people who sent them emails
  6. Finally, we demand the City Commission and Mayor Dailey start responding to our calls, emails and tweets and come to the streets and listen.  If the Commission would do this, they will see that we never wanted, or asked for, their toothless review board.  We want real answers. Real change.

Black Trans Lives Matter: Talking Back about Tony McDade

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by Delilah Amilcar Pierre, Head of Communications – Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC)

TALLAHASSEE, FL – In a recent article written by reporter Robbie Gaffney and published by WFSU, a member of the Mayor of Tallahassee’s LGBTQ Advisory Council, Janel Diaz stated: “We have to call a spade a spade… Tony was profiled as a black man. It is what it is. They didn’t say, you know, the police did not pull out their guns to say ‘oh that’s a trans man let’s kill him. He’s part of the LGBTQ community. Oh let’s kill him.” 

Tallahassee Community Action Committee disagrees. Here’s why:

Diaz’s statement shows a clear misunderstanding of how transphobia and anti-blackness intersect to perpetuate police violence. Whether or not the Tallahassee Police Department knew Tony McDade’s gender identity when they killed him does not dismiss how his gender identity impacted his relationship to police violence. Tony’s entire life, which he led as a black person and as a trans person, placed him at a disproportionately high level of violence from his white and cisgender peers.  Council member Diaz’s dismissal of McDade’s trans identity as the reason why he was targeted by the Tallahassee Police Department is unwarranted, groundless, and factually misleading, which plays right into the transphobia that caused the murder in the first place.

According to a recent study done by the National Center for Transgender Equality (2019), “58% of transgender people who interacted with law enforcement in the last year reported experiences of harassment, abuse or other mistreatment by the police” and that rate is much higher for trans people of color. Furthermore, to place McDade’s identity as a trans person as secondary to his identity as a black person is false and misleading. It dismantles the lived reality of police violence, systemic racism, and transphobia, and places identity categories into silos where they don’t belong.  Diaz’s misunderstanding of the lived intersection of both identities makes the reality of racist, transphobic police violence superficial and one-sided.  It undermines the lifelong, deep-rooted affects of racism, transphobia, and police violence on a single individual’s life. It minimizes the distress and pain black trans people experience because they are constantly at higher risk of police violence, hate crimes, and systemic discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, education, and public accommodations.

The statistics are real. According to a report released on June 4th, 2020 by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Black people are known to have a 20% percent higher rate of experiencing psychological distress than their white peers and Blacks exposed to violence (as Tony was) are at a even greater risk of suffering from PTSD.  According to the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute (2019),  “transgender adults have a prevalence of past-year suicide ideation that is nearly 12 times higher, and a prevalence of past-year suicide attempts that is about 18 times higher, than the US general population” due to the high rates of trauma caused by discrimination, rejection, and bullying.  Rates of mental illness, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety are also much higher for transgender people than cisgender people for the same reasons. 

Tony had to experience the daily trauma of living at the intersection of being Black and being trans his entire life.  The harsh beating he received the night before his death is depictive of this – as was the unjust treatment he experienced in the criminal justice system. To understand why Tony was in a confrontation with the police, one needs to understand all the contributing factors: bias, racism, transphobia, lack of support for people of color (POC), and a history of trauma that is perpetuated by social systems, educational systems, criminal justice systems, and law enforcement agencies in Tallahassee and nationwide. 

As a community, we respect and uplift the McDade family, especially his mother, in their grieving process. No one should have to lose a child simply because a police officer decided to murder them due to fear and profiling. However, we also realize the parents of transgender people often have conflicting ideas about the validity of their child’s identity. A transgender person’s relationship with their pronouns, and with whom they disclose, is up to them.  Including whether or not they disclose to their parents. Unfortunately, Tony’s life was cut short by police violence and we will never know how his identity process would have played out. Part of the tragedy of Tony’s murder is that he was murdered for being who he was as he was coming to terms with how to express that within the complex, and often unaccepting, social system which he lived. 

