Aug 24, 2021 - Politics

Prosecutors want to take police conduct off the table at Tampa BLM protesters' trial

Photo: Chandler Cullotta c/o Creative Loafing Tampa Bay

The peaceful nature of protests and acts of law enforcement against protesters might be banned from discussion in an upcoming Tampa trial for last year's Fourth of July Black Lives Matter protesters.

  • What's happening: Creative Loafing's Justin Garcia reports that State Attorney Andrew Warren’s office motioned last week to restrict what can be discussed during the proceedings.

Why it matters: Creative Loafing's reporting tells a starkly different story of the day than what prosecutors may be trying to portray at trial.

  • The outlet published videos showing, in Garcia's words, "that as the protesters marched peacefully down the highway carrying a 'Defund the Police' banner, [TPD] bicycle officers rushed into the crowd and accosted people, which police body cam footage also confirms."
  • The protesters' charges range from battery on a law enforcement officer — a third-degree felony — to misdemeanors like obstructing a roadway and resisting arrest without violence.

The motion would ban defendants and witnesses from mentioning:

  • The constitutionality of protests;
  • The "right to free speech" and public assemblies;
  • The alleged peaceful nature of the protest;
  • Law enforcement conduct, generally, in response to various protests locally and elsewhere;
  • Alleged acts of law enforcement officers as to detention, arrest, or alleged violent treatment of other protest attendees;
  • Allegations that law enforcement "brutalized" or otherwise harmed Defendants;
  • Law enforcement officers’ conduct that is unrelated to their direct interactions with the defendants;
  • The defendants' lack of criminal history.

Point of intrigue: Creative Loafing previously declined to participate in the state attorney's investigation of the protest, outlining its reasoning in an item earlier this year.

  • Ray Roa, Creative Loafing's editor-in-chef, told Axios in a statement that his publication's "goal has always been to post as many [protest photos] as we could, to give readers the most thorough glimpse into the actions of local protesters and police."
  • "We wouldn’t be interested in CL photographers testifying, but we stand by their photos as accurate depictions of what went down that day."

What’s next: Lawyers will debate the motion after it’s presented to Judge Mark D. Kiser at 9am at the Hillsborough County Courthouse.


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