TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren is dismissing dozens of cases against protesters in Tampa.
At a press conference Monday, Warren said his office will dismiss all 67 criminal cases against those arrested for unlawful assembly on June 2, when police say protests ramped up in Tampa and people began destroying property.
On Sunday, people marched through the streets of downtown Tampa during a “Drop the Charges” protest and march. People walked from the Hillsborough County Courthouse to Tampa Police Headquarters and back, demanding Warren drop the charges.
“In each of those 67 arrests, the evidence shows those persons arrested was peacefully protesting. There was no violence, there was no vandalism, there was no attack on a law enforcement office,” Warren said. “Therefore, this office will not be filing charges against any of those 67 individuals.”
Warren said he would be working with law enforcement to expunge the arrests from each of those person’s records.
“Prosecuting people for exercising their First Amendment rights doesn’t solve problems, it creates them by weakening the bonds that exist between law enforcement, our community and by undermining people’s faith in our system,” Warren said. “While we have no intention of prosecuting people who are peacefully protesting, we will not tolerate people looking to exploit this moment. There is no place for violence or destruction that creates a risk to citizens of our community, including law enforcement.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan released a statement in response to Warren’s decision later Monday.
“I have said from the beginning that we support the right for peaceful protesters to have their voices heard,” Dugan said. “The state attorney has decided to not prosecute the 67 people who were arrested on the night of June 2.”
In his statement, however, the police chief said the protesters who were arrested were blocking streets.
“Although I understand the difficulty in prosecuting those arrested, they were given two warnings after blocking streets. Although taking over intersections can be peaceful, it is still illegal,” Dugan said. “The Tampa Police Department will continue to work to bring our department and the community together. We remain in solidarity with those who are using their 1st Amendment right peacefully to speak on injustices.”
8 On Your Side spoke to Didier Jean-Baptiste, who was arrested June 2 for unlawful assembly. He had not heard the news until we called.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s a really good feeling. But they should have never done that in the first place,” he said.