Finally, transgender people are always the sole deciders of what pronouns they use, and with whom. This situation was complicated by Tony’s untimely death. Diaz’s statement that, “That mother don’t have to say anything or appease anybody because that was her child,” utterly fails to address the real issue here. Tony McDade, especially in death, is the only one who decides who Tony McDade is. On Tony’s social media accounts, and to his chosen family, he identified as Tony. For media outlets and the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board to think that they can use his complicated relationship to his family as a deflection of their own deadnaming, misgendering, and callous lack of care for who Tony wanted to represent himself as, is wrong. 

As a collective of transgender, non-binary, queer, black, brown, cisgender, and white organizers for justice, Tallahassee Community Action Committee is shocked and disappointed by the lack of thought Mayor Dailey’s LGBTQ Advisory Board put into their statements on Tony McDade. Trans people, whether in life or death, deserve to be given the same standards of respect and dignity as everyone else. We will fight to defend this and we continue to demand #JusticeForTony because #BlackTransLivesMatter.

Justice for Mychael Johnson, Tony McDade, and all victims of TPD

In 1996 TPD Officer Lawrence Revell murdered George “Lil Nuke” Williams, an unarmed black 19-year old. Not only did Revell face no punishment but was awarded and promoted up the ranks of TPD. He was appointed in December 2019 by City Manager Reese Goad despite protests by Lil Nuke’s family and the community. The City Commission accepted Revell’s appointment.

Since Revell took office his police force has murdered 3 people.

On March 20th Mychael Johnson, an unarmed black father of four was killed by two-time killer cop TPD officer Zackri Jones. For weeks Mychael Johnson’s family and the community have been speaking out, calling-in, writing emails and protesting demanding transparency and justice. State Attorney Jack Campbell has refused to press charges against Zackri Jones and along with Lawrence Revell is refusing to release the video tape from that night.

On May 27th Tony McDade, a black trans man, was brutally gunned down in the middle of the day by unknown TPD officers. Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in Tallahassee for days on end demanding justice, while hundreds of thousands of people have petitioned and emailed local officials. Yet again Jack Campbell is refusing the press charges or release video tape, while Lawrence Revell has refused to even release the name of the killer cop and continues to keep them on staff.

As we continue to organize and protest for justice we are pushing these demands:

TALLAHASSEE POLICE DEPARTMENT:

  • Release the name of the officer(s) involved in the May 27th killing of Tony McDade.
  • Release all body cam and/ or dash cam footage related to the killings of Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade. This footage is of great interest to the public and must be immediately released.

 

TALLAHASSEE CITY COMMISSION:

  • Remove Lawrence Revell from his position as TPD Chief of Police. An unrepentant killer cop such as Revell cannot be trusted to contain police brutality in his own department, especially in cases of fatal police violence. His handling of Mychael Johnson’s murder by two-time killer cop Officer Zackri Jones demonstrates this. Remove Revell immediately and begin a new search for Chief of Police. 
  • Remove Reese Goad from his position as City Manager. Tallahassee residents already frequently call for his removal because his corruption is blatant and has been well-known for years. Most recently, his closed-door, nepotistic process to install killer cop Lawrence Revell as Chief of Police was an affront to Tallahassee’s Black working class neighborhoods that Revell terrorized through the 1990’s, and further eroded public trust in local government. Chief Revell’s opaque and insensitive handling of Mychael Johnson’s death by two-time killer cop Officer Zackri Jones affirms our community’s discomfort and anger at Reese Goad’s appointment of Revell to Chief of Police. It’s been too long coming; Goad must go!
  • Implement an all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. The police in Tallahassee should no-longer be permitted to kill and harass with impunity. We are calling for a democratic elected board free of police influence with power over TPD including the ability to investigate misconduct and punish officers.

STATE ATTORNEY:

  • Indict TPD Officer Zackri Jones as well as the officer who killed Tony McDade. History has shown us that the secret grand jury process is a ruse which only serves to keep killer cops out of court and to keep the public in the dark. Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade deserved due-process, not to be extra-judicially murdered.