Activists rally and demand that state drop charges against Tampa protester

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Around 50 protesters gathered in downtown Tampa at the Hillsborough County Courthouse yesterday to call on State Attorney Andrew Warren to drop charges against Jamie Bullock, a BLM protester arrested last year during a 4th of July march in Tampa. 

Bullock was charged with felony battery on a law enforcement officer and two misdemeanors that day. Since, she’s been offered a plea deal down to a misdemeanor, but Bullock maintains her innocence and that she was exercising her first amendment right by marching that day.

RELATED: A Tampa protester marched for Black lives last year and now faces up to 5 years in prison

Before the event began, Bullock told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that she was feeling a lot of anxiety over the weekend leading up to the rally, because her hearing dates kept being pushed back. 

When the event began, Bullock took a megaphone and spoke to the crowd about the struggles she’s had to endure since her arrest last year. She’s faced harassment from right-wingers online and in person, had trouble maintaining housing and employment—all without an official judgement on her record, just an arrest. 

“I celebrated my birthday on my boyfriend’s mom’s couch while hoping to find a decent place to live,” Bullock said. 

When she found a place to live, she was forced to pay double her security deposit for, “a crime I did not commit,” she added.

A hearing was scheduled for Monday where the state’s silencing Motion in Limine was set to be argued. The motion seeks to limit any talk of free speech, the First Amendment, police behavior at protests or Bullock’s lack of criminal history. Last week, the hearing date was pushed back to Sept. 28. 

In an email, Grayson Kamm, Chief Communication Officer for the SAO, said the hearing date change was nothing unusual or strategic.

“It’s just housekeeping—both sides are still interviewing witnesses, so we want to make sure we all have the whole picture before we move forward.” Kamm says that a Motion in Limine before a court date is also common. CL asked if the context of the motion is common, but has not heard back yet and will update this post if there is a response.

Public support had been growing for Bullock leading up to the hearing, with news of her hearing date spreading on social media, and a support rally was planned. When the hearing date was changed, a rally to drop the charges was organized instead.

Through therapy provided by Black in Tampa, Bullock was given a critical assessment and diagnosed with PTSD. She said that at times, she’s considered suicide.

“I don’t want to be here,” Bullock said. “It shouldn’t be necessary for any of us to be here. But we have been so easily silenced, we must fight for the right to be heard. My voice deserves to be heard.”

RELATED: 'Try to get charges on somebody if you can': Video shows Tampa police targeting BLM protesters

When she finished speaking, her supporters embraced her as she headed back into the crowd, and others stepped up to call on the charges to be dropped. 

Bullocks close friend Tay, along with representatives from the Florida Indigenous Alliance (FIA), the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Students for a Democratic Society, Sex Worker Solidarity Network, Tampa Bay Community Action Committee and Freedom Road Socialist Organization all showed up to call on SAO13 to drop the charges now. 

Sheridan Murphy from FIA compared the state’s Motion in Limine to other motions used to silence and send Indigenous and Black freedom fighters to jail throughout American history. 

RELATED: In Tampa protester trial, judge delays decision on state’s motion to ban discussion of free speech

After the final speaker, the crowd went on a peaceful march around Joe Chillura Courthouse Square, chanting “Andrew Warren, drop the charges,” and “Protesting is not a crime, drop the charges now,” among other chants. 

After circling the park, the crowd stopped to express their love and support for Bullock and stood for a moment of silence.

As people dispersed, organizers of the event called for attendees to show up on Sept. 28 at 1:30 p.m. to attend the new date for the Motion in Limine hearing. 

CL has written several stories about the case and found through video footage disturbing evidence showing police plowing into the crowd of protesters where Jamie was that day. A TPD officer said, “Try to get charges on somebody if you can,” just before Bullock was arrested, among other findings.

Kamm says other protests in 2020 were peaceful, but claims that this protest wasn't once the police engaged. Kamm says that based on evidence the SAO’s office has seen, there’s reason enough for them to move forward with the case, I’m confident most people in our community agree that if you put your hands on an officer or throw an object at them, you should be held accountable.”—Justin Garcia

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09/13/2021 | Photos by Dave Decker