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Tallahassee leaders look to rebuild relationship between protesters, law enforcement after weekend tension

Posted at 6:11 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-07 18:11:34-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A widely seen video shows protesters in Tallahassee on the ground, officers in riot gear, and chaos that the community and local leaders say they don't want to see happen again.

County and city commissioners say they're ready to address the issues between these communities and police, saying it's their job to bridge the gap.

Saturday's protest was in response to a grand jury's decision that three recent officer-involved shootings were justified.

The shootings were already points of contention between people who live in the city and police.

During Saturday's protest, 15 people were arrested downtown after police say they interfered when officers tried to give a protester a ticket for violating traffic laws.

Now, city and county commissioners are hoping to rebuild relationships with community conversations. However, protesters say they're tired of conversations without action.

"Every single time we've tried to reach out or have a conversation with TPD or LCSO, they say the same thing and they do the same thing," said Delilah Pierre with Tallahassee Community Action Committee. "I don't think there's any use to have any conversation with those organizations."

The protesters and law enforcement haven't set up a time to discuss the events together.

But we do know TCAC plans to make an official statement on Tuesday while the Chief of Police will talk about the protests Wednesday at the City Commission meeting.

"We're scared," Pierre said. "This has definitely shaken up and tossed a lot of people in our organization."

"It's unfortunate that the people got arrested," said Brian Desloge, the chairman of the County Commission. "My understanding that law enforcement said, 'Listen, we're going to follow the rules from this part on. Anything that necessitates arrests, you're going to be arrested.'"

Police say the protesters never secured a permit to be in the street, giving officers the power to ticket a protester for stopping her car in the road.

"It was pretty shocking," said Jeremy Matlow, a City commissioner. "I want to make it clear, we're not Portland, we're not Kenosha. we don't have riots in the street. What we do have are protesters who are upset. Some have been blocking traffic. We all agree we have to change that and get them on the sidewalks and they understood that."

Matlow says he now wants to know why the protesters were met with 100 officers in riot gear.

"I think based on what happened last week and what we heard backchannel from other groups, we took it very seriously," Desloge said. "We being the sheriff and police chief."

Now, both commissioners are looking ahead, ready to figure out how to get the community and law enforcement on the same page.

"That's what elected officials are for," said Matlow. "We're here to be the voice of the community and be that branch between community and staff and community and government. I understand there's a lot of tension there, some I agree with, some I don't. But we need to have a real honest conversation."

Protesters say they won't give up their fight.

"Since we don't want to be arrested again, we will be engaging in peaceful and legal protest to the best of our ability. However, we're not going to stop coming out into the streets. We're not going to stop fighting for community control of the police."

Desloge said he's meeting with the sheriff to revisit the curfew in Leon County, saying a big part of a curfew extension is if more protests are planned for the rest of the week.

TPD says there were no curfew violations over the weekend.