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Mayor considers another curfew after weekend of Jacksonville protests

Demonstrators marched through the streets, chanting “I can’t breathe”

Police wearing tactical gear face protesters Sunday afternoon in Downtown Jacksonville.
Police wearing tactical gear face protesters Sunday afternoon in Downtown Jacksonville. (Maggie Lorenz/WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry issued a citywide curfew Sunday “due to criminal activity that threatens first responders." The curfew lasted from 8 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Curry told News4Jax late Monday morning that a decision about another potential curfew for Monday night would be made and announced by the afternoon. (Read updated story: No curfew Monday night)

“I’d rather not have a curfew, but we’re not going to allow what happened in our city what’s happened in other cities -- when you give an inch to those who act violently, to those who want to vandalize, they’re going to take a heck of a lot more than an inch -- and we just can’t let that happen in our city,” Curry said Monday. “Any time you’re making any of these decisions -- whether it’s hurricane decisions, COVID-19 decisions, riot decisions, any time you’re in a crisis -- all you can do is take the facts gathered from the experts in the field and then you’re making the best decision with the information you have. There is no perfect decision because there’s no playbook for any of this.”

When he announced Sunday night’s curfew via his Twitter page, Curry warned Jacksonville citizens they could be arrested if they were out in the streets after 8 p.m.

“No one may travel upon city streets except for first responders, credentialed media, people going to and from work, individuals seeking emergency care or fleeing danger,” Curry wrote.

Curry said he made the decision in coordination with Sheriff Mike Williams and that neither wanted to implement such a policy.

“But we simply will not tolerate criminals who threaten men and women in law enforcement and the private property of law-abiding citizens,” Curry continued in another tweet. “This is not an effort to disrupt law-abiding citizens and businesses. You can travel to and from work during curfew hours.”

“This weekend, our city has endured unnecessary violence and damage due to a small segment of instigators,” said Sheriff Mike Williams in a statement. “In efforts to protect our communities, our businesses and our homes, JSO is prepared to enforce the Mayor’s Emergency Order for a curfew.”

The curfew did apply to the beaches, according to Councilman Rory Diamond.

Jordan Elsbury, Director of Government Affairs for the city, said the curfew was only for Jacksonville proper.

“The order by law is 72 hours to continue to have the conversation about it,” Elsbury said. “As you know we evaluate these things on a day by day basis the mayor is in constant conversation with the Sheriff and his team and taking their advice from other city leaders. We expect people to work with law enforcement.”

State Rep. Tracie Davis questioned the need for a curfew, saying it wasn’t an appropriate response to the unrest that unfolded in the city over the weekend.

“A curfew at 8? Why are we punishing an entire city? Do you realize folks walk to neighborhood stores until they close? What about our restaurants that just re-opened? This is not the answer; just an excuse!!!,” Davis tweeted.

Peaceful demonstrations carried on without issue Sunday, a day after another protest was tainted by the violence that erupted afterward.

Dozens of protesters gathered in the streets near the Duval County Courthouse on Sunday to continue the call for an end to police brutality in the city and across the nation.

More than 50 people had lined up on the steps of the courthouse around noon. The organizer of the Black Lives Matter protest told News4Jax she wanted the protest to be peaceful and is expecting about 100 people.

Hundreds gathered after a demonstration at the Duval County Courthouse Sunday. News4Jax Reporter Brittany Muller was there as hundreds called for a change in the justice system.
Hundreds gathered after a demonstration at the Duval County Courthouse Sunday. News4Jax Reporter Brittany Muller was there as hundreds called for a change in the justice system.

JSO said it was providing security Sunday morning and officers could be seen posted up behind orange portable barricades in front of the courthouse.

About 1:30 p.m., demonstrators began marching through Jacksonville’s streets, chanting “I can’t breathe” and “no justice, no peace.” Police followed along, ordering protesters to stay off the streets and on the sidewalk.

Officers in riot gear could be seen dispersing protesters who knelt in the street, blocking an intersection as the march carried on. At least two people were detained and placed in handcuffs near the courthouse. It was not immediately clear why they being detained.

Outside of the two men who were handcuffed, the protest was peaceful and quiet as of 3 p.m.

As the sun began to set, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office rolled out a show of force in an apparent effort to dissuade the violence seen Saturday night. Officers wore heavy tactical gear as they marched down Adams Street.

Brianna Keeter and Lane Peterson were part of the group that got turned away from the courthouse.

News4Jax watched as police arrested multiple people on the grounds. Then the curfew was announced shortly after.

“I think it’s just a way to control us cause they don’t want it," they said.

Others who live in downtown and watched the protests unfold from a distance welcome the curfew.

“It’s probably a good idea for down here,” said Joel Michelson. “There’s enough police down here right now that it should probably keep most the people out I would think.”

JSO announced that Klutho Park was closed to the public after it was believed that protesters were planning to gather there. Despite the parking being shut down, protesters still met close to the park to stage a demonstration.

“Citizens are asked to stay out of the area as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office works to maintain safety in the downtown area,” JSO tweeted.

The Sunday protest followed a night of unrest in the city after a peaceful protest near the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office headquarters turned violent. Multiple buildings in the downtown area were left vandalized with graffiti and smashed windows Sunday morning.

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 Saturday.

Also Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the Florida National Guard.

As of Saturday, there were 150 guardsmen in Miramar, 150 in Camp Blanding and 100 arrived in Tampa.

“These specially trained units support law enforcement in many ways i.e. traffic & crowd control, all to preserve the peace & public safety,” the communications director for DeSantis tweeted.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.