TAMPA – A group of protesters, activists and residents accused the Tampa Police Force of harassment and inaction while renewing their calls for the sacking of Police Chief Brian Dugan at a press conference on Friday morning in front of the town hall.
They highlighted two recent incidents involving officers taking excessive action or not taking enough action: Among those who spoke was a woman who was held at gunpoint during a traffic check on June 18 and a protester struck and injured by a van driver on June 21.
The injured protester is activist Jae Passmore, who has played a leading role in the Tampa protest movement – she rejects the term “leader” – and has criticized the lack of police response to the incident which took her to task. forced to use a wheelchair afterwards. The driver was not arrested.
The other was Joneshia Wilkerson, who filmed a police officer who she said pointed a gun at her during a traffic stop. She said her life was turned upside down when the Tampa Police Department released its own video of the incident – and, in doing so, made her personal information public.
Tampa Police said they were investigating a report that the vehicle she was driving was stolen and that she had not been arrested.
the Tampa Bay Times contacted the Tampa Police Department and Castor’s office for comment on Friday’s press conference.
A group of about two dozen protesters gathered at nearby Lykes Gaslight Park before heading to Town Hall for the press conference. Many wore masks emblazoned with the phrase “Dump Dugan” and as they walked the short distance they chanted, “When he lies, don’t let him slip; throws Dugan, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
Passmore, referring to his own ordeal on June 21, reiterated his belief that some of Dugan’s public comments during the Black Lives Matter protests – that frustrated motorists stuck in traffic due to the protests should “start to escalate. “- emboldened” the violence of white supremacist vigilantes. “
Police said they were still investigating the incident, but did not release the name of the driver or say what led to the driver’s actions that day. However, using vehicles to attack protests is an anti-protest tactic commonly discussed online by white supremacists.
Passmore also said she believed she had been targeted by police during the protest movement which has now lasted for two months. She and her 5-year-old daughter were traveling in a car stopped by officers on July 16, she said, as she and other activists drove home after planning to attend the press conference of the Mayor Jane Castor, which was then put online.
Officers knew her name without verifying her ID, Passmore said, which made her feel like they had targeted her. She said her daughter was terrified that the child was going to be shot or arrested.
A spokeswoman for the Tampa Police Department, given the date and location of the traffic stop described by Passmore, said officers did not file any reports associated with the traffic stop.
“My 5-year-old has been traumatized by the police before,” Passmore said. “And I don’t know how she’s going to recover.”
Wilkerson said she also felt the victim of police harassment from last month, when she posted a video on Instagram of an officer pointing a gun at her as she was parked in a driveway on June 18. Pinellas County. Wilkerson said she borrowed the car from a friend who was funding it, but apparently stopped paying, which may be why it was reported stolen.
Police said the officer pointed his gun at the vehicle, but not directly at the driver. The agency then released video of the camera worn on the body of an officer who filmed her being handcuffed and questioned.
But when police released it to counter Wilkerson’s own video, officials left an audio of her giving her full name, address and phone number. The personal information of a woman who was riding with Wilkerson, however, has been deleted. Neither woman was arrested.
Wilkerson, who serves in the Army Reserve, said the next day she received threats and was forced to leave her home. Since then, she said, she has been homeless, living in hotels and without a car. Tampa Police removed the video in late June.
“The Tampa Police Department has not contacted me,” Wilkerson said. “They didn’t even say they were sorry.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has called for an investigation into the police department for making Wilkerson’s information public.
Passmore said the city should take a step that some protesters have been calling for months: sack Dugan. Castor said she would not fire Dugan, who was on her staff when she was police chief.
If that’s still the case, the activist said, Castor should resign as well.
“How does she fail in her own town?” Passmore said. “It’s inexcusable.”
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Local and national coverage protests from the Tampa Bay Times
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WHAT ARE THE ARRESTED DEMONSTRATORS ACCUSED OF? About half of the charges related to unlawful assembly.
CAN YOU BE DISMISSED FOR DEMONSTRATION? In Florida, it is possible. Learn more.
DO YOU HAVE TO MANIFEST? How to protect the eyes from tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.