Dream Defenders Protest Racist Fort Lauderdale Cops at Commission Meeting

Screenshot of Fort Lauderdale cop Alex Alvarez's video Under the Hood.
Screenshot of Fort Lauderdale cop Alex Alvarez's video Under the Hood.

Wearing T-shirts with the words “Am I Free to Speak” written across the chest, the Dream Defenders were back at Fort Lauderdale’s City Commission meeting to protest the city. It was the first time the group had been back at City Hall since one of its members was arrested at the previous meeting they had attended. The Dream Defenders are activists who often stage protests over police brutality and the private prison industry.

At a February meeting, the local affiliate showed up to protest the city passing an agenda item honoring the work of Fort Lauderdale Police at December's Winterfest Boat Parade. At the time, the group said it was upset that the police “were being awarded for their negative behavior'" at Winterfest.

At that February meeting, the Dream Defenders began to express their frustration when they learned they would not be able to speak to the commission. One member of the group grabbed a microphone and announced, “The Police Department told me they would shoot me.” He was then promptly arrested. Mayor Jack Seiler called the arrest justified.

At a February meeting, Dream Defender member Demetrius Vaughn was arrested after the group was not allowed to speak.
At a February meeting, Dream Defender member Demetrius Vaughn was arrested after the group was not allowed to speak.
Courtesy of Dream Defenders

Last night, the group was back, wearing shirts referencing that incident. Dream Defender Jasmen Rogers spoke up against the recent incident involving four former Fort Lauderdale officers who were caught sending racist text messages to one another and making a racist video.

“Fort Lauderdale is harboring a culture of men and women who think it’s humorous to kill, torture, traumatize, dehumanize, stalk, and harass black people,” Rogers said at the meeting.

Rogers and the group showed up Tuesday specifically to ask the city manager why a request by a Citizens Police Review Board to investigate the cops' behavior further was denied. The officers recently appealed their firings in an attempt to get their jobs back.

“Will you stand by your decision to not allow openly racist officers to patrol our streets, or will you cave under pressure of lawsuit?” Rogers asked the commission.

The Dream Defenders believe that the racist incident is only the tip of the iceberg of what they call “major systemic issues” with the police force.

“It is not isolated,” Rogers said in an email sent to New Times. “The lackluster investigation completed by internal affairs shows us that they are not at all seeking true justice. Everyone from the mayor on down have been asking about increasing trust between the community and the police. How about you investigate your own officers the way you would investigate your citizens?”

Tuesday’s meeting ended without incident, and Seiler told the group the city has been thorough in its investigation of the officers. 


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