Human rights organizations rally at Hemming Park

Peaceful protesters demand body cameras, raise awareness about injustice

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of several human rights organizations gathered Friday at Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville for a social justice rally called Raise Your Voice.

The rally was held in the wake of deadly officer-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and the killing of five police officers during a demonstration in Dallas.

Multiple organizations came together for a peaceful call to action, citing Martin Luther King Jr. who said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." They said their mission is to bring awareness about injustice and inequality. 

Protesters said enough is enough and officers must be held accountable.

"There is a bias against black individuals, being stopped and searched for very minor offenses. And because it's becoming hearsay of the cop's word against the individual, body cameras can ensure the safety of the individual and the officer," protester Evelyn Brogden said. 

In addition to a demand for body cameras, some of the protesters said they want State Attorney Angela Corey out of office, saying they feel she has prosecuted a higher number of black men than her predecessor and has put a disproportionate number of black men on death row.

"We have wrongfully incarcerated and convicted cases. And most of those cases are dealing with the young, young adults. We've done research on those cases and we have found out, through our research, that they are violating our citizens' rights," said Shirley Reed, president of Wrongfully Incarcerated and Convicted. "We can no longer take our youth getting shot down on the street. That's a problem. The mass incarceration is a problem. If you're going to arrest them, then make it based on the law. The law's in place for a reason."

That's why multiple groups said they will vote against the referendum proposed by Mayor Lenny Curry on the August ballot, which is asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to pay off the city's multibillion-dollar pension deficit, unless there is justice and equality in local agencies.

"My challenge is for fellow white individuals to show and stand up in solidarity with our fellow human beings," Brogden said.

It appears that protesters will get their wishes granted for body cameras to be used by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Mike Williams said last week that a pilot program will begin in April.

When asked about the protest, the state attorney's office sent the following statement to News4Jax:

"We prosecute those individuals who choose to break the law. This group continues to focus only on defendants; our office will continue to focus on our victims, many of whom are black men."