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  • Writer's pictureMikayla Dukes

Punitive Measures for Protestors

June 17, 2020, Charleston, SC, United States: Black Lives Matter protesters hang signs on the massive John Calhoun statue in Marion Square on the 5th anniversary of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church June 17, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Richard Ellis/Richard Ellis/ZUMA Press/Newscom

The U.S. commonly prides itself on various Constitutionally-protected freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition the government, the list goes on. Many of these, however, are often put to the test in moments of civil unrest.

In May of 2020, an activist by the name of Brittany Martin attended a demonstration in Sumter, South Carolina, where she joined others in the name of racial justice, protesting police brutality and the unfair treatment of Black and Brown people within the legal system.

Martin had just moved to South Carolina earlier that spring. According to her sister, she was "ready to go and protest" following the brutal police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

AP writes that she likely also had a loved one in mind, in 2016 her brother-in-law was fatally shot 19 times by Sumter police when they alleged he fired a gun after a chase in a stolen car.

While participating in demonstrations in Sumter, Martin found herself in an emotionally-charged confrontation with police officers. Days earlier, police donned riot gear and threatened to deploy tear gas against protestors to disperse the crowds.

"I'm ready to die for the Black"

Face-to-face with officers from the same department that murdered her brother-in-law, she is reported as having said, "Some of us gon' be hurting. And some of y'all gon' be hurting," and "We ready to die for this. We tired of it. You better be ready to die for the blue. I'm ready to die for the Black."

Even though she did not physically attack any officers, she was arrested on June 4th and charged with five counts of threatening the life of a public official and one count of instigating, aiding, or participating in a riot.

She was later indicted on a "breach of peace, high and aggravated" charge.

At trial the jury found her guilty of "breaching the peace", a charge usually disposed of by a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. The prosecutors in this case, however, filed it as a "high and aggravated crime" and she was sentenced to four years in prison.

One can't help but to acknowledge the stark difference in how Martin was sentenced, relative to similar or more deadly circumstances.

Meet Audrey Southard, the Florida-native, who found herself at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. While protesting the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Supported by fellow demonstrators, Southard also had tense interactions with police officers.

Court documents recall her saying, "You ready, you ready. ... There’s a hundred thousand of us, what’s it going to be? ... Last friend, last bullet. What’s it going to be?”

As a vocal coach and piano teacher, Tampa Bay Times describes her as one who sang "like an angel".

Southard could also be heard yelling, “tell f--king Pelosi we’re coming for her! F--king traitorous c--ts, we’re coming! We’re coming for all of you!"

Court documents included a screenshot taken from officer-worn body camera footage of Audrey South-Rumsey allegedly pushing a U.S. Capitol Police sergeant with a flagpole. (FBI) (FBI)

In an effort to progress through the Capitol, Southard grabbed a flagpole and pushed it to an officer's chest. She pushed further, the officer fell through a set of doors and struck his head on a marble statue.

Clashes similar to Southard's that day--between protestors and police officers--eventually turned deadly, killing five people.

In a federal court hearing, U.S. Judge Magistrate Anthony Porcelli allowed for her release on a $50,000 signature bond with travel restricted to the Middle District of Florida while the case is pending.

The common thread between these cases lie in their shared principle of demonstrating to amplify to their beliefs. It's worth asking why the two cases, one violent and one non-violent, were so treated differently within the legal system.

The age difference? Their racial difference? The setting? Feel free to share your thoughts.

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Oct 10, 2022

This is America.


Oct 10, 2022

Great article. Points out an obvious fact. There are two justices in America: one white, the other , black ( in this letter, black takes into consideration the other minorities such as the brown and red). Two ethnicities, the black and the white are charged with the same offense. The former gets run over and crushed by the wheels of justice. The latter is given a slap on the wrist and told to go and ain no more. In the 1990's blacks were demonized for using crack cocaine and given lengthy prison terms; a well known saying by a fool reverberated amongst white America: "Why can't they just say no ( to drugs) ?" In this 21st century, whites ar…


Lord Antwane
Lord Antwane
Oct 09, 2022

I would like to know the economic status of both of these ladies. Were both able to afford proper represensation or was a public defender involved. I agree with most that justice or lack thereof, commonly breaks down along racial lines, but also socioeconomic divisions are at play in the different outcomes of these protestors in court.


Oct 08, 2022

There is no such thing as justice and racial equality in America. One set of rules for Minorities and one set of rules for what is perceived as the dominant race. Truly all men in America, was not created equal. Wonderful article and proof positive, that true justice does not exist.


Jack Groshek
Jack Groshek
Oct 08, 2022

Great article! It is ironic how black protesters have been treated differently than January 6th rioters.

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