Protesters and Activists Remain Hopeful While Fighting for Change in Florida

Jun 5, 2020

Protests continue across Florida this weekend, calling for justice and an end to police brutality against people of color. Over the last week, many of the protests have been mostly peaceful.

Activists across the state are demanding change after the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others.

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On the Florida Roundup, hosts Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross were joined by activists Ben Frazier, Angela Herrera, and Kristi King.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation.

MELISSA ROSS: You led a peaceful protest Saturday in Jacksonville, perhaps the biggest civil rights demonstration in the modern era in Jacksonville. You called for an independent review of police-involved shootings and the release of body cam footage around several North Florida police-involved shootings that have become quite controversial. We've heard from the Duval County sheriff about these demands. He says he's going to dialogue with activists like yourself. What's your reaction to that? 

BEN FRAZIER: Quite frankly speaking, I think it's a bunch of bunk. He's going to talk to us, he said, well, why don't they call my number? He has it. This is the kind of counterfeit talk that is causing the problems that we have. There is a lack of transparency and accountability. Here you have a sheriff telling the media if we're going to stand up with him. But the person and the organization, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, who is open up the door to an honest, open, and reasonable dialogue, and reasonable demands has not been contacted. What we're hearing is a dog and pony show, idle talk, bunk, fudge baloney.

ROSS: So you want to move from talk to action? I get it. And you're part of a national movement now, you know, that swelled across the country, even the world. And this is after decades of trying to call attention to these issues. As you see these protests rise up around America, and by the thousands too in foreign countries, does that give you hope that we may see real action on police reforms and criminal justice reform? 

FRAZIER: Yes, it does. Understand that while we are quite upset still because we don't feel like the power structure is moving to address these issues honestly and straightforwardly. Yes, our faith is still strong. We have faith and not fear. We believe that these municipalities, this city, this state, this nation, this world can change for the better. There's simply a need for us to grab the bull by the horns and address the issues that are dividing us.

ROSS: Ben, you know, we saw snipers in Jacksonville. We've seen armored vehicles on Florida streets. The police will say, look, we have to keep order. We have to disperse crowds. We are just doing our jobs. The other take on that is the people see this is an over militarization of local police forces. What's your take on that? 

FRAZIER: Well, clearly, it's just an overreaction by conservative, sometimes almost fascist law enforcement agencies. But I don't want us to get too thrown off on the reaction to, as opposed to addressing, the issues that will change things for the better. The problem we're having is that unarmed people are being killed, many of them are black. And we have a question as to how that should be investigated.

We think that the departments throught the 67 counties in Florida — sheriffs departments — should all sign a memorandum of understanding, allowing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate all police-involved shootings. We're talking about addressing the issues that will change things and make them better.

For example, Orlando has such an understanding, but you don't have it that way in Palm Beach Gardens. Like the overwhelming majority of sheriffs and police departments in Florida, 47 out of 67 local cop shops do not have this signed memorandum of understanding. We need one here in Duval County. Critics say having this outside agency investigate officer-involved shootings is a good idea. We think so, but sheriffs in only two of Florida’s top 10 most populous counties have that agreement.

Miami-Dade does. But Broward, Palm Beach, and Hillsborough counties do not. Orange County, the state's fifth-largest, does but not the rest of the state’s top ten. It's the fox guarding the henhouse. It's internal investigations, which are always questionable and controversial. We think that, that needs to be changed throughout the state of Florida.

HUDSON: Kristi, why organize this march? 

KRISTI KING: Angela and I are very young. But that doesn't really matter to us because even at such a young age, we grew up in a very predominantly minority area, and seeing how our friends and neighbors were treated — this has been a problem that we've seen since our childhood. And just within the recent events with three back-to-back-to-back killings, we’ve really just had enough at this point.

We wanted to organize this to have our voices heard at a large scale, but in a peaceful way, because we wanted to really highlight that we are not the problem. It is not black people that are a problem. We have never been the problem. It's the system that is the problem. It is society that is the problem that has made it hard for black people to just live in America. It's scary being a black person in America. You're scared, just walking. You can't go on a run. You can't just sleep in your own bed because you know you're not safe just because of the color your skin. So that's why we are doing this. We're just tired. We're tired. And we feel like it is our responsibility and our duty, as white-passing individuals of color, to be the voice and to speak up on this issue.

HUDSON: Angela, what do you hope comes out of these protests, specifically your Tuesday protests that had more than 2,000 people show up in central Orlando?

ANGELA HERRERA: We are actually making sure that moving forward, the protests are bringing attention to an issue that has been going on for years, but what we hope to get out of it is ... we must really hold people accountable. If you are showing bias, if you are constantly targeting black communities, you must be held accountable. You cannot just keep giving these officers a free pass. They must be held accountable. In the future, we're hoping to see again, electability. We're hoping that cops are getting prosecuted, making sure that justice is served, that they're not given a free pass, and we aren’t forgiving these individuals for committing atrocities, especially in black communities.

And moving forward, change is coming by voting. Making sure our youth comes out and votes. Yes we are young, and so many voung people are coming out and protesting but change happens through voting. We must vote these officials out. We must elect officials that represent our communities and have the best interests at heart. That's the next step for this phase after protesting is getting people to come out and vote.