On Feb. 6, 100 demonstrators marched on the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa in commemoration of Andrew Joseph III. Fifty of Andrew’s friends, teachers and relatives joined seven other families of color seeking justice for their deceased children, along with Bay Area Activists Coalition and ANSWER Coalition.


Andrew, a 14-year-old Honor Roll student at St. Stephen Catholic School and standout player for the Brandon Ravens youth football team, went to the Florida State Fair with his friends one year ago. After a commotion erupted at the Fair, Hillsborough County deputies racially profiled Andrew and several of his friends, illegally detained them and strip-searched them for gang tattoos.

Without notifying his parents, deputies ejected Andrew from the Fair at night on the side of Interstate 4. Soon after,Andrew was struck by a drunk driver and killed. Officers let the driver, a white youth with a history of reckless driving, leave with Andrew’s remains still on the hood of his vehicle.


Since then, the tragedy has received a great deal of local media attention largely focused on the security standards of the Fair. However, news media, including the Tampa Bay Times, have consistently downplayed the misconduct of deputies. Instead, they have made the story one about the dangers of “wilding,” a term originating in the racist discourse of the 1989 Central Park jogger case.


The first use of the term “wilding” in the mainstream dates back to an April 22, 1989 article about the assault and rape of a woman jogger in New York City’s Central Park. Investigators reported that young men there that night claimed to have been wilding. Police, and later the Oxford English Dictionary, determined that wilding was a gang tradition of going on violent rampages and mugging at will in public places.


In the Central Park jogger case, five youths—four Black and one Latino—were convicted of the rape during a media storm of white paranoia and “tough on crime” politics growing in the 80s. Their convictions were vacated in 2002 when the rapist turned himself in and DNA evidence confirmed his story.


The term “wilding” has been used by law enforcement and the media since then to invoke images of young Black and Brown people as “teen wolf-packs,” “beasts” and “savages,” as New York papers exclaimed in 1989. The Los Angeles Police Department targeted the term at protests following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2013.


Led by Andrew’s courageous parents, the march for Andrew Joseph III, as well as for Rodney Mitchell, Elias Guadarrama, Kendrick Johnson, Marlon Brown and others, proclaimed to the Tampa Bay community that Black and Brown lives have value. Demonstrators demanded that police, legal systems and local governments be held accountable for the safety of children of color, instead of dehumanizing and blaming them for their own deaths.