Cancellation of RNC in Jacksonville likely dodged massive protests
Image via Drew Dixon

Some say the cancellation of the RNC is probably for the best for Jacksonville.

The cancellation of the Republican National Convention that was to be held in Jacksonville is drawing mixed reaction from local civic and business leaders.

“Disappointed that it didn’t work out,” said Kelly Rich, executive director of Springfield Preservation and Restoration, an urban renewal group for a residential area just north of Jacksonville’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in downtown where convention events were scheduled to be held.

Shortly after the GOP announced in June plans to move the convention to Jacksonville, Rich said some of the 5,000 residents in Springfield’s historic district began to reserve Airbnb rentals to Republican Party faithful. That was two months out from the convention set to take place in August.

“It could have been a huge win for Jacksonville,” Rich said moments after the cancellation Thursday. “But the stress and division it was causing within the city makes me feel cancellation was the best decision.”

President Donald Trump announced Thursday he was scrapping plans to hold several key events, including his formal acceptance of the nomination from the Republican Party for another four years, in Jacksonville from Aug. 24-27. Trump cited the resurgence in COVID-19 outbreaks as the main reason for the cancellation of any events on the First Coast.

There will still be some limited activities in Charlotte, N.C., where the convention was originally supposed to take place.

The decision to potentially relocate the convention to Jacksonville also would have come during months of racial tension that has roiled city civil rights leaders.

Dozens of demonstrators were arrested after multiple protests the weekend of May 30 and 31 in downtown. Thousands marched outside the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office — only blocks from the arena – and dozens were arrested by police after violent clashes during the two days.

Many of those arrests were dismissed by Fourth Circuit Court State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s office after prosecutors said the charges of unlawful assembly and resisting a police officer without violence would not stick in court.

Still, several more demonstrations were held downtown in ensuing weeks, one drawing up to 8,000 people in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, who died during a police arrest in Minneapolis that was video taped.

The Jacksonville protests also aired grievances against local police and many demonstrators say the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is getting away with illegal killings.

The Jacksonville Northside Coalition and the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, organizations that formed early protests this summer, promised civil rights demonstrations would be large, peaceful and confrontational during the convention.

Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition said during a protest in June that there would be large demonstrations during the GOP event.

“Thousands of us will meet the President right here on the streets of Jacksonville, Florida,” Frazier said to a cheering crowd during a demonstration outside JSO headquarters June 27.

Monique Sampson is an organizer with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee and said she’s thrilled the convention isn’t coming to the city.

“Because of all the racial tension here in Jacksonville, we didn’t like the idea of thousands of racists descending on our city,” Sampson said Thursday afternoon.

“I am ecstatic and this will give us room to work on the problems we have here in  the city and it won’t put our citizens at risk,” Sampson said. “It would have been a mess.

“I think the RNC was probably going to be a powder keg of epic proportions in which the city would have exploded. You have people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. That was evident when we got pissed off out in the street. That was evident when we had thousands of people protesting for three weeks in a row,” Sampson said.

In Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood just west of downtown, the restaurants, shops and nightclubs were anticipating an influx of business during the convention.

“Certainly in these times [of pandemic], any business would have been helpful to our businesses and restaurant,” said Warren Jones, executive director of Riverside Avondale Preservation urban development organization.

But Jones acknowledged as the scheduled dates drew nearer and plans for convention events kept changing because of coronavirus issues, it’s not certain the economic benefit would have been out of the ordinary.

“Since we were not sure of the scope of the convention, or the number of people attending, we don’t know what the possible economic contribution the RNC event would have given,” Jones said.

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]


  • Sonja Fitch

    July 23, 2020 at 10:36 pm

    Now focus on the people! Shut down the state! Get the trump virus under control! The sooner the better it will be for our children to transition back to school!

    • Kung Fung Flu

      July 24, 2020 at 10:27 am

      Shut down the state, are you out of your mind, yes we know. you are, you are a liberal socialist Sonja. The Kung Fung Flu is what it is called. I will love to see your face on election night, when President Trump wins by a landslide, you will be crying like a little baby, probably like you did 4 years ago, waaa waaaa waaa

  • Mel Thomas

    July 24, 2020 at 12:25 am

    Behold Democrat Socialism? PORT, NY, CHI, ATL, WA, DC Minneapolis just to mention a few. All Democrat leadership doing the same thing…..nothing. Just like the third world isn’t it. Democrat Mayors ordering Police to stand down while the city is looted, burned. citizens beaten in the streets, monuments destroyed, police stations actually taken over and allowed to be occupied. The Governors do nothing as well. Antifa and BLM (founder is a Marxist) are the criminals behind this.

    Joe has recently stated that Police need to be de-funded If Joe Biden is elected America will be on fire.

    Biden wants to “transform America” If you vote for Joe Biden, you are voting for Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren’s far left platform.. Joe will follow the radical left’s agenda or Joe won’t get the support (and he is) of Nancy Pelosi, Val Demings, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Valerie Jarrett,. Rashida Talib, Stacy Abrams, Ayanna Pressley, Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson Lee, Tom Perez, Maxine Waters, Al Green, and llhan Omar.

    This is the core of the socialists leftist wing of the Democrat party and are firmly in charge not old , confused Joe Biden. Biden will be a puppet to a liberal VP, Pelosi, Schumer, AOC plus 3 and the rest..

    Democrats want to make this election all about President Trump. NOT their platform & Goals and Joe Biden for obvious reasons.

    Democrat Platform & Goals: (Do you even know?)

    *Citizenship for 20 to 50 million illegal aliens, DACA, TPS recipients and their families with a cost of billions.

    *Massive tax increases. All Democrat candidates have committed to tax increases of various amounts. Biden has stated he will raise taxes.

    *Sanctuary Cities & States. Joe Biden supports sanctuary cities.

    *Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Green new deal.(which would create massive unemployment, 100,000 jobs estimated in the transportation industry alone.) Joe Biden supports.

    *De-fund & terminate border patrol & ICE.

    *De-fund Police. “re-imagine law enforcement” (the left’s new term.) Basically BLM is determining where your taxes go and it’s not to law enforcement. Biden recently stated his endorsement of “redirecting law enforcement finds.”

    *Free Healthcare for Illegal aliens, DACA, TPS recipients (taxpayer funded with one estimate at 52 trillion) Joe Biden endorsed.

    *Ending of all private / employer based health care. “Medicare for all”, Feds run everything.

    *Illegal Aliens eligible for welfare & food stamps. (Elizabeth Warren’s plan adopted) Endorsed by Biden.

    *Reparations for race’s harmed by Caucasians. Joe Biden committed to support Sheila Jackson Lee’s reparations bill in the House. Basically a tax will be levied on all Caucasians in America. (you can’t make this stuff up)

    *Free college for all, including illegal aliens (taxpayer funded with estimates in the billions. Bernie Sanders plan adopted.

    *Decriminalization of illegal entry into our country.

    *Open Borders.

    *End all deportations of illegal aliens, if you get here, you stay. Bernie’s website calls it a “moratorium” on deportations.

    *Drivers Licenses for illegal aliens (already happening in states with Democrat leadership. Biden endorsed

    *Late term abortions up to 9 months.

    * Destruction and erasing our history.

  • James R. Miles

    July 24, 2020 at 10:41 am

    The socialist “bogeymen” are trolling again!!

Comments are closed.


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