Jackie Joyner-Kersee relative, Kiara Joyner, is leading Jacksonville protests
Kiara Joyner (with mask) is a founder of Jacksonville Community Action Committee which has been drawing thousands of protesters against police brutality downtown for half a month on Saturdays. Photo via Drew Dixon.

Joyner has no plans to let up.

Kiara Joyner, whose second cousin is Jackie Joyner-Kersee, famed multi-gold medal U.S. Olympian in track and field, is helping lead the third straight Saturday of what’s likely to be a protest of thousands of people in downtown Jacksonville.

Kiara Joyner’s dad, Thomas Joyner, is the track star’s first cousin.

Joyner is one of about a dozen people who founded the upstart Jacksonville Community Action Committee in 2017 that has gone from obscure outsiders to one of the leading civil rights and police watch-dog groups in Northeast Florida. The group has held some small demonstrations on and off over the past few years. But May 30, they drew about 3,000 people downtown and on June 6, drew roughly 8,000 to protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police May 25.

Joyner said after half a month of protests, she doesn’t see the need for backing off on weekend demonstrations. The group has as another set for Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Duval County Courthouse.

“We’re trying to keep the momentum going,” Joyner said. “We still have demands that have not been met.”

While Joyner is related to the Olympic medalist, she said the two have never met and Joyner-Kersee is not involved in protest planning.

“Of course, knowing about her and her achievements, it’s in my bloodline to be a winner. So, I’m going to keep going here with my group and continue to win and make some changes here in Jacksonville,” Joyner said.

While Floyd’s death is the impetus for many of the protests in Jacksonville, the action committee is leveling several grievances against the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, most notably the release of police body cam footage during a traffic stop that ended in the death of Jamee Johnson at the hands of a JSO officer in December.

Police said the officer’s body cam became dislodged and police cruiser dash cam video is unavailable.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson acknowledged the demands of community activists in a written statement published Tuesday. She specifically addressed the Jamee Johnson killing and said the case is under investigation and the police video will be released … eventually.

“The [State Attorney’s Office] is working to bring the officer involved shooting investigation into Jamee Johnson to conclusion and will make available the body-worn camera footage at the same time we render our decision and findings,” Nelson said.

“These are some of the things that we’re working on, still,” Joyner said. “We want to just keep pushing that and making people aware. These protests, these rallies, are going to continue until our demands are met.”

The Jacksonville Community Action Committee seems to be taking the Jacksonville civil rights activist tradition to new heights. Organizers are mostly under the age of 30 – Joyner is 26.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in Jacksonville, to be honest with you,” Joyner said. “I believe there’s a shift going on in the nation… This is what we’ve been fighting for and losing sleep over.

“I don’t see us as any kind of competition [to other civil rights groups]. We’re all working together for the same purpose,” Joyner said. “I can’t really tell you when we’re going to stop.”

Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at [email protected]


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