Like dozens of American cities, Jacksonville dealt with protests last weekend.
Hopes are that will be it for now.
However, the protests in the city shared similarities to those actions elsewhere, Sheriff Mike Williams noted this week.
“Our federal partners will be digging into the backgrounds of all the people involved in the protest,” Williams vowed, noting there was evident coordination consistent with antifa activities.
“Tactically … we can compare that to other cities and see a lot of similarities,” Williams said, noting “some type of influence” from outside groups.
Molotov cocktails, gasoline-filled balloons, and other hallmarks of rioting were found Sunday, Williams added, leading his department to ask for the state of emergency and the curfew.
Compared to many cities, Jacksonville fared well during the protests. Monday’s action after the Sunday night curfew was peaceful, and aspirational rhetoric abounds.
However, Williams noted that the issues Jacksonville has are ones of structural and resource inequities, the sort of thing described as the “broken promises of Consolidation.”
And he urged, probably in vain (given the audience), the City Council to do something about that. A tall order in a pandemic-flattened economy.
Jacksonville has danced around racial issues since pre-Consolidation days, but those issues are (for now) front and center.
Conversations will not get it done this time. The city rooted in the past for decades all of a sudden has a face-to-face with the future, which has a wish list a mile long.
Should the federal government outfit cops nationwide with body cameras?
Donna Deegan, a Democrat running against Rep. John Rutherford in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, says yes.
“One thing Congress can do right now is require, mandate, body cameras for every law enforcement officer in this country. And provide the funding to purchase this vital equipment. No excuses,” Deegan said.
Details, however, were elusive.
How much would that cost? How many police have body-worn camera programs? How many do not?
Of those that do not, how do localities negotiate with them for policies? Those in Duval County will recall a tortuous process to arrive at the policy on the equipment between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Deegan’s idea likely needs some fleshing out before it’s ready to take on the road.
Jacksonville experimented with a curfew Sunday night, but once the weekend was over, so was the prescribed lockdown.
However, though the curfew lasted one day, local Democrats running for the state House in 2020 had their say about how it was driven by a “power-drunk” Mayor Lenny Curry.
Democrat Ben Marcus, running in the Southside House District 16 against Curry ally Rep. Jason Fischer, questioned the need for a citywide curfew.
“Give me a break, you’re power-drunk, get off the gas,” Marcus said.
Rep. Tracie Davis also had objections.
“A curfew at 8? Why are we punishing an entire city? Do you realize folks walk to neighborhood stores until they close? What about our restaurants that just reopened? This is not the answer; just an excuse!!!”
Oppression is real
Is Jacksonville city government newly “woke?”
Comments from the Mayor and the City Council suggested that there may be, at long last, some remedy for structural issues that have led to entrenched poverty and diminished quality of life for many in the city.
On WOKV Tuesday, Curry spoke to the reality of “oppression,” hearkening back to a rhetorical posture and projected empathy floated in the 2015 campaign but muted since.
“We need to step back and recognize there is a large group of peaceful protesters that have experienced oppression, that have lived it, and they need to be heard, and we need to work with them,“ Curry said Tuesday.
Whereas the Mayor has cleaved to President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders in the coronavirus response period, where he has stressed distinctions between those regulars who have petitioned for redress for decades and the outsiders who he vowed just days before wouldn’t “burn this city down.”
The comments followed an emotional, ad hoc meeting of the Mayor, City Council, and a state legislator, in which multiple people vowed that business would be done differently.
In a city known for its robust incarceration patterns for decades, it will be interesting to see how structural reform looks.
Trump is doubling down on his threat to pull this summer’s Republican National Convention out of Charlotte, North Carolina because it wasn’t reopening its economy fast enough.
And almost on cue, Jacksonville is throwing its hat in the ring as an alternative.
On Tuesday, Curry tweeted:
We welcome the opportunity to host the @GOPconvention in Jacksonville. A $100 million local impact event would be important for our city as an event/convention destination.The City is ready for world class events &ready show the world we are open for business. @GOP @GOPChairwoman
— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) June 2, 2020
After North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper rejected the party’s request for a full convention in Charlotte, telling RNC officials that face masks and social distancing are “a necessity” for a full convention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity,” Cooper said in a letter to GOP officials ahead of a Wednesday deadline.
This goes against Trump’s desire for a packed house without face coverings or social distancing.
“Would have showcased beautiful North Carolina to the World, and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State,” Trump tweeted. “Because of [Cooper] we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”
Could Florida, a state friendly to the President, and Jacksonville, equally friendly to Trump, fit the bill? Watch this space.
This week saw Jacksonville City Council committees pass, with comfortable margins, cure legislation to fix defects in a 2017 law that protected civil rights for the LGBT community.
What a difference three years makes.
Compared to the rugged discourse between 2012 and 2017, when invective, threats, and all manner of disparagement characterized the ad hominem debate, committees had little disagreement with the legislation and wanted to get the fix done.
Despite saying it’s unnecessary previously, in 2020, Curry said he’d sign the law.
If that comes to pass, a dark chapter in Jacksonville’s history will finally be closed.
July Fourth fireworks? Not in Jacksonville Beach. At least not in 2020.
WJXT reports that the local government decided to eschew a fireworks display for Independence Day.
The show will move to New Year’s Eve, with concerns about COVID-19 and “civil unrest” driving the reschedule.
Not everyone in Jacksonville Beach’s municipal government agrees with the call.
City Councilman Cory Nichols decried the decision, saying: “Residents need to get out and do something.”
While fuses may indeed be lit on Independence Day across the ditch, the flame has died for hopes of a July 4 light show.
Going back to school will mean a significant change in the 2020-2021 academic calendar for Jacksonville University students.
