I-TEAM: Bail doubling for some protesters arrested over the weekend

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The cost of bail is doubling for some protesters arrested over the weekend, according to records, families and an organization working to bail people out of jail.

Demonstrations and unrest Saturday and Sunday, calling for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to release body camera footage of police-involved shootings, ended with the arrest of at least 79 people, the majority of whom are facing misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly.

Activists with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee have raised more than $55,000 to bail out dozens of protestors who were arrested. So far, the organization says it has bailed out at least 15 people.

“We are building on a community support fund for protesters that were really unfairly detained and were, after a peaceful protest, were brutalized through excessive force and tear gas,” said Rachel Duff, with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee.

According to the organization, families and records, bail is being posted for people arrested on unlawful assembly charges on the Duval County jail’s website, but is being updated to show double the bail amount in several cases.

“It started out at $750. It’s gone up to $1,500 and finally to $5,000. So as quickly as we have posted bond for folks, it has tripled at the last minute,” Duff said. “As soon as we put that down, it’s updated on the website and we see it’s increased.”

Records obtained by News4Jax show one example in which bail originally set at $753 for a woman charged with unlawful assembly was updated to $1,503. Another example shows a woman charged with unlawful assembly had her bail set at $753, and later the bail amount was updated to $1,003, according to records.

For misdemeanor offenses, the court sets pre-determined bail amounts, and judges have the authority to increase or decrease bail amounts. The News4Jax I-TEAM obtained the most recent list of bail amounts for misdemeanor offenses from the Clerk of Courts and unlawful assembly was not listed with a set bail amount.

Activists also say the people who they are bailing out were protesting peacefully before they were arrested.

While the vast majority of arrests were on charges of unlawful assembly and resisting police, at least three men had other charges added on, including multiple counts of criminal mischief, battery on a law enforcement officer and inciting a riot.

In a statement Monday, State Attorney Melissa Nelson said she is working to find solutions to make the justice system better, but did not provide specific information on policy changes she plans to make.

“During this period of unrest, we will continue to work with law enforcement to protect peaceful protests taking part in our city. Those who use violence or destroy property will be prosecuted. And, as I have always done, I will continue to work with community-based organizations and individuals to find solutions to make our justice system and community better for everyone," the statement reads.

Peaceful protests Saturday and Sunday evolved into unrest between police and demonstrators, with an officer’s neck slashed during unrest and video of police throwing tear gas and using force to get crowds to disperse.

“A lot of them have experienced excessive force at the hands of JSO,” Duff said.

On Monday, protestors marched in downtown Jacksonville peacefully, shouting “Say His Name” and “Black Lives Matter.” Some protesters even stepped between demonstrators and police to maintain order.

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