The Southern Poverty Law Center is denouncing the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for having “dragged and detained” a 72-year-old man with well-known mobility issues.
Activist Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville was met with official force Tuesday night at the City Council meeting, as he again denounced the confederate monuments that have loomed over parts of Jacksonville since the Jim Crow era. He was arrested and released from jail hours later,
In an extended statement, interim legal counsel Bacardi Jackson slammed JSO and Council President Terrance Freeman for “gross overreaction.”
“The Southern Poverty Law Center strongly condemns the medically harmful handling of Ben Frazier — a 72-year-old community activist who uses a mobility-assistance device — for simply exceeding a reduced, 1 minute, 5 seconds, public comment time limit,” Jackson contended.
“These actions are reminiscent of the civil rights movement, where peaceful, nonviolent protests were met with aggression, open hostility and jail time at the hands of law enforcement. Jacksonville City Council President Terrance Freeman’s order to have Mr. Frazier removed was a gross overreaction to a citizen who has been protesting the removal of the Women of the Southland monument from Springfield Park for several years,” Jackson added.
This was Frazier’s second arrest at a Jacksonville event in 2022. He was detained in January for showing up to a Gov. Ron DeSantis press conference without permission from the Governor’s Office.
And he says he could go to jail yet again.
“If it means more jail time to get confederate monuments removed, then so be it. It is my intent to fight with every ounce of energy and breath in my body until the monuments are removed,” he said to Action News Jax.
“Yet for the sin of speaking too loudly and for exceeding the miserly 65 seconds the council had allotted public speakers on Tuesday night, Frazier was arrested — and arrested clumsily. The police first forced him to the ground then hauled him out the building as his legs sometimes dangled, even though the scooter he uses to get around, the scooter everyone who attends City Council meetings knows well he needs, sat right next to the dais the entire time,” Monroe observed.
The SPLC reaction to Frazier’s detainment is the second reaction in recent days to focus in on the confederate monument issue. The local branch of the NAACP warned Thursday that the standing monuments “present a severe and growing threat to public safety if protesters attempt to take down confederate statues themselves or confront others who are doing so.”
The monuments in question are a statue commemorating the women of the confederacy at Springfield Park, formerly known as Confederate Park, and a bandstand at the old city cemetery.
Voices in favor of the monuments have had their say with less incident than Frazier, which may reflect a pro-confederate monument disposition of the City Council itself, which has rebuffed efforts from Mayor Lenny Curry and Councilman Matt Carlucci to formulate a plan for removal of the controversial Springfield edifice for years now.
Jacksonville made news the week before, when the Save Southern Heritage group flew a plane with a confederate battle flag over Downtown Jacksonville, admonishing Curry to “stop the hate.” That was the second such flight the group commissioned, and it was on a day when a bullet hole was found in a window of an office in Curry’s suite at City Hall.