Broward News

Fort Lauderdale Police Have Had Enough of Your Peaceful Protests

One thing you can say about 2016: There have been a lot of reasons to protest.

The election of Donald Trump is just the most recent. Most protests in Broward County have been in response to police harassment and brutality. Now, though, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department is using them as an excuse to spend more money on officer overtime and new equipment.

In a recent Sun-Sentinel article, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bruce Roberts blames protestors for the fact that the department spent an extra $900,000 on overtime this year. But if you ask activists (which the Sun-Sentinel didn't), they never wanted a police detail at their marches. In fact, they'd much prefer that the FLPD leave them alone.

"The Black Lives Matter Alliance is more equipped to protect the community when conducting local demonstrations," Tifanny Burks, an activist with Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, points out. "The presence of the local police force is not needed. We are having protests to protect ourselves from Fort Lauderdale police officers like Paul Kelley, who has over 30 stop-and-frisk complaints made by local citizens and has killed someone while on the clock."

That last point was apparently missed by Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley, who incorrectly suggested that the protests were a response to events elsewhere.

"It's not a common work week when we have 400 to 500 people show up on a Saturday afternoon [to protest] an incident that didn't happen in our city," he told the Sun-Sentinel.

Not only is that an utterly inane statement (it's actually very common for activists to take to the streets to show solidarity with protests that are happening elsewhere), it's just not true.

"We were also protesting local incidents of police violence," Burks says. "For example, Allen Bryant, who was killed in Fort Lauderdale in 2009 by FLPD Officer Paul Kelley, as well as Jermaine McBean, Calvon Reid, Michael Eugene Wilson, Howard Wallace Bowe, and other countless victims who lost their lives to police violence in Broward."

It's also worth noting that with a few exceptions, such as the anti-Trump rally that took place a few weeks ago, the vast majority of protests that take place in Fort Lauderdale draw a small group of dedicated activists who are often outnumbered by cops. After a while, it starts to feel like intimidation. (Prime example: having an unmarked SUV with tinted front windows tail the family of a man who was fatally shot by police officers while they attempted to carry out a peaceful protest.)

Is there a legitimate need to prevent an Orlando-style massacre, as Adderley also suggests? Yes. But look at what happened at the Trump protest in Wilton Manors Saturday. By the end of the rally, there were more police officers (some of whom had been brought in from Fort Lauderdale) than protestors. But when Michael Glass was attacked on his way home by a man who called him a "faggot," the officer he approached told him he was too busy directing traffic to help. And the cop made no apparent effort to track down Glass' attacker. It's not hard to understand why some protestors are skeptical that the cops are there to protect them.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that the protests that have taken place this year have been overwhelmingly peaceful, Fort Lauderdale spent $569,000 on upgraded police equipment "because of the increased dangers they're facing." That's frustrating news to Tifanny Burks of the Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward.

"I wish I had $569,000 to protect our communities from the police," she says. "We are traumatized by constant police violence, so we need extreme healing and resources poured into our disadvantaged communities, not into extra police protection. I could only image the possibilities if the Fort Lauderdale Police Department spent that money on de-escalation training and initiatives that could actually uplift the people of Fort Lauderdale. Now, that would be transformational."
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Antonia Farzan is a fellow at New Times. After receiving a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, she moved to South Florida to pursue her dream of seeing a manatee and meeting DJ Khaled (ideally at the same time). She was born and raised in Rhode Island and has a BA in classics from Hamilton College.