Lakeland protests in support of 13-year-old arrested at abortion rights rally [PHOTOS]
By Justin Garcia
On July 7, activists rallied in Lakeland to support Lillie "Rain" Johnson, a 13-year-old who was arrested on the 4th of July during a rally for women's rights.
Dozens of protesters from across the state gathered at the Southgate Shopping Center to protest Johnson's arrest by the Lakeland Police Department (LPD). Johnson was charged with a second-degree misdemeanor after LPD accused her of violating the city's noise ordinance by using a megaphone at the protest.
In response, Women's Voices of Southwest Florida and other groups helped organize the rally held yesterday to continue the resistance to the Supreme Courts' overturning of Roe v. Wade, which strips women of bodily autonomy, and called for Johnson's charges to be dropped.
Johnson has stood by her right to protest since the arrest, and said that the arrest has only emboldened her belief in the struggle for women's rights. Her mother, Lauren Johnson told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay photographer Dave Decker that the arrest was unjust. She said that the police didn't even measure the decibel level of her daughter's megaphone and arrested Lillie "based off what a counter protester said."
She added that they are waiting more advice from legal counsel.
Agricultural Commissioner and Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Fried joined the protesters and used a megaphone, just like Johnson did, but this time the police were nowhere to be seen.
"We are not going to stop until we take every elected official who is anti-choice out of office, and we are going to continue to fight," Fried said, turning toward Johnson. "You've got the community behind you, the entire state behind you and we are not going to let you down, I promise you that."
The protesters were met by both support and anger by drivers who passed by their sign waving and chants of "abort the court!" and "justice for Lillie!" But overall, a majority of the people passing by were in support of Johnson.
Since the arrest, LPD has only issued a vague statement about the arrest.
“Since the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, we’ve had hundreds of people peacefully assemble across our City with few isolated incidents,” Lakeland Police said in a statement. “Officers are in attendance to assure a safe and secure environment for those exercising their rights while doing so in accordance with Florida state statutes and city ordinances.”
The Florida Indigenous Alliance (FIA) also showed up in support of Johnson, and spoke up against LPD's behavior.
"The officer obviously had an agenda," Sheridan Murphy of FIA said. "He's obviously should not be on the police force, because he's not enforcing the law, he's enforcing his prejudice."