Protests continued Sunday in Jacksonville, after Saturday action that included a police officer getting stabbed, numerous buildings getting vandalized, and numerous rioters arrested in what was one of the most brutal days in city history.
Legislators on the local and state level came together to plead for peace in a Zoom press conference Sunday, nearly 24 hours after a once peaceful protest assumed the hallmarks of violence seen in other cities around the nation in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who vowed on Saturday that he would not let rioters “burn this city to the ground,” was on hand, along with members of the City Council and Legislature.
Curry addressed the difference between the peaceful organized protest and “what happened later.”
“As the evening wore on, a smaller group stayed … I’m told some others came in,” Curry said, noting that “violence and vandalism” does not reflect the city.
Comments from Council members revealed concerns that ran deeper than just the events of a violent Saturday night.
Rep. Kim Daniels told of her own son, “maced … handcuffed … wrongfully arrested on his birthday.”
“It has not been safe for black people in our cities,” Daniels said, delineating the “difference between protesting and rioting.”
“Systemic racism is a reality, but violence is not the way to deal with it,” Daniels, a second-term Democrat from Northwest Jacksonville, said. “Looting is wrong. Destruction of property is wrong.”
“Our city streets cannot become a place of anarchy,” Daniels, an evangelist by trade, thundered.
Councilwoman Brenda Priestly-Jackson framed this as an “it is what it is” moment, delineating chasms deep in the city’s legacy, noting a lack of economic development, infrastructure, and other basics in the Urban Core.
Unemployment, hyperpolicing, and other issues need remedy immediately “to foster trust,” the Councilwoman said.
“People fight oppression with the tools at their disposal,” the first-term Democrat noted.
“It is what it is, Jacksonville,” the Councilwoman wrapped.
Councilwoman Joyce Morgan notes that in the wake of the Ahmaud Arbery killing, her son doesn’t like to run alone, so she rides her bike besides him.
The second-term Democrat pleaded for a task force to look at these issues, though some would suggest that many of the issues Daniels and Priestly-Jackson spotlighted go back decades.
“What we are seeing in this city and country has been festering for years,” said second-term Democrat Garrett Dennis.
Dennis mentioned mass incarceration and other issues related to criminal justice overreach as something the lawmakers are to be “blamed” for.
Half the city’s budget goes to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Dennis added, yet public safety is by no means assured.
Incoming Council President Tommy Hazouri expressed confidence that the city could “resolve” many of these issues in his year as President.
If that were the case, it would be an unprecedented year for an often slow-walking, half-measure ridden city government.