Jonathan Gartrelle, 31, is a formidable force in the Black Lives Matter Movement in southern Florida. And it's this very reason that the activist, who is openly gay, and his supporters believe that the Miami Police Department has begun mass arresting peaceful protesters, including Gartrelle, who was arrested following a protest on July 20. Authorities have charged Gartrelle with strong-arm robbery and escape, both felonies, as well as misdemeanor counts of resisting an officer without violence and obstructing a public street.
The arrest occurred on the heels of a highly publicized incident during a "Cubans for Trump" counter-protest on July 18 near The Torch of Friendship in Miami, when an unidentified driver in a Black SUV struck Gartrelle as he stood in the street, sending his body flying. Surprisingly, Gartrelle escaped the incident unharmed.
Gartrelle is accused of stealing a flag from a car in the Pro-Trump caravan, which resulted in his arrest and criminal charges.
“I walked out into the street as a measure of counter-protest, but I specifically did not want anyone to walk with me because of the danger of the situation and I asked everyone to remain on the sidewalk," said Gartrelle. "When I walked into the street, I was there for less than 20 seconds, but the car that was directly in front of me sped up, and deliberately tried to hit me as opposed to going around or stopping.”
Also, as seen on video shot on the scene by WSVN, a pro-Trump supporter in a vehicle opposite of the Black SUV can be seen brandishing a gun within feet of Gartrelle.
Officer Kiara Delva, a Miami police spokesperson, said in an email to The New Times that before protesters were arrested, they were "given opportunities to retreat by relocating to the sidewalk to continue what would have been a peaceful protest." Issuing civil citations in lieu of arrest, Delva said, "would not have resolved the issue."
"Roadways, public streets, highways, etc. are not to be obstructed or blocked as it can be detrimental to those very same individuals placing themselves in harm's way while motorists attempt to commute to and from their destinations," Delva said.
According to early reports, Gartrelle told police that he did not want to press charges against the unidentified driver of the SUV, but Gartrelle tells Living Out Loud 2.0 "that was completely a lie."
"What I said to the police when they got there was I would definitely like to make a report, because who in their right mind gets hit by a car and does not want to make a report, and then has a gun waved at them and doesn’t want to make a report," said Gartrelle.
"When I went to the police to make a report, the officer said I would have to get in the back of the police car and drive down to the station, leaving the scene of the crime and the event to make the report and I said that was unacceptable.”
Gartrelle also tells Living Out Loud 2.0 that on July 20, the day he was arrested, Miami police also struck him with a police vehicle in order to apprehend him. He displayed the injuries he endured as a result of his arrest on Instagram.
“They started chasing me down the street. They had me surrounded. I could have gotten out, but they hit me with an unmarked white vehicle, which they then claimed I caused $800 worth of damages with my body when I struck the car.”
Gartrelle and his supporters believe the actions by Miami Police are simply an attempt to silence forces they deem to be a threat to the status quo.
"They (Miami PD) wrongly believe that I am the captain of this movement and that arresting me will silence it," said Gartrelle. “Their goal is to have me in jail for two weeks, get beaten up by some officers, and distract from the movement."
“Enough is enough,” said Francois Alexandre, a leader in the newly formed advocacy group Justice for Miami in a statement to The Miami Herald.
“Having the police arrest you or threaten you with decades in prison for protesting is the kind of thing petty dictators do. Miami was built by many people escaping that very kind of oppression," said Alexandre.
Alexandre is calling for prosecutors to drop the charges against Gartrelle and other protesters. A petition has been created to garner public support.
Attempting to erase the contributions of queer Black people
In a movement created by three Black women, two of which identify as queer, the voices of Black LGBTQ people and our intersectional experiences are often deemed unimportant and a threat to the freedom and liberation of the greater community (i.e. cis hetero Black folks). Many within the Black Lives Matter movement also believe that the march to freedom cannot be lead by any person who identifies as anything other than heterosexual, which completely erases the contributions by past leaders like Bayard Rustin and more contemporary figures such as DeRay Mckesson, Raquel Willis, and Gartrelle.
“For any cis-hetero normative Black person to try and say that a queer, trans or non-binary person is hijacking the movement by trying to have their stories told is repeating the very trauma that they’re seeking to escape, and it is divisive and it is ignorant and it is a tool of the White heteronormative patriarchy to separate us and you have fallen right into the trap," Gartrelle tells Living Out Loud 2.0.
We're not free until all of us are free.
Gartrelle says in addition to the petition, he is working with lawyers to get all charges against him dropped.