TAMPA, Fla. — “Do you know who Jamie is?”

As her class gets caught up in the cheering and chants while crossing in front of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court building in downtown Tampa, one young student wants to know what the hubbub is all about.

What You Need To Know

It’s about Jamie Bullock, one of several protesters arrested by Tampa police last summer during the city’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Two dozen or so supporters have gathered at the courthouse on the day Bullock is to attend a hearing regarding a motion in limine pertaining to her case.

“We’re here to support her and to tell [State Attorney] Andrew Warren and the circuit judge here to drop the charges,” says Jack Wallace, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

A motion in limine is an attempt to exclude evidence that might be seen as prejudicial from being introduced during a trial. Among the evidence the prosecution seeks to omit from Bullock’s case are photographs and video footage that her supporters claim prove the 22-year-old was “brutalized” by police officers during her arrest on July 4, 2020.

“The motion basically bars the defense form talking about a lot of things, including the constitutionality of free speech and the right to protest,” says Wallace, himself 22. “It sort of cuts off the lawyers from speaking about the police conduct that day, the context of what was happening with the Black Lives Matter protests… We basically see it as a gag rule.”

While many of the charges against BLM demonstrators were dropped in the wake of last summer’s protests, Bullock’s case continues to move through the legal process. She was arrested before Florida passed Governor Ron DeSantis’s controversial “anti-riot” law, the Combating Public Disorder Act, this past spring, but she’s charged with battery on a law enforcement officer — a serious crime — and resisting arrest without violence.

Wallace sees Bullock’s case as the State Attorney’s Office making an example of her, perhaps even bowing to pressure from police unions or other influential parties.

“He might be feeling a little heat,” he says of Warren. “He’s an elected official.”

Not so, says his office.

“The local Marxist party may have a problem with this case, but I’m confident most people in our community agree that if you put your hands on an officer, you should be held accountable,” reads a statement. “We have said since the beginning that we will continue to seek a fair and just outcome for everyone involved. Ms. Bullock has no criminal history, and on the record, we have put forth an appropriate offer of no jail time or probation, and not prosecuting the battery on a law enforcement officer felony, if she will accept responsibility through lower-level charges of a misdemeanor. She has declined that offer, which is her right, so we are now preparing to present the case to a jury.”

For those here in support of her today, though, this case is about more than Bullock. To them, this is an assault on their constitutional freedoms — exactly the perception the motion in limine being discussed today is intended to avoid.

“She’s been wrongfully arrested,” Wallace says. “This is something that is just a suppression of free speech, and a suppression of our right to protest.”