By Anne Geggis
A Coral Springs teen survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy is taking up the cause that has riled up the nation since a video showed George Floyd dying as a policeman knelt on his neck last month.
Brandon Dasent, 19, earned a place at last September’s TEDx Talk in Sistrunk in which he discussed the difference in police response to white teens v. black teens.
Now, he’s spearheading a protest to draw attention to the “Breathe bill” as “breathe” is spelled out with the first letter of these names of unarmed African Americans who died, or were injured interacting with police: Breonna Taylor, Rodney King, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Howard Bowie, Etc.
The protest is scheduled on Friday, June 12, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.at the corner of Sample Road and University Drive.
“I want to keep the momentum going, especially in the city,” Dasent said.
He hopes the bill is enacted in Coral Springs, as well as and other cities, as similar protests and advocacy are held in Baltimore, Columbus, Ohio, New York City, and Oakland, California.
At the city level, the bill has not yet been formally proposed. If approved, it would ban chokeholds like the one that killed Eric Garner in New York City, restrict who can become a police officer, weed out racially-biased officers and make police accountable for using excessive force, Dasent said.
Next, he and his group, intend to take the movement to the Federal level, challenging the funding of police and demilitarizing police forces.
“I do take issue with the police culture of our country in general,” he said.
To keep everyone safe, though, he’s meeting with Coral Springs police about the planned protest on what city officials say is private property.
The northwest corner of that intersection is a popular spot for demonstration, regularly the site of Trump supporters waving signs. George Floyd’s murder inspired dozens to demonstrate at another protest at the same place on Tuesday.
Dasent said that he has experienced racially biased policing. While he was a senior at MSD, he believes undercover law enforcement from the Broward Sheriff’s Office pulled him over after he and his friend left the Wawa in Parkland about a year ago. The car was searched, and he was put in handcuffs momentarily.
“I felt like an animal — the way they talked to me … it was uncomfortable,” he said. “They said, ‘The boys are waiting down at the station for you.”
He was never told why he was pulled over, he said. Since no arrest was made, there is no record of such an incident.
Before the streets exploded in protest after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Dasent had been on “Conversationalist” podcasts and bonded with other participants as they discussed Arbery’s death as he jogged in a Georgia neighborhood, discriminatory policing and hate crimes.
Joshua Turner, 20, of Baltimore, another participant in the podcast, said he and Dasent have become like brothers. While the Coral Springs protest goes on, he’ll be doing the same thing in Baltimore. All the organizers in the cities will come together on July 4 for a Washington, D.C. demonstration.
Dasent said he has never felt quite like he did at a recent Miami demonstration.
“It was exhilarating, empowering — it established a whole feeling of confidence to see so many people from all works of life, ages, and races, saying my life has value as a black man,” he said.
He encourages all participants to wear masks and gloves to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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