TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — More than a dozen demonstrators have been released from jail in Florida’s capital city, after being arrested during a protest over the exoneration of police by a grand jury in the deaths of three Black suspects in separate incidents earlier this year.
Police said protest organizers did not have permits for a Saturday afternoon march that drew dozens and that turned raucous after police clad in riot gear began arresting demonstrators near the state Capitol.
Police said they arrested 15 people, although organizers said it was actually 14, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Leon County jail records showed most were taken into custody for resisting officers and assembling unlawfully. Nearly all were released from custody after posting bond.
Groups linked to the Black Lives Matter movement called for the demonstration after a Leon County grand jury declined to issue indictments against Tallahassee police officers involved in the shooting deaths of Mychael Johnson, Tony McDade and Wilbon Woodard — all of whom were Black.
Jurors concluded the use of deadly force was justified.
More than 100 protesters took to the streets near the Capitol Saturday afternoon. They were met by a phalanx of law officers from the Tallahassee Police Department, Leon County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol, as well officers from the nearby Capitol and Florida State University.
Dozens of officers equipped with shields and battle gear formed lines outside the state Capitol. A helicopter flew overhead.
Demonstrators expressed surprise by the extraordinary police presence.
Among those arrested were leaders of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee, which for months has been organizing demonstrations as part of a national movement to bring attention to the use of deadly force by police across the country, particularly against Black people.
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For months, activists have staged rallies in Tallahassee to bring attention to police killings they say were unjustified.
While the grand jury declined to hand down indictments against the police officers, it expressed concern.
In the March shooting of Mychael Johnson, one officer, Zackri Jones, yelled, “I’m going to kill you,” before shooting him in the back of the head during a violent struggle, the Democrat reported.
It also noted that the officer who shot and killed McDade violated police department policy by not activating his body camera.
McDade died after he stabbed and killed a 21-year-old, but there were differing accounts about McDade’s confrontation with police in late May.
About a week earlier, police shot and killed Woodard, who police say was armed, after a report of an altercation in a restaurant parking lot.
Last week, Leon County put in place a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. because of ongoing civil unrest. County officials cited protests that have sometimes turned violent, including a confrontation last weekend in which a man pulled a gun on protesters.
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