Dear Mayor Dyer, Mayor Demings, Chief Rolón and Sheriff Mina:
I have been a resident of the City of Orlando and its surrounding areas for almost 12 years now. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I am a peaceful protester. And I am sick and tired of you and your police forces (OPD, OCSO, FHP) bullying and traumatizing the residents of this city.
While I'm aware this behavior isn't new, I am not educated enough to speak to the violence you have committed against the black community for years (but I know the voices of strong black men and women who have been trying that you have refused to listen to). However, as a social worker and therapist who previously worked in the Pine Hills, Parramore and surrounding communities, I witnessed the ripples of trauma that was inflicted by the police and lack of consistent economic support.
What I can personally speak to and demand accountability for is the police brutality that has occurred under your watch for five straight nights here in Orlando, where I peacefully protested. We are here, rightfully exercising our First Amendment rights.
The moment you sent officers out to meet us with bats, shields and gas masks YOU ALL sent a message that you were not here to listen. You met our voices with violence. They retaliated, not de-escalated.
Your officers have gassed, maced, corralled, cornered, chased and tased Orlandoans this week. Yet you stand up there and call that "professional behavior."
You went further by implementing a curfew, first under the guise of the coronavirus (which you did not feel the need to do over Memorial Day Weekend) then under the guise of protecting people – from who? Your cops are the ones breaking car windows.
Now you are perpetuating further mental trauma by blaming the people and praising their oppressors, and walking for black lives only when it makes for a nice photo opp. How dare you.
Every statement or action you've made this week has only shown you are not listening to hear but to respond. Do you hear yourselves? Do you see yourselves?
Because we do. And you can and will all be voted and appointed out – we won't forget.
This week I have seen more people than I can keep track of admit they've been wrong, that they're learning. Be one of those people. End the curfew and stop doubling down on the harm you've already caused. Only then can you start to build the trust and change you claim to desire. Only then can you show you understand that Black Lives Matter.
Someone who wants to believe in the city beautiful, Brandi Fliegelman, LCSW (via email)
I'm writing to you with regards to the recent march performed by OPD, OCSO, and their respective heads.
The same cops who "kneel in solidarity" are the ones pepper-spraying people and smashing them with their bikes. Orlando leadership has really dropped the ball on this. They're doing the same bullshit platitudes that they always do, without any actual action or reform. ...
We're the city that rallied after the horrors at Pulse, we've got a MASSIVE theater community, one of the most well-known Fringe Festivals, and we still have a PD full of thugs who chase down kids trying to lawfully get outside curfew zones.
Orlando leadership has pulled some REAL bullshit on this. They cashed in on the political capital around Pulse, and they pretend to like all the various communities; but when push comes to shove, they're just repeating rehearsed lines and not doing anything.
This is bullshit, and we should continue to keep calling it out like we have. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Don't let the narrative turn into them doing these bullshit walks, then patting themselves on the back about how open and inclusive they are, or how they're listening to the community. They aren't. We should be following Minneapolis' lead and calling for a dismantling of OPD and OCSO and rebuilding this shit from the ground up with the community at the center, not the horseshit police unions and police benevolent societies.
Thank you. Brian Panarello (via email)
#BlackoutTuesday has come and gone. We are now on like the 12th day of "protests". While there is a nobility and an importance of cause in average citizens attending protests, marches, walks, and other gatherings, STOP. Please STOP.
Whether you are racist or not, white or black, conservative or liberal, a pastor or an atheist, a student or an educator, our police will be there to protect you. While it is their duty to protect and serve, your presence at these gatherings hampers their ability to do just that. Cities across the nation face a shortage of officers needed to protect our communities. When they are forced to dedicate time and personnel to these keep order at these protests, finite law enforcement resources are diluted, diverted, and unable to uphold order elsewhere. While many congregate peacefully, savage beatings, looting, murders, arson, and vandalism occur elsewhere. Our law enforcement personnel cannot be everywhere.
Stay at home. Stay at work. Don't be a part of the problem. And by all means, don't take children to protests. Protests can turn to riots in an instant.
If you disagree, so be it. Go to the protests so you can post it on social media to prove you were there; but take a good look at the officers around you; someone, somewhere needs their service and protection.
@Kevin Paffrath (via Facebook)