APOPKA, Fla. - There was a small rally at the Unity Missionary Baptist Church Monday evening that a civil rights activist called a mobilization meeting. He will be back because he says the City of Apopka needs help.
Body camera video recently released by the city shows the moment Apopka Police say Jason Friend hit an officer. It led to the police beating Friend and using a Taser on him in November 2019. This was the first case in Apopka with which John C. Barnett became involved.
The second case was helping the family of 12-year-old Jamir Bradford, who Apopka police officers handcuffed and then released last month after accusing him of stealing a bike.
Barnett said this city has a problem.
"There’s always a problem in cities like Apopka, when I see the race is not even and when I say race, I mean the race of people. I ain’t saying that all small cities are like that, that have more whites than blacks, but they are controlled is what I’ve been seeing," said Barnett.
Barnett held a rally for justice Monday, pushing for more diversity training among officers in Apopka and for black leadership to stand up.
"You have a city that’s majority white that have their agenda in mind, and then you have black leadership not standing up, so it’s almost like we’re fighting two fights at the same time."
Apopka's mayor said the city does not have a race problem.
"Our deputy chief is Black. I think that should say almost all you need to say. I think we’re doing everything and above to meet the diversity needs of our community," said Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson.
He said when it comes to incidents involving police, "at the end of the day the buck stops with me."
Barnett said he has reached out to Mayor Nelson’s office several times to talk about Apopka’s issues with police and diversity training. The mayor said he has never received any of those calls.