News | June 7th, 2020

FAMU Students Spearhead Tallahassee Protests

By: Calaydria Callins
FAMU Students Spearhead Tallahassee Protests

After the footage of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis gained viral traction on the internet, the conversation of police brutality against African Americans rose to prominence once again. Across the country, people took to the streets  in droves to voice their rage and sorrow. Protests for justice have now been seen in all 50 states. In Tallahassee, Fla., Chynna Carney, Ashleigh Hall and Jasmine Hudson are three FAMU students who have been mobilizing protests in the city since last Friday. 

Jasmine Hudson, a senior Psychology major and International Relations minor, explained that the protests, that started last Friday, are a call for unity and just the beginning of what is to come. 

“The protest was created to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who lost their life. Our purpose was to be the voice for them (victims of police brutality) since they no longer can speak,” Hudson said. “We are tired of the disrespect America has shown us. They claim all lives matter but refuse to show that.”

Promotional Flyer for protest on Friday, May 29.

The protest on Friday, May 29 started at The Capitol at 3 p.m. and ended at the Tallahassee Police Department around 7 p.m. This protest started with about 50 people, but once word traveled the crowd swelled to about 150 people. 

Hudson said there were protesters of all ages, races and genders. It was heartwarming for Hudson to see everyone united for the social justice movement. Hudson said, however, that the protest was the first accomplished goal of a full plan that calls for political action next. 

“The protest was to peacefully show the world we will not be silenced, but we want real change and new policies that’ll help enforce that change. We also got the attention of government officials and have already begun to ask for real change within our system,” Hudson said. 

Ashleigh Hall, a senior Broadcast Journalism student, explained how organizing the series of protests have truly impacted her life.

“This protest has not only helped me find a better way to use my voice but has helped me develop as a leader while fighting for the rights of my fellow African American brothers and sisters. I am scared but I will not be silenced,” Hall said.

“What Happened 2 Jamee Johnson?” sign at Jacksonville protest Saturday, May 30. Photo courtesy Instagram (Jamee Johnson memorial page @jay.wiick)

Saturday, May 30, a protest organized by advocacy group Jax Community Action Committee was held in Hall’s hometown Jacksonville, Fla. This protest was another rally for justice but Hall said this time was a little different. Not only did people gather for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, but also for FAMU’s very own fallen rattler Jamee Johnson. Hall said she noticed a stark difference in the response protesters received from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

“The Tallahassee Police Department was very instrumental. However, once we arrived in Jacksonville, JSO was completely opposite,” Hall said. “They bombed us with tear gas, stood in formations, chanted ‘move’, pushed protesters and even violently arrested a lot of us for protesting,” Hall said. 

Tyriq Stewart, a junior Health Science major, expressed that he felt obligated to protest in Tallahassee as the future is held in the hands of the present. 

Tyriq Stewart and friends at The Capitol. Photo courtesy Tyriq Stewart.

“I realized I wasn’t only fighting for my life, but for the future of my family. The future generations of young black kings and queens are in our hands, so it is our responsibility to step up just like our ancestors did,” Stewart said. 

Stewart expressed the varying emotions he has been going through. He believes that if things are not going to change, then it is up to his generation to continue to fight for what is right. 

“I kept asking myself ‘Why us? What did my people do?’ This is something we have to change. 400 years of physical slavery has now turned into mental slavery that keeps us oppressed in this society that wasn’t built for us. A change must come,” Stewart said.

Taylor Hemphill, a senior Political Science student, said she lives for this moment in time. Hemphill wants to see a change in this country for her community and is determined to relentlessly fight for it until she sees it.  

“I went to the protests to stand in solidarity with my black brothers and sisters to physically show Tallahassee that we will not stand for racism. The intent is to get the Tallahassee Police Department to release the body cam footage from Tony McDade’s case as well as hire an independent citizens’ review board for the police brutality investigations in Tallahassee. The intent is also to amend Marsy’s Law, which grants officers privacy after using excessive force on citizens,” Hemphill said. 

The investigation of the TPD shooting of 27-year-old Tony McDade continues. Many believe the slow call for action in McDade’s investigation is because of the erasure of trans lives from the Black Lives Matter movement. According to the Tallahassee Police Department, McDade was the suspect of a fatal stabbing, but an eyewitness report to WFSU claimed the police failed to deescalate.  According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the move to release the name of the police officer involved in McDade’s death is at odds with the local state attorney who maintains Marsy’s Law should apply to officers. 

Hemphill said aside from protest, there is a lot of groundwork that can be done to support the cause.

“People can definitely donate to those who are protesting. There are many petitions to sign. They can flood their representatives with call to action emails and boycott establishments that do not support our community,” said Hemphill said.