JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A heavy police presence was posted near the St. Johns Town Center on Saturday night in anticipation that rioters who clashed with police downtown earlier in the day might travel there next.
“There will be a major presence at the Town Center as there will be in other parts of the city as well,” Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said at a news conference where he and Mayor Lenny Curry discussed the violence that swept through the city’s streets following a peaceful protest.
Although there was a visibly heightened level of police activity at the Town Center, News4Jax crews saw no sign of the hostile crowds that packed the streets across town hours earlier.
The violence erupted about 6:30 p.m. as a group of roughly 200 people stuck around after a protest earlier Saturday afternoon, Williams said. He said rioters confronted police, flinging rocks and water bottles at officers and vandalizing police vehicles in their path. In response, police lobbed flash bangs, tear gas and other crowd control devices as part of an effort to scatter the rioters.
One officer was taken to a hospital after he was stabbed in the neck, the sheriff said. A source told News4JAX that the officer is expected to recover from his injuries.
Williams said police arrested some individuals, but he did not provide an exact number. He said the Sheriff’s Office would release totals for arrests, injuries and property damage on Sunday or Monday.
Williams said the group behind the violence was separate from 1,200 people who marched through the streets about 3 p.m., calling for more accountability from police. That protest was among dozens across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.
“This is not an offshoot of that (protest),” the sheriff said. “This is something that people are capitalizing on the situation and coming and doing things that… we usually don’t deal with in this city. Clearly, this is instigated, I believe, from out of town.”