In a recent interview with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, emergent protest leader Emadi Okwusa kept alluding to an action that he hoped could grab Mayor Jane Castor’s attention. On Wednesday, we found out what the action was.
Social media video shows protesters plastering downtown with 5,000 red paper flyers addressed directly at Castor. The letters were taped to mailboxes, trees, walls, poles and benches in parks, on the Riverwalk and other locales.
The messages allege that Police Chief Brian Dugan and Tampa Police have been abusing, lying to and silencing the “civilians they are sworn to protect.”
“Despite their claims, they have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and mace on peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment,” the flyers read. “Nationally the police force has exhibited Discriminative policies, disregarded de-escalation and have abused their authority as well as our tax dollars to instill fear among the people.”
The letters add that protesters have lost faith in the reformation of the police system; they also demand a defunding of TPD “similar to LA and Minneapolis” (Los Angeles City Council just voted to cut up $150 million from the police budget; Minneapolis is going to dismantle its police department and replace it with another model). The letters also say that police continue to use “violent tactics against innocent civilians, fabricate stories to fuel their rhetoric, and attempt to silence a community that wants nothing more than equality.”
“We want change and we will not stop until we get it,” the flyers read.
Additional fliers list the names of Black American’s murdered as a result of police brutality and also lay out problems, their solutions and a general explanation of what it means to “defund the police.”
In recent weeks, Tampa City Council approved $952,000 to purchase more than 600 body cameras (although it remains to be seen how they will be used or if they’ll be on all the time). Next week, City Council is expected to start discussing the reformation of a police Citizen Review Board that was built to fail. Today, CL contributor Kelly Benjamin listened in on a phone call between the NAACP and ACLU, which were speaking with representatives from the Tampa Police union, and at least six other law enforcement agencies including the Hillsborough County Sheriff plus police from Tampa and Temple Terrace and Plant City.
CL reached out to Mayor Castor’s office this morning to see if she’d seen the protester flyers, but we’ve yet to hear back. Most of the flyers had been taken down by 11 a.m. Thursday morning. A spokesperson for the mayor also asked CL for Okwusa’s contact info on Tuesday, but we’ve yet to hear of a meeting between him and Castor.
See the flyers below.
Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you up to the minute news on how Coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.