Satya Stark-Bejnar

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Satya Stark-Bejnar is the wife of Regina Joseph.

"Tally19"

According to Zeke Greenwood October 26, 2020 - All spring and summer, organized groups of anti-police crimes protesters took to the streets, including the intersection in front of the historic capitol for over an hour at a time and on many occasions. Police regularly redirected traffic at least a block in every direction. Organizers would eventually announce the conclusion of street actions, at which time attendees dispersed without incident. Having spent all summer referring to these frequent street protests as “peaceful,” law enforcement agencies pivoted to making threats to crack down on “unpermitted” protesters for blocking traffic. This change by law enforcement occurred abruptly the afternoon of August 29.

Protesters marched on August 29 to the capitol and held the intersection there for an hour, observed by police who did not interfere. As a precaution against reactionary agitators, a caravan of cars made a large stationary circle around the protesters rallying at the center of the intersection. Nonetheless, police allowed a white supremist - who police confirmed was armed - entry to the clearly marked protest space. The racist initiated a fight and, when attendees defended themselves, he drew a gun and aimed it at protesters and police alike. Instead of arresting the gunman, police escorted him away, suddenly declared the protest unlawful, and demanded that attendees disperse, threatening “arrest, use of force and severe injury.” That same day police made changed their stance on the evening news, trading “peaceful” for “unpermitted” as their adjective of choice, and threatened arrest for “unpermitted” protests, especially in cases of blocked streets.

One week later, on September 5, nearly 300 officers clad in riot gear from many law enforcement agencies made good on these threats, violently attacking and shoving protesters on a sidewalk across from the historic capitol before dragging 14 people away, causing multiple injuries and sending three arrestees to the hospital.

According to Trish Brown - a longtime community activist leader and organizer, recent candidate for city commission, and one of the Tally19 - protesters hit the street to “Demonstrate peacefully in solidarity; to demand justice and police accountability for victims, families and our communities who have been impacted by brutal and fatal police force.” Brown continued, “I was out that day to bring hope, power and positive change to our poverty-impacted communities and throughout our nation.”

Two were charged that day with felonies. Satya Stark-Bejnar was charged with resisting an officer with violence and one count of felony battery on a law enforcement officer, a charge that carries ten years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Stark-Bejnar was released that night on a $1000 bond. Timothy White was arrested on a felony charge of inciting a riot, which carried ten years in prison and $10,000 in fines, and one count of resisting an officer without violence. White was released on a $500 bond.

On September 9, law enforcement tracked down two more September 5 protest attendees using body cam and social media footage, arresting them late at night and with no warning. Police forcibly pulled Ben Grant from his home without showing him a warrant or telling him what his charges were. Police snatched another September 5 protester from a parking lot while she was leaving her gym. Both were released on bond later that night after 2 a.m. Grant was charged with felony count of battery on a law enforcement officer and a misdemeanor resisting without violence. His felony charge carries ten years in prison and $10,000 in fines. The next morning, police issued three more warrants for attendees of the September 5 protest, two of whom were alerted and able to turn themselves in. Both were bonded out later that day. The final, 19th warrant remains nameless, a month and a half later.

Local organizers who were not jailed September 5 sprang into action immediately, raising funds for bail and reaching out to local attorneys, eight of whom agreed to represent September 5 arrestees pro bono. The Tallahassee Bail Fund posted bond for 11 of the people arrested, totaling more than $2000. This is in addition to their previous and ongoing decarceration work to reduce jail populations and slow the spread of COVID-19. One individual spent over $1000 of their own money to help just one arrestee bypass the use of a bondsman.

Last week, several arrestees' charges were reduced and consolidated. Tim White’s felony charge was replaced with a different, lesser charge. State Attorney Jack Campbell announced a ‘Diversion Program’ offer to Tally 19’ers charged with only misdemeanors. A condition of this program is to participate for an unspecified duration of a 12-hour long virtual, city-sponsored Race Relations Summit, including a previously non-existing breakout session on “How to Safely and Lawfully Protest.” Diversion offers and terms were issued with only nine days’ notice before the Race Relations Summit, giving arrestees insufficient time to inform and make arrangements with their students, employers, professors, etc., and to obtain a stable internet connection. Not all Tally 19’ers offered diversion have internet service at their homes, and not all Tally 19’ers even have stable housing, which makes Campbell’s ‘diversion’ patently inaccessible to some, even if they wanted to take the offer. Tally 19’ers with felony charges were excluded from the diversion offer.

