Florida. First they decide to fire a civil servant of over 14 years for being transgender. Then, to add insult to injury, they arrest and manhandle a well-known LGBT rights advocate for telling people it was wrong.
On Tuesday, Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, was arrested and manhandled for handing out fliers at a hearing to determine if a city manager who had served in his position for over a decade was still fit for duty because he came out as transgender.
From the NGLTF and HRC joint press release condemning the arrest:
Smith was arrested during a heated hearing before the Largo City Commission in Florida, during which the commission voted 5-2 to begin the process of firing its 14-year city manager, Steve Stanton, because he announced his plans to transition from male to female.
The arrest occurred when Charlie Deppish of Tampa approached Smith and asked her for a flier that said only "Don't Discriminate." According to witnesses, Sgt. Butch Ward confronted Smith in the lobby and ordered her to take back the flier. When Smith asked why, Ward reportedly forced her into a side room where several officers violently shoved her to the floor and arrested her. She has been charged with resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disturbing others' assembly, a misdemeanor. Smith has been executive director of Equality Florida, the state's leading LGBT advocacy organization, since 1997 and is nationally recognized for her leadership.
I know Nadine. We met at the Equality Federation Summer Conference in Louisville in 2005. I think she's great. In the picture, you can see Lori Stone Sirtosky (big green hat) of INTRAA and John Clower (right behind Lori) former chair of Indiana Equality. Beside Lori is Nadine - she's the African-American woman to the right.
I found Nadine spunky but very charming. I can't imagine that she would have done anything to precipitate an arrest, let alone the kind of manhandling she experienced.
As the former president of Indiana Action Network, I've been in Nadine's shoes. While I've never been arrested, on more than one occasion I have seen police abuse their authority to try to quell a protest or scare off someone passing out handbills.
There is nothing illegal about passing out fliers in a city building. The fliers themselves were innocuous. She had every right to be there advocating for transgender equality and non-discrimination. When are people going to learn it's never OK to rough-up another person speaking out?