The private college on the shores of the St. Johns River has already instituted multiple cost-cutting and budgetary measures due to the coronavirus outbreak. Now the semester terms and schedules are being revised.
JU officials announced to students, faculty and staff the fall semester is beginning a week earlier than planned. Classes begin Aug. 17, and the early start allows for the fall term to end Nov. 24 before the Thanksgiving break. That will not require students to return to campus after the holiday, which is the usual fall calendar schedule.
The move was made to allow students to spend more time with their families and return to their homes promptly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jacksonville University will also offer an accelerated “winter semester” online for students wishing to add more credit hours during what will now be an extended holiday break that will last about a month and a half. The school transitions typically to the “spring” semester officially after the Christmas and New Year’s breaks, with no official “winter semester” designation.
Meanwhile, JU President Tim Cost issued a statement Monday following heightened racial tension and violence in several U.S. cities — including Jacksonville — in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died while being detained by police in Minneapolis May 25.
“[O]ur focus turned to our own students and colleagues, many of whom have experienced prejudice and hate in their own lives,” Cost said. “As part of the Jacksonville University Strategic Plan, which was developed this spring and will be fully unveiled this coming fall, the University will establish a Diversity and Inclusion Council.”
The purpose of the council will be to promote cultural and racial diversity while offering support and healing to students during the racially divisive crisis, Cost said.
A Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corp. executive has been elected to lead the American Waterways Operators Association.
Art Mead, vice president and chief counsel for Crowley, was elected in May by the association to chair the advocacy organization for the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry. In a sign of the times, Mead’s election was done virtually with computer voting due to the threat of coronavirus.
Mead said the maritime logistics industry had tested during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The response to this crisis by AWO member companies, staff and our mariners has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Mead said. “While shelter-in-place and work-from-home orders proliferated from state-to-state, our mariners and our workers continued delivering millions of tons of needed raw materials, consumer goods and energy.
“But during COVID-19, our industry has shown the nation what we’ve always known to be the case — our industry is resilient and adaptable,” Mead said.
Mead’s credentials are extensive. He’s been with Crowley since 1996, initially as an associate corporate counsel. Before joining the corporate maritime logistics giant, Mead had a stint with the U.S. Department of Justice Admiralty and Shipping Division. He also held maritime-related positions with Stolt-Nielsen Inc. and Maersk Line Limited. Mead was also a U.S. Navy commander with the reserve component.
Preventing future riots
With the tragic and senseless death of Floyd in Minneapolis, understandable protest marches and expressions of rage mixed with random violence by anarchists followed. Americans across the country were in full agreement that Floyd was the victim of outrageous — and likely criminal — conduct by Minneapolis police.
There was also broad agreement that protests were fully justified, while others were angry for the violence carried out supposedly in Floyd’s name. Jacksonville area members of Congress called out the latter and offered suggestions for handling or preventing similar situations in the future.
“There’s not a single agency in the country that teaches what I saw,” said Republican Rep. Rutherford, a former Duval County Sheriff. He said one of the best things that can be done at the federal level is to expand the FBI crime reporting and to start forcing law enforcement agencies to compile data on incidents with police similar to what happened in Minneapolis.
Rep. Al Lawson, whose district runs from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, is not aware of any legislation that could help the current situation or others in the future. He added there would be plenty of conversations between lawmakers and law enforcement on preventing peaceful protests from becoming major confrontations.
“When people are coming to the marches with their backpacks full of spray paint, other different things, big rocks, all this other stuff, they’re coming to do damage,” he said.
In the meantime, both representatives say peaceful protesters can help to keep situations peaceful by helping to identify those who want to make trouble and report them to law enforcement.
Both would agree that not harming a prisoner in the custody of law enforcement would go a long way toward preventing future unrest.
Women of Distinction
Jacksonville-area Girl Scout advocates are invited to “Women of Distinction,” a free, virtual celebration to honor inspiring women and girls, as well as raise money to support the Girl Scout mission.
Women of Distinction is the annual signature fundraising event that honors Northeast Florida’s female leaders demonstrating ethical leadership, professional accomplishments, and community contributions.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more critical than ever to come together around Girl Scout’s efforts to make the world a better place.
The interactive fundraising event is Friday, June 26, beginning 11:30 a.m.
You can also help spread the word about Women of Distinction by sharing the event with your own networks — the more, the merrier, and the more opportunities for girls. They will send email reminders leading up to the event about how you can participate on Facebook or YouTube.
While tickets are not required, a donation is more than welcome. That investment will go even further to support the mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character.
To watch a video about the event, click on the image below:
‘Inaction is offensive’
The death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has touched the emotions of almost every American and brought back conflicts of the past involving the National Football League. While the events surrounding Colin Kaepernick did not constitute matters of life-or-death, they exposed profound racial disconnect.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement saying there was “much more to do as a country and as a league,” and there “remains an urgent need for action.” He mentioned Floyd as well as the Louisville case involving Breonna Taylor and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in nearby Brunswick, Georgia.
Former safety Peyton Thompson blasted the NFL statement as “complete trash” and recalled former player personnel chief Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone telling black players they could not kneel. He said he “job security was on the line,” but praised owner Shad Khan for getting all players to kneel together.
Thompson and Marrone subsequently spoke, a conversation Thompson described as “healthy.” He said they spoke of the atmosphere during the kneeling period, and the environment “wasn’t safe for everyone to kneel safely in protest.”
He also quoted Marrone as stating “his efforts to make his players feel supported as well as the need to separate his actions from others in the organization.” Though Thompson played sparingly during his time in Jacksonville, he expressed interest in seeing the team, from Khan on down, to “make good on the NFL’s statement.”
“if the Jags won’t do it, what organization will? Inaction is now offensive.”
As summer training camp approaches, in whatever form that might be, players and executives are likely to be guided by the events of the spring.