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18 of 19 protesters released from jail

Protesters say Jacksonville Sheriff's Office took cell phones with protest footage

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – All but one of 19 protesters arrested after blocking traffic on the Hart Bridge on Monday afternoon were released from the Duval County jail, most about 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Three others facing misdemeanor charges of obstructing a highway were still in jail at midday but have since been released.

One woman -- Siddie Friar -- accused of punching an officer in the face -- was also charged with resisting arrest and battery on a police officer. She faced a judge in the afternoon who set bond at $12,500.

A team of civil rights lawyers are representing those who were arrested.

"They are not doing these things to make people late for work or to cause them some safety hazards," said attorney Stephen Smith. "They are trying to bring attention to a serious cause, a serious issue that we have to really face in this country."

"I think they should have all been given notices to appear at the scene and then sent on their way with the appropriate court date to follow," said attorney Wade Rolle.

IMAGES: Protester's booking photos with names, charges
DOCUMENTS: 19 arrested Monday night on Hart Bridge

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office thanked citizens for their patience with the incidents and warned anyone who doesn't follow proper protesting guidelines that they will face legal action.

"We are working hard to protect the First Amendment right of our citizens to peaceably protest, however, my officers are also working to keep everyone safe when the chosen location of the protest, such as bridges and highways, presents such a clear danger to the welfare of everyone and presents a clear disregard for the law," Sheriff John Rutherford said in a statement. "Our officers have conducted themselves admirably, especially during the arrests of the 19 individuals who were obstructing the traffic on the Hart Bridge last night."

Rutherford noted that Friar -- the only person who became violent during the encounter with police -- was from Deerfield Beach, not a local resident.

Some of the protesters who were released Tuesday morning complained that police took their cell phones that contained protest pictures and footage, and they don't know when they'll get them back.

"What they did they could have done on the streets, but instead decided to arrest us and keep us in the basement," said Kwabene Seabrooks, who gave his name as Diallo Sekou.

He said they are not done with their protests and demonstrations, but there's no schedule for when or where.

Embed YouTube video "We want to bring attention to racism," said Seabrooks. "Also (to) make sure the city understands we're in solidarity with the rest of the country when it comes to Eric Garner, Michael Brown and even Trayvon Martin's family. These are the things were doing and will continue to be active on."

While the demonstrators were detained Monday night, another protest took place outside the jail, where the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition said they were supporting activists arrested, who they branded the Jacksonville 19.

"What the 19 people did on that bridge yesterday in speaking out against racism and police terrorism in our community, it was a beautiful thing and it was a righteous act and we want to honor that by getting people out of jail and getting those charges dropped," said Dave Schneider of the JPC.

A day of protests

Monday began with a half a dozen protesters blocking traffic during morning rush hour on Interstate 95 northbound near the Emerson Street exit.

Protesters said they were protesting grand jury decisions not to prosecute police officers in Ferguson and New York City that took the lives of unarmed black men. 

But Sekou and others have also mentioned various other causes, including inequitable funding of Northwest Jacksonville and the need for a civilian review board of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

JSO Director Tom Hackney said more than a dozen people got out of cars with protest signs around 5 p.m. Monday and began walking slowly down the Hart Bridge with the cars following slowly behind, blocking the bridge.

Hackney said it's a violation of state law to block a roadway in that fashion.

"As much as the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office respects their right to protest and we will work to make sure that they can peacefully protest, a responsibility also exists for the other citizens of Jacksonville to ensure that they're safe," said Hackney.

Monday's protests began around 7:30 a.m. when about a dozen protesters stopped traffic in the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 near Emerson Street. Then the Hart Bridge incident happened around 5 p.m.

"No one's life was ever in danger. It's thought out and well planned. We want to bring attention to racism and the amount of money that's not being brought up locally," said Sekou.

The final protest happened outside of the Duval County jail, where the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition said they were demanding the release of those they called the "Jacksonville 19."

"Frankly, it's absurd that we live in a country today where police officers can gun down an African American young man in the streets and walk free while at least five protesters were arrested and in here," said Dave Schneider with the JPC.

Some of the protesters said they will continue to demonstrate Tuesday at the Duval County jail.