Two of three men arrested in connection with Tuesday’s Cuban protest appeared in court for the first time Thursday morning.
Julian Rodriguez-Rodriguez and Maikel Vasquez-Pico were being held at no bond in accordance with Florida’s new HB 1, or “anti-riot bill” which requires anyone arrested on unlawful assembly charges to be held without bail until their first appearance.
Tampa Police arrested the two men Tuesday evening when the protest moved from Al Lopez Park onto an I-275 exit ramp.
During their first appearance Thursday, the judge found probable cause for the arrest and set their bonds.
But their family members are claiming police used too much force during the arrests.
Julian is charged with 2 counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, 1 count of resisting with violence, and 1 count of assembly obstructing streets or sidewalks. Hillsborough County Judge Catherine Catlin set his bond at $13,500 for the 4 charges.
“I am finding probable cause for all of the allegations,” said Judge Catlin.
Maikel is charged with 1 count of battery on a law enforcement officer, 1 count of resisting without violence, and 1 count of assembly obstructing streets. The judge set his bond at $4,000 for the 3 charges, then she gave a message to the two of them:
“I’m going to tell you something similar to what I told the protesters last year after Mr. Floyd’s murder. I am proud to live in a country where we’re allowed to express our opinions and we are allowed to peacefully protest, but what’s alleged in the CRA is criminal activity, not a peaceful protest,” said Judge Catlin.
The attorney representing the two men says he has yet to see bodycam footage, but that he would be looking into additional videos taken during the protest.
“I anticipate that through investigation that we’re going to find a lot, and I stress a lot of videos that may have been uploaded or that may be coming through investigation,” said Victor L. Zamora Jr. with Viza Law.
Julian’s girlfriend was at the protest, and she says she has some of those videos.
She believes police used too much force during the arrests.
“Maikel Vasquez was on the floor, they were giving the taser… We saw the electricity even coming out from the skin, and Julian was far away from them, like I would say 6 feet away, and he says ‘hey, stop, stop, stop, stop’ they didn’t stop,” said Sulayne Lastra Milanes, Julian’s girlfriend.
And she’s hoping live videos taken during the protests will help their case moving forward.
“All the police, they have the power to do whatever they want to do. We are only 2 citizens here in this country, that pretty much we are nobody compared with the police,” said Lastra Milanes.
We’re still waiting to hear when Julian and Maikel’s next court date will be. We’ll bring you additional details in this case as we get them.