More than 250 students gathered at the state’s Capitol Thursday to protest the lack of progress in the case of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old detainee who was beaten by officials at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Boot Camp on Jan. 5. Anderson died a day later.
Organizers from the Student Coalition for Justice, an organization made up of students from Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College, met in Kleman Plaza at 11 a.m. and marched to the doors of the Capitol.
“What we are seeing is American terrorism right here in the state of Florida,” said Phillip Agnew, FAMU student body president.
Agnew was dressed in army fatigue shorts and a black T-shirt that asked whether the Anderson case would be a repeat of the infamous Emmett Till trial of 1955.
“The Anderson case is hinging on two separate issues,” said Ken Wood, a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. There is both a state and criminal investigation being conducted that involve the case, he said.
The state investigation deals with an alleged conspiracy to cover up details of Anderson’s death by Gov. Jeb Bush and State Attorney Mark Ober, the lead investigator appointed to handle the case.
The alleged conspiracy infringes on Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241, which states that it is illegal for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the U.S. Constitution.
The second deterrent in the case is a criminal investigation that lies on civil rights statute Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242. This statute states police officers, prison guards and other law enforcement officers cannot legally treat a detainee unjustly based on the detainee’s race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.
Anderson’s parents, Robert Anderson and Gina Jones, have been waiting since January for state officials to file charges against the boot camp officials allegedly responsible for killing their son, Agnew said.
The grounds for the civil suit rests on Titles 42, U.S.C., 1983 and 1984, which would allow the family to collect damages. However, the civil trial will not start until April 2007.
“The issue with this case is that the government is not showing any ethics,” said Dale Landry, third vice president for the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP and chairman for the state juvenile justice committee.
This is the second time student have marched on the Capitol in the name of justice for Martin Lee Anderson. The first march took place April 21 and ended with an open door meeting among Bush, student leaders and community figures.
At the time of the first march, Bush promised to “make things right,” Landry said. “We called for the suspension of Bay County Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tenell, (Bay County) Sheriff W. Frank McKeithen and examiner Dr. Charles Siebert, but none of our requests have been met.”
Students approached the doors of the Capitol and posted multi-colored flyers all over the windows that stated, “Justice delayed is justice denied. Once again, Bush has lied.”
The students left the flyers as a reminder that they have not forgotten about Martin Lee Anderson’s death.
County Commissioner Andrew Gillum was also in attendance at the protest. Students were “speaking for a young man who no longer had a voice,” he said. “We’re telling the attorney general and the governor that this issue will not be swept under the rug.”
Students met at 10 p.m. in the Rattler’s Den to further promote their stance. The meeting was an open discussion to receive input and support from student. “We want to create unrest in the city and justice for Anderson,” Agnew said.