On March 20, 2020, Mychael Johnson was killed by Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) Officer Zackri Jones. A GoFundMe for Johnson’s family touches on the cruelty of dealing with police brutality during a pandemic: “In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Mychael’s family was forced to empty their savings to ensure proper arrangements for him. No family should have to lose their loved one due to police violence. This loss is made especially more painful in the middle of a pandemic, when an in-person goodbye gathering is not possible.”
In response to Johnson’s murder, the community mobilized to demand that State Attorney Jack Campbell indict Jones and release any video, including body camera and dashcam footage on March 20th. Law enforcement and the state attorney have cited Marcy’s Law, a state constitutional amendment, in their decision to withhold video footage and information from the public when police officers have murdered people, claiming that police officers are “victims” in these situations.
Almost two months later to the day, Wilbon C. Woodard was killed by TPD on May 19, and on May 27, two days after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Tony McDade was killed in Tallahassee outside of his apartment complex. Tony McDade was a Black trans man who had just gotten out of jail. Officers were responding to reports of a stabbing in which McDade was a suspect.
For years, the community has called for TPD Police Chief Lawrence Revell to step down and for Officer Zackri Jones to be fired since 1996, when TPD Police Chief Lawrence Revell killed a Black man named George “Lil Nuke” Williams. Officer Zackri Jones was also investigated for fatally shooting Garland Lee Wingo in 2015. Tony McDade’s death, in such close proximity to George Floyd’s, have reignited these demands and provided a national platform to discuss how Black trans people in particular are impacted by state violence and transphobia.
In response to Tony McDade’s murder, Equality Florida noted Florida’s history: “Sadly, Florida is an epicenter of anti-trans violence with 7 black transgender women having been brutally murdered over the last two years. In 2018, Florida led the nation in anti-transgender murders with 5 black transgender women having been brutally murdered in the state. Issues of misgendering by law enforcement and the media often cloud initial reports of trans related violence, disrespecting the victim, and impacting ongoing law enforcement investigations. It is important to the victim, their families, and the community that accurate information is consistently reported and the victim is treated with dignity and respect.”
Solution / Demands
The Tallahassee Community Action Committee, Dream Defenders Tallahassee and other organizations are uplifting the following demands:
- Tallahassee City Manager Reese Goad must remove the racist TPD Police Chief Revell
- An open and unbiased investigation into the brutal murders of Mychael Johnson, Wilbon C. Woodard, and Tony McDade, the arrest of all the officers involved, and the release of all body camera and dashboard footage
- The dissolving of the current TPD Citizens Advisory Board Committee and the establishment of a freely elected civilian Tallahassee Police Accountability Council
- A public response from the Mayor, the City Commission, LGBTQ+ Advisory Board
- The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People wherever we can reach them. They have set up two funds to provide free therapy sessions for Black trans people include the Nina Pop Mental Health Recovery Fund and the Tony McDade Mental Health Recovery Fund. To support these funds, you can donate to the Okra Project PayPal account, where you must note which fund you are contributing to.
- To support Mychael Johnson’s family, donate to GoFundMe: Justice for Mychael Johnson and Facebook: Fundraiser for Mychael Johnson. Also support the #JusticeForTony fundraiser on Facebook.
- On June 6, 2020, attend the event: #BlackLivesMatter Car Caravan Community Control of Police