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Businesses left to pick up the pieces after night of violent protests in downtown Jacksonville

More protests planned downtown on Sunday

Crews clean up after protestors took to the streets and destroyed property Saturday night.
Crews clean up after protestors took to the streets and destroyed property Saturday night. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was a quiet Sunday morning in downtown Jacksonville as crews began cleaning up the mess left behind from a protest that erupted Saturday night.

Multiple buildings in the downtown area were left vandalized with graffiti and smashed windows.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrived to back up cleaning crews who worked to remove shattered glass where protesters smashed in a window at the Jessie Ball Dupont Center on East Adams and Ocean Streets.

Around the corner at the Florida Theater, milk protesters used to neutralize tear gas that was deployed by JSO in an effort to control the crowds was left behind.

TTV Architects on East Forsyth Street was one of the businesses that was vandalized.

“As a big picture, it hurt the whole message, I think,” said William Hoang, TTV Architects partner. “It was just some graffiti and the Downtown Ambassadors are being really phenomenal and trying to help out painting over any profanity.”

Hoang said his business has been in downtown Jacksonville for 26 years and he has never experienced anything like this.

“It was kind of shocking," he said.

Two blocks north, the Supervisor of Elections building on Monroe Street was heavily vandalized. Several windows smashed, the doors to go inside smashed and boarded up.

“No one got into the building although they could have," Mike Hogan, Duval County Supervisor of Elections, told News4Jax. "We have two very good videos revealing two people damaging the front doors and 9 windows. One of them sprayed paint on our cameras.”

Hogan said the damage will delay their opening tomorrow.

Mayor Lenny Curry acknowledged the protest that began at 3 p.m. on Saturday started peacefully in the parking lot across from JSO headquarters with about 1,200 people but took a violent turn when many people went home and about 200 people hung around and began to confront police.

MORE | Peaceful protest marred by violence in downtown Jacksonville

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said protesters vandalized several police cars, attempted to light them on fire, broke windows and injured officers.

“We had one officer who was stabbed or slashed in the neck and is currently at the hospital," Williams said. "So with that, we’ve responded with our mobile field force, we have SWAT elements out here, as you can imagine, we have a number of additional officers out here. We’re also continuing to follow a lot of social media activity about other potential hotspots in the city. Most of those have not come to fruition, although we are responding and preparing for that.”

The protests in Jacksonville were part of another night of unrest in every corner of the country that left charred and shattered landscapes in dozens of American cities Sunday as years of festering frustrations over the mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of police boiled over in expressions of rage met with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Ben Frazier, leader of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville who helped organize the peaceful protests, said Sunday morning he wants to divorce himself and the group from any violence that took place Saturday night.

“We ended a successful family-friendly event. In fact, so freely that many children were a part of our protest,” Frazier said. “It’s unfortunate that it turned ugly after that, but we want to be clear that opposition as an organization that Northside Coalition of Jacksonville is that we practice and adhere to the non-violent principles as espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Frazier said he wants to make sure people are focused on why the march had to take place to begin with.

“What we’re looking at is excessive use of force, which is violence on the part of a paramilitary organization in this town called JSO. We’re looking at violence against people of color and communities that are being directed by the Sheriff. We’re telling you that there’s something wrong, but nobody is listening,” he said.

Steve Zona, President of the Fraternal Order of Police in Jacksonville, issued a statement Sunday on the protests.

“While we often disagree with Mr. Frazier, he has publicly condemned the violence that occurred in Jacksonville yesterday. We feel it’s moments like this that help to build a bridge to something better for our city,” Zona wrote. “We are thankful all of our officers will recover and are now home with their families. We have never been more proud of our officers.”

The members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office were consummate professionals yesterday while providing security for...

Posted by Fraternal Order of Police Jacksonville, FL Lodge 5-30 on Sunday, May 31, 2020

Jacksonville officials said in an effort to ensure the safety of all, Sunday appointments for the Mortgage, Rent and Utility Relief Program have been canceled.

Anyone who had an appointment Sunday with the last name that begins with letter A through M, the appointment will be at the same time next Saturday at the Ed Ball Building on Hogan Street. For Sunday appointments for names N through Z, those will take place next Sunday.

Also, coronavirus testing at Lot J has been canceled.

JSO said it will be providing security Sunday morning for a planned protest organized by Black Lives Matter near the Duval County Courthouse.

“We ask citizens who are not participating in this event to avoid the downtown area at this time. We will continue to provide updates on our social media platforms,” JSO said.

As of noon, dozens of people had lined up on the steps of the courthouse. The organizer of the protest told News4Jax she wants the protest to be peaceful and is expecting about 100 people.

Also Sunday, a peaceful caravan and justice for George Floyd protest is expected to happen in St. Augustine. It’s hosted by The Women’s March Alliance of North Florida.

In Tampa, protesters on Saturday night threw rocks at first responders and set fire to a sporting-clothes store at a shopping mall. A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputy was injured when he was struck by a firework and another deputy was sent to the hospital after being hit in the back of the head by a hard object, the sheriff’s office tweeted.

Images posted by the sheriff's office showed shattered storefront glass at University Mall and the smashed back window of a squad car.

“We are better than this, Tampa Bay. Violence and looting is not the answer, and will not be tolerated," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister tweeted.

Nightly curfews were issued in Miami-Dade County, Florida's most populous county, and Leon County, where a pickup truck drove through a crowd of protesters Saturday in Florida’s capital.

Protests on Saturday demanding justice for George Floyd took place throughout Florida and dozens of cities across the nation. Demonstrators outraged over Floyd’s death faced off against heavily armed officers in other states, with some smashing police cars, ransacking businesses and setting fires that smoldered through the night. A Minneapolis officer, who is seen on video pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd begged for air, was charged Friday in Floyd’s death.

In South Florida, after protesters hurled rocks and bottles at officers and set squad cars on fire outside Miami Police headquarters Saturday night, transit officials said that all Miami-Dade public transit was being suspended on Sunday, including buses and light rail. At one point Saturday night, Interstate 95 was shut down in both directions as a group of protesters stood on the busy roadway. Videos on social media showed dozens of people breaking into stores at Bayside Marketplace, a popular outdoor shopping center in downtown Miami.

Miami city workers on Sunday were seeing cleaning the streets of debris left from the protests.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a curfew Saturday night that will be in place daily from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Under the curfew, no one will be allowed on streets and sidewalks with the exception of police officers, firefighters, medical workers, utility workers and people walking their dogs.

“Let me be clear, justice must be done,” Gimenez said in a statement. “But rioting and looting accomplish nothing. Those unlawful actions just bring more pain and suffering."


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