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Jax Sheriff: Gary Snow a ‘catalyst’ of Hemming Park protest melee

A Jacksonville protest against military action in Syria went ugly Friday evening; many protesters were arrested, with one getting medical treatment.

Meanwhile, counter-protester Gary Snow, a fixture for almost a year at left-leaning Jacksonville protests, as well as political events on the right, escaped without charges.

However, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams told us Tuesday that Snow, in fact, was a “catalyst” of the melee in Hemming Park between protesters and police — and that the JSO is reviewing video of the event along with its procedures.

“That event Friday — he clearly was a catalyst” for the violence that occurred, Williams said.

“We had dozens and dozens of protests in Jacksonville, peacefully. We’ve got a great working relationship with the Progressive Coalition and many other groups in that protest.”

When asked about the “incite to riot” charges against some of the protesters on the other side, who had been baited by Snow, as well as at Florida Statute prohibiting interruption of lawful assembly, Williams noted that the ultimate fate of those charges — and potentially others — rest on documentary evidence.

“We have about 15 videos right now, and we’re going to look at every aspect of that,” Williams said. “Including ‘is there anyone who did not get charged who should be charged,’ so we’re going to look at that and see, in addition to looking at operational fixes for us.”

“Obviously, we got multiple complaints about uses of force. Those complaints go to Internal [Affairs] with those videos, and we’ll take another look at that. But before we finish, there will be another protest in Jacksonville,” Williams said, necessitating “immediate fixes” along with process review, both internally and in collaboration with the State Attorney’s Office.

“For this one to go the way that it did, there’s no excuse for it. We’ve all got to do a better job of taking a step back and do the right things. And we’re going to do that too — going to look at how we handle protests,” Williams added.

“It’s a new dynamic for us.”

Some allege, without proof, collaboration or friendship between Snow and officers.

That’s news to the Sheriff.

“None that I know of,” Williams said. “I don’t think — I haven’t heard Gary Snow’s name until Saturday. I don’t think he has any real connection to police officers.”

“He does come to communities like he did in Chicago and try to befriend, try to do that type of thing,” he added.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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