Movie melee goes viral; city leaders fight back

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Christmas night disturbance outside a Northside movie theater has gone viral and the story picked up by national media.

The disturbance at River City Marketplace with fighting, and people jumping on cars involving at least 600 young people and 62 police that resulted in five arrests has given the Jacksonville a black eye, and it's not the first time.  A brawl at Jacksonville Beach on Memorial Day also attracted attention to violence in the area, as did a mob of hundreds that robbed a Northside Walmart a year earlier.

"I was horrified," said Donteacia Seymore, founder of Women and Leadership Jax. "I didn't know it was happening, all I saw was hundreds of teens running. I heard there was use of mace and there was fighting, and it was Christmas. It's a time where we are supposed to come together."

Seymore and other city leaders told Channel 4 they are looking to rein in the violence and find ways to keep young people out of trouble like this.

"We're just looking to come together as a community and fix this thing," Seymore said. "This isn't a Jacksonville issue -- it's happening all over the country right now. But this is home, and we need to fix what's going on at home. And hopefully what we do here can be a blueprint for other cities across the nation."

Marc McCullough is a candidate for District 7 City Council whose son happened to be at the movie theater that night.

"The movie theaters, the nightclubs, the streets -- we need to come back to reality, and the reality is there's a war going on the streets and too many of us are not stepping up and willing to take on this fight," McCullough said.

Bradford Hall, a candidate for Duval County School Board, is also joining a call for action.

"I think now is time for us to actually step up and reach out to those, and talk to them directly and find out what it is that we can do to prevent things like this from happening in the future," Hall said. "We certainly need to do better, and we will do better."

"Principals, police, pastors, politicians and parents -- those five people, if they work together, we can fix the problems in this community," McCullough said.

These and other community leaders are hosting an emergency meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, January 6, at St. Paul's Missionary Baptist Church on the Northside.  They are urging a many people as possible to come out and begin to take steps toward making a difference.

Police have not released any new information about Wednesday night's incident, but spokesman Shannon Hartley said Friday the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is discussing with Marketplace management the idea of opening a stop station at the site.  While smaller than a substation, stop stations are places officers can spend time writing reports and talking with people and would elevate the visibility of police in the area.