Regina Joseph, Tally19’er and president of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), said, “I will not take this diversion offer while my wife [Stark-Bejnar] and my comrade [Grant] are still collectively facing decades in prison for democratically exercising their so-called First Amendment rights.”

Joseph showed Zeke Greenwood a copy of the diversion deal that was offered to her. The document, titled “Diversion Program, Deferred Prosecution Agreement” states, “For the purpose of this program, the Defendant admits his or her guilt of the offense(s) charged, and recognizes that said admission could be used as evidence against the Defendant in the event of the prosecution of the case.”[1]

Tallahassee Community Action Committee

According to Ben Grant September 23, 2020, community activists gathered in front of city hall September 19 for a protest calling for the formation of an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), and demanding that State Attorney Jack Campbell drop the charges against the #Tally19 - arrested for participating in a protest on September 5 to condemn a grand jury decision that condoned three recent police murders of civilians.

Saturday’s action was organized locally by the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) with the support of Tallahassee Dream Defenders, Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!, More Than A Name, and Florida Planned Parenthood PAC. The action aligned with a national day of protest initiated by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR) in response to escalating repression of protest in Tallahassee and elsewhere.

Giant banners that read: “Black lives matter,” “Community control of police,” “CPAC now” and “Drop the charges” offered a visually striking backdrop for, and reflected the messaging of, speakers, chant leaders and singers at the midday action.

TCAC member Satya Stark-Bejnar said on Saturday, “We need CPAC and not a toothless review board. We need community control of the police because communities are people, and people deserve a meaningful say in how they are policed!”

Speaking on the need for community control of the police, longtime community organizer and recent city commission candidate Trish Brown declared, “I’m tired of the police policing the police, because all it’s doing is killing us! I’m tired of my Black city officials and my Black religious leaders turning a blind eye to what’s going on in the Black community, which is constant racial profiling and now repression for protesting it!”

Tesia Lisbon, an organizer with More Than a Name, called for “CPAC now!” and, citing the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., implored city officials, local clergy, and people watching at home to, “Come sit at the table, come hear what we have to say, because the few are fighting for the many.”[2]

International Women’s Day, Tallahassee

Satya Stark-Bejnar March 11, 2020 Tallahassee, FL - In honor of International Women’s Day, Tallahassee residents attended a panel discussion on the origins and impacts of the socialist holiday.

Regina Joseph of the FRSO and president of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) shared a short video on the history of the day and facilitated a panel of five leaders representing over ten active local organizations.

The panelists were all people of color, ranging in age from 20 to 55: Valentina Beron, FSU student and organizer with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Veg FSU; Delilah Pierre, FSU graduate, member of Gender Odyssey, TCAC’s Outreach Coordinator, and Poet leading the Tallahassee Writers Collective; Marie Rattigan, FAMU graduate, Students for Bernie organizer, and Dream Defenders Coordinator; Katherine Draken, FSU graduate, UPS Teamster, and member of TCAC; and Paula Hill, local Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) Chapter Leader, Returning Citizen, New Black Panther, and great-grandmother.

Each panelist shared their personal and organizational history of organized resistance - local, statewide, and national, and spoke on a range of questions and ideas, including how to combat racism, sexism and other bigotries within activist spaces.

“You gotta check those homophobic and transphobic comments [that you hear] in your spaces... and study! You gotta read!” Delilah Pierre asserted.

Survivors told their stories of being assaulted on campus and SDS not only took them seriously but made it their campaign for the whole year. As Beron listed the organizations co-sponsoring to organize a march in April on the topic, Dream DefendersMarie Rattigan spoke up to add Dream Defenders to the list. That was the first of a burst of support, cooperation and solidarity to result from the International Women’s Day event. Campus organizers for Bernie Sanders’ campaign from FSU and FAMU enjoyed first contact with one another and pledged mutual support and cooperation; FRRC Chapter Leader Paula Hill assured everyone in the room, “If you’re a woman, gay, transgender, whoever you are, however you present, if you’re out with me, you’ve got protection!”; and all in attendance were invited to an upcoming public hearing on a locally researched and LGBTQIA+ composed Ordinance to Ban Conversion Therapy in Tallahassee.[3]

References