Protests block streets near murder scene

Killing of 16-year-old Raines student sparks demonstrations against violence

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – About 25 protesters carried signs and chanted,"No justice, no peace," at the intersection of Canal and 13th streets on Wednesday afternoon, nine hours after a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed less than a block away.

Several police officers met with the protesters in Grand Park, then blocked the intersection for the demonstration, which went on for hours. The roads remained blocked through rush hour.

"We want to bring attention to another life lost, a young teen shot dead in the street in broad daylight on a bus stop, which is insane," said Diallo Sekou, who organized the protest. "We want to make sure that the city understands. We want to make sure that the family understands that we're behind them and we support them. We will rally with them."

The protesters also marched through neighborhoods in the area, and police worked with them to clear roads as they went. Many of the protesters were involved in Monday's #shutitdown demonstrations that blocked Interstate 95 in the morning and the Hart Bridge in the afternoon.

Those protests Monday were in response to police incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City that left unarmed men dead.

But after 16-year-old Raines student Devron Crowden was gunned down at a bus stop on his way to school Wednesday, City Council candidate Niki Brunson organized a protest to draw attention to Crowden's death.

"We are sick of all the violence. We are sick of all the losses of life. We're sick of all the losses of opportunity. These neighborhoods need stability, and murder makes it unstable. We're here to protest," Brunson said. "What's changing is the validation for the life. Is it only valid or newsworthy when an officer does that in the line of duty? Absolutely not. Every loss of life is important."

Brunson's protest group joined with Sekou's for a demonstration that shut down multiple roads for hours.

"We want the city to know, there's funds that have never been released in this Northwest quadrant. We're talking about 25 years of undevelopment," Sekou said. "This is an area that's undeveloped, and when you have undevelopment you have perpetual poverty and crime."

Others are coming on board quickly. Tammy Manning was driving by and heard about the murder. She said she's never been serious about community activism until now.

"I think that's an outrage and I think it needs to come to a stop, and I'm willing to do whatever I have to do so that things like this don't happen," Manning said. "A young man going to school? That doesn't make any sense."

Darryl Alston, who's children knew Crowden well, also joined the demonstration and said he's organizing a community meeting over Crowden's killing.

"When you see a young child lose their life in front of young children going to school to get an education, it hits home," Alston said. "He was in a class with my daughter, played football with my son. And now for him to lose his life, it affects me, it affects my children."

Donald Foy, who runs MAD DADS, said he welcomes any help in his organization's efforts to stop crime in Jacksonville.

"We know there's two groups at each other, going against each other, and we're asking them to please stop," Foy said.

David Bennett, the minister at Hebron Church of God in Christ, lives down the street from where Wednesday's shooting took place and said he heard the gunshots and saw Crowden's body in the street.

"For something like that to happen right in front of us, that is kind of disheartening, it really is," Bennett said.

Community activist and victim's advocate Beverly McClain, whose own son was murdered in an unsolved case, said the community is in crisis.

"What do the people have over here? Where can they go and express their feelings? Is there a community center over here? What is there for people to get involved in? People are out of work over here. People need over here," McClain said. "These young people are off the chain. They are really off the chain. But this morning, to gun down a 16-year-old child that was headed to school, his mother dropped him off at the bus stop to go to school. It don't make no sense."

A community meeting being planned concerning the violence in Grand Park will be Friday at 6 p.m. at Emmanuel Baptist Missionary Church just off Division Street between West 13th and West 14th streets.

Anyone with information about Wednesday's shooting or who saw or heard anything suspicious in that area early Wednesday morning is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS. 

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