With early voting already underway for Florida's August 18 primary election, some local activist groups are making a final push to unseat incumbent Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who has held the post for 27 years.
On Saturday at 1 p.m., Dream Defenders will host a press conference outside the Miami-Dade County Pre-Trial Detention Center, which is located directly across NW 13th Avenue from Rundle's office. Other advocacy groups including New Florida Majority, the Service Employees International Union, and local clergy will join Dream Defenders in calling on Rundle to resign.
The organizers cite Rundle's history of not charging police for on-duty killings, for declining to free inmates awaiting trial amid the pandemic, and for perpetuating cash bail for minor offenses.
Dr. Armen Henderson, director of health services for Dream Defenders, tells New Times the organizers want the public to be clear on their perspective that Rundle has been in power for too long.
"We know that Katherine Fernandez Rundle is a threat to not only public safety, but also to public health," Henderson asserts.
Henderson himself was subject to police misconduct in April of this year when Miami Police Sgt. Mario Menegazzo handcuffed him in front of his home on suspicion of illegal dumping. A subsequent internal affairs investigation cited Menegazzo for yelling at Henderson, for not wearing a mask despite the pandemic, and for failing to report the stop to dispatchers.
Henderson says he feels that cops in Miami can get away with misconduct because Rundle lets them off the hook.
"Police go around acting like cowboys because she's failed to hold them accountable. They have the top cop in their corner so they can do whatever they want," he says.
Rundle, a Democrat, has come under increasing fire lately amid protests for racial justice and police oversight, because she has not charged an officer for an on-duty killing in her 27 years in office. Members of her own party called for her to abandon her reelection campaign last month, voicing concerns about her handling of the infamous case of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill man who died in prison after guards locked him in a scalding-hot shower. The officers involved were never charged.
Rundle's opponent in the race is fellow Democrat Melba Pearson, who left Rundle's office in 2017 to become Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Although Dream Defenders has not officially endorsed Pearson, Henderson says he personally agrees with her progressive policies.
Dream Defenders has also invited families of victims of police violence to take part in the press conference, including the family of Sebastian Gregory, a Kendall teen who was shot six times by a police officer in 2012 and committed suicide in 2016.
Following the press conference, Dream Defenders and their partners will travel to polling places to inform voters about Rundle's track record.
"We can't afford to keep Kathy in office," Henderson says.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.