Several dozen marchers gathered last night in support of 10 fellow protestors who had been arrested over the course of the past two weeks. On the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse, members of the protest group Enough Is Enough shouted and waved placards. The group wants the charges dropped.
The police have so far refused to budge, and the fates of the 10 protesters are now in the hands of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office.
The local protest movement is part of a nationwide effort to end the killing of unarmed Black men and women by police, among other social and economic justice issues.
The charges – ranging from misdemeanors to felonies – stem from an incident on June 9, when Enough Is Enough protestors rallied inside Hopdoddy Burger Bar near the West 7th corridor, dancing and chanting. Some employees of the Fort Worth location of the national burger chain even joined in, according to tweets from Star-Telegram reporter Kaley Johnson. (I was covering a protest march on the Near Southside that evening.)
Speaking outside the courthouse, two individuals who asked to remain anonymous described the charges they face.
“It’s butcher-block wood and toaster oven trays,” said one woman who is facing misdemeanor charges. “We were in there making beats. No one asked us to leave.”
Another woman who asked to go by Tabs said she is facing felony charges for being in the room that night.
“There were so many people in the restaurant at the time,” she said. Police “have selected a few people to take fault for something that we did as a collective. This is [the police’s] tactic to scare people off. When you can dismember [protests] from the inside out, they have done what they need to do. But we are still standing here.”
A Black man who also asked to not be named was preparing to march along with protesters last evening before turning himself in at the Tarrant County Corrections Center to face charges from the Hopdoddy incident. Before that, he took the mic and led protesters down Main Street with chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Murder.”
Standing outside the corrections center, the soon-to-be Tarrant County Jail inmate addressed his comrades.
“This is bullshit,” he said. “It is a felony for fighting for my people. This is my day off. I should be resting at home, not sitting in jail. Thank, y’all. I feel much safer. I just want to be free. They have been fucking with me my entire life.”
With that, large swaths of the crowd hugged him. The protesters remained outside the detention center for several minutes with fists raised in solidarity.
After returning to the courthouse, protest organizer Sarah Russell gave directions on how and where to canvas voters ahead of the July 14 vote on Fort Worth’s Crime Control and Prevention District (CCPD), which is fueled by a half-cent city tax that raises around $80 million a year for police funding beyond what the city’s general fund provides. The projected budget for the Fort Worth police department this year is $352,893,268, according to the city.
The city and police have stated that the fund has significantly reduced crime in Fort Worth. CCPD critics, including Enough Is Enough protestors, cite a lack of independent oversight and the militarization of local police forces as reasons to eliminate the fund.
I reached out the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office for a breakdown of the charges facing the protesters and will update this story once I receive a reply. A spokesperson for Hopdoddy said in an email that the restaurant chain “did not file charges following the June 9 protests at the Fort Worth location.” The burger chain is an avowed supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 1, Hopdoddy posted, “We are listening, learning, and standing in solidarity with the black community.”