What was a peaceful protest for some four hours quickly turned violent in clashes between demonstrators and Jacksonville police Saturday afternoon and into the evening.
About 3,000 demonstrators Marched through downtown Jacksonville streets beginning at 3 p.m. Organizers were pleased the event showed no signs of confrontation between protesters and Jacksonville Sheriff’s officers. The demonstration was called in part due to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this week, which touched off violent protests in multiple cities.
In Jacksonville between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., the seemingly festive atmosphere turned ominous when several dozen JSO officers in full riot gear had a standoff with demonstrators at Newnan and Bay streets. Two armored police vehicles also responded to the scene.
When police tried to apprehend one protester, crowds started to throw water bottles and cups at the officers. Police deployed “flash bangs” multiple times. Flashbangs are loud explosive devices designed to disperse crowds.
The chaos initially lulled protesters. Then police formed a line and marched shoulder to shoulder north on Newnan Street to Forsyth Street near the Florida Theatre, where a cagey standoff ensued for almost an hour. Some protesters staged a brief sit-in at Forsyth and Newnan streets. Then police launched several flashbangs and ultimately turned to fire tear gas canisters.