Mobilized soldiers might not come to Tallahassee to control protesters

Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 5:32 PM EDT
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By: Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News

June 1, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Governor announced he is dispatching hundreds of soldiers from the National Guard, but it does not appear they are headed to Tallahassee, despite several businesses suffering damage by protesters over the weekend.

Late Monday afternoon, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he was mobilizing 700 Florida National Guard soldiers to support local law enforcement efforts as protests continued across the state following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

“Florida has zero-tolerance for violence, rioting and looting. George Floyd’s murder was appalling, and the Minnesota perpetrators need to be brought to justice, but this cannot be used as a pretext for violence in our Florida communities," DeSantis said.

The move comes after several businesses along Monroe Street in downtown were damaged on Saturday night. Most of the front windows at the Monroe Park Towers had been smashed, in addition to windows broken at the J.D. Salley and Associates real estate brokerage nearby, the Capital City Bank, and the ALoft Hotel across the street. Most of the broken windows had been boarded-up by Monday.

However, the Florida National Guard Armory, located off Capital Circle, was quiet Monday night. A Florida National Guard Spokesperson told WCTV that is because the soldiers currently based there are dealing with assistance on COVID-19. It would be a different group, dispatched from either Starke, Tampa or Miramar, to help with rioters or looters, said Lt. Col. Caitlin Brown.

"These Soldiers are specially trained for law enforcement support missions, and are pre-positioned at locations across the state to provide rapid and flexible response when called upon," she told WCTV's Katie Kaplan via email.

Brown said the soldiers will help to keep the peace, but that local law enforcement would maintain the lead on their direction. Both the Tallahassee Police Department and the Leon County Sheriff's Office said they had not requested the help of the National Guard as of Monday night.

TPD appears to have created a systematic approach for handling protesters and keeping the demonstrations peaceful. A group was escorted by a brigade of officers through the streets surrounding the capitol building on Monday evening.

One protester said she believed there could be activism without destruction; however, she said she understands why some might turn to crime.

"I just believe in what Martin Luther King did. He showed love," said Clyjazia Fuller. "Love is shown through being peaceful, but when you're angry, angry as I am, I can understand where they're coming from."

Fuller said she was peacefully protesting her father's death at a Leon County Jail when she was 6-years-old.

In addition to the Florida National Guard, Gov. DeSantis said he had coordinated more than 1,300 Florida Highway Patrol Troopers. They will also support local law enforcement efforts. WCTV reached out to FHP to learn more about how it would impact the agency's local Troop, but no one was immediately available for comment.

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