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FAMU student uses experience of injustice to inspire change

Marie Rattigan at her internship with Judge Tiffany Baker-Carper
Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-03 19:45:32-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — At 13 years old, Marie Rattigan experienced something she said changed her life forever.

Rattigan said she remembers feeling like "something was wrong" when she was arrested in 2008.

She said she was on a school bus going home when police showed up after he cousin got slapped in the face by another student.

She said when she was trying to exit the bus to go home, one of the officers asked her where she was going and then arrested her.

"13-year-old me... being placed in a police car for no complete reason," Rattigan said.

Marie was charged with Resisting Arrest without Violence.

At 13, she went in front of a judge and pled her case.

She describes her feelings as one word: fearless.

"I say fearless because I was told to take the plea deal by the judge, but I told the judge I wasn't taking the plea deal because I didn't do anything wrong," Rattigan said.

Her case was dropped months later, but the memory stuck with her.

On LinkedIn, she posted her story to be a motivation for others, but after over 100,000 likes, she started receiving comments congratulating and thanking her.

"But, the other part of my inbox was this happened to me when I was also 13. This happened to me when I was 14, and it was mostly black and brown people," Rattigan said.

Her professors at Florida A&M University also saw the post.

"There were a lot of things about Marie I didn't know," said Dr. Reginald Ellis, Rattigan's history professor.

Dr. Ellis met Marie three years ago in an African American history class.

"I really feel like she's just part of the FAMU story, about the type of students we produce," added Dr. Ellis.

She's now an intern for Judge Tiffany Baker-Carper, the youngest female and African American to be elected judge in the Second Judicial Circuit.

Marie said she wants to be able to put her words of inspiration into action with this opportunity.

"Don't let people box you in," Rattigan said. "That's something I love to say. Don't let people or a system try to box you in. Stand up for yourself, even if it means standing alone."

Marie says she plans to go to law school next and then, work in the legislature.