The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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13-year-old With Bi Flag Arrested For Being Loud During Protest

13 year old Lillie "Rain" Johnson being arrested by Lakeland Florida police while wearing a bisexual Pride flag at an abortion rights protest on July 4.

Police in Florida arrested a 13-year-old child wearing a bisexual Pride flag during a pro-choice protest for using a bullhorn on July 4.

Officers in Lakeland, east of Tampa, charged Lillie "Rain" Johnson with a second-degree misdemeanor for violating a noise ordinance related to a newly enacted state law, according to Miami's NBC affiliate WTVJ.

A viral video on TikTok shows the girl being arrested by Lakeland police. The clip has been viewed more than 7 million times.

In the video, two police officers grab the child by the arms and escort them to a police car. One officer appears to be carrying a rainbow flag that has been confiscated. Rain's mother, Lauren Johnson, can be heard yelling in the background.

Police refused to answer questions from the crowd about why Rain was under arrest and what the officers' names were.

Attendees described the protest as peaceful.

"We had people share their stories about how overturning Roe v. Wade affected them and how they feel that the decision is wrong," Lauren said in another TikTok video that's been viewed almost 100,000 times. "They were standing up and using microphones."

As the officers became frustrated with the use of microphones and megaphones, they focused on the young girl at the front of the rally, Lauren explained.

"[My child] had a bullhorn, and she was screaming 'my body my choice,'" Johnson said in the video. "When [the officers] came around the corner, they decided that they were going to make her the target and arrest her."

Police escort her away with an LGBTQ+ Pride flag draped around her.

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Johnson attended a rally in protest of Florida's anti-abortion "trigger law." Florida's law prohibiting abortions at 15 weeks will remain in effect after the state appealed a Florida judge's decision to halt the ban on Tuesday temporarily, Florida Insider reports.

Rain's attorney, David Haas, told WTVJ that the Florida noise ordinance does not apply in her case.

"We don't think that the megaphone applies to the ordinance, and so we'll be looking into that, about whether or not it was even appropriate for the arrest," Haas said.

The officers escort a visibly upset girl to the police car in the video. Behind her, the girl's mother shouts, "Don't resist!" and "Mom's right behind you! You're okay!"

Once at the police station, the young girl was held for more than an hour and could not see her mother, according to her attorney. 

Johnson asserts that a parent was not present when Rain was questioned, violating her rights. 

Following her release from the station, the child and her mother returned to the protest. Rain received a summons to appear in court on August 9.

"Anytime a child is brought into a very adult limelight, it's difficult — but they are a strong family," Haas said. "We're confident that the outcome will be good."

After her arrest, Haas said that the young girl was doing well.

The girl's mother's post on social media vowed the family "will not be silenced" and that they still plan to attend demonstrations.

"We will be at the protest Thursday with a new bullhorn," Johnson said.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been at the forefront of political attacks on LGBTQ+ Floridians while simultaneously claiming to be a champion of freedom.

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