ACLU Florida condemns excessive force; urges law enforcement to refrain from harming and arresting protesters

Protests in state capital of Tallahassee. Credit: Peter T. Reinwald.

In a stern letter to sheriffs and prosecutors, The ACLU Florida wrote Thursday that law enforcement is “using excessive and unnecessary force against protesters through numerous tactics, including tear gassing, shoving, punching, shooting rubber bullets, arresting protesters and threatening arrest, and forcibly preventing videotaping.”

The civil rights organization demanded justice and called upon all Florida sheriffs and state attorneys to speak out against those actions “and send a clear signal to all Floridians that these types of police officer abuses of power will not be tolerated.”

The letter written to sheriffs and state attorneys also called upon state attorneys “to publicly announce that they will not bring charges and/or that they will drop charges against non-violent protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Micah W. Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. Credit: ACLU Kansas.

The letter was written by ACLU Florida executive director Micah W. Kubic, and came after protests in Florida and cities across the country and world following the May 25 death of George Floyd, the unarmed black man who died under Minneapolis police custody.

“The protests are happening against the backdrop of centuries of racism and unequal justice in our society,” Kubic wrote.

He added: “You can change the course of this moment and our history by breaking with harmful tactics of the past and demonstrating a new kind of leadership for the future. Now more than ever, law enforcement should be respecting the First Amendment rights of people who are protesting in the streets — not attempting to silence them with punitive measures, crowd control weapons, and blatant brutality.”

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.