JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A meeting was held Friday night as a group tried to convince the state attorney’s office to drop the charges against five members of the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition who were arrested during a protest last week.
“Drop the charges now! Drop the charges now!” members chanted as they left the meeting.
On April 7, as the Progressive Coalition convened at Hemming Park to protest the United States' attack on a Syrian air base, the situation turned violent. When supporters of President Donald Trump showed up, members from both groups started arguing and fighting.
Soon enough, police officers intervened and the fight escalated. Coalition members called it a police beat down of the five people who were arrested.
“In addition to the brutality visited upon demonstrators on April 7, the thing that happened afterward that was really awful was the trumped-up charges and over $157,000 in bail -- and these were felony charges,” said Richard Blake, a spokesman for Justice For Jax 5. “People (were) charged after going to a protest. We are demanding Melissa Nelson to drop all the charges on all the Jacksonville 5.”
Friday’s gathering discussed last week’s events and how to proceed. TV news cameras were not permitted inside the meeting.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said he is now reviewing how the JSO manages protests. The Sheriff’s Office will have another protest to watch soon. On May 1, protesters from across the United States have been asked to gather in Jacksonville for a rally and a march.
May 1 is also when the five coalition members are due in court.