Back-to-back protests in Jacksonville drew nearly 8,000 people to the Duval County Courthouse Saturday as demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown voicing outrage over police brutality.
It was one week to the day Jacksonville streets downtown were engulfed in tear gas and smoke as what was a peaceful protest turned violent in clashes with Jacksonville Sheriff’s deputies. Many demonstrators were arrested during demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd‘s murder while being detained by police in Minneapolis May 25.
“This is the largest civil rights march in Jacksonville history,” said organizer Hakeem Balogun, noting Saturday’s crowd was more than double a week ago.
Jacksonville’s May 30 protests were originally organized by the Jacksonville Community Action Committee. Balogun, said they were determined to leave the latest protest without any physical confrontations with police.
“We didn’t expect to double the attendance from last week,” he said with a smile, noting they wanted to end the protest Saturday before sundown to avoid any conflicts with police and to make way for another demonstration.
There has been some form of protest in Jacksonville every day since the wild scene last weekend that ended in dozens of protester arrests tear gas canisters and flash bang deployments. Some Jacksonville police cars were damaged and one officer was hurt when his neck was cut with a sharp object.
Additional arrests were made the next day, prompting Mayor Lenny Curry to institute a curfew that night.
Chad Hollett was a keynote speaker during this Saturday’s courthouse protest. The 26-year-old Hollett was physically restrained and arrested last Sunday. Bystander video shows he was hit in the face by an officer.
During the most recent protest, Hollett, who still had a bruised left cheek under his eye, urged the crowd not to give up challenging excessive force by police.
“I was beaten… very unnecessarily,” Hollett said.
He was charged with unlawful assembly and the JSO is investigating the circumstances of his arrest.
The first protest this Saturday ended shortly after 4 p.m. Another Black Lives Matter demonstration picked up in front of the courthouse with about 2,000 people joining as others dispersed.
The Black Lives Matter crowd marched through several blocks of downtown while stopping to rally at the courthouse several times.
Aminah Ali, a Black Lives Matter demonstration organizer, said the double protests added to solidarity.
“The back-to-back protest is all a continuation of what we’re doing,” Ali said. “We’re not going to stop.”
Balogun said the action committee has another demonstration set for Saturday, June 13 at Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville.
Bologun’s claim of the largest civil rights march in Jacksonville history is hard to verify.
There was a march in the early 1990s led by civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson who led thousands of residents of the city’s northwest neighborhoods in a protest against then-Chief of the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court, Judge John Santora, who made racially charged comments. The Florida Supreme Court removed Santora in January 1992 as chief of the circuit court but he was allowed to finish his career on the bench after the outcry.