JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Both Jacksonville’s mayor and sheriff acknowledged that Saturday’s protests downtown began peacefully, but as the day went on, they said things took a violent turn.
The protests were originally part of a nationwide show of solidarity focusing largely on the death of George Floyd, who died while in custody of Minneapolis police.
Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams said about 1,200 people showed up for that protest, which began around 3 p.m. Williams said there was “really good cooperation” from the organizers. As the day progressed, he said, things changed.
At about 6:30 p.m., after many people went home, Williams said, about 200 people “hung around” and began to confront police.
“They attacked several police officers. They vandalized several police cars, attempting to light them on fire, breaking windows,” Williams said. “We have one officer who was stabbed -- was slashed in the neck and is currently at the hospital.”
The sheriff could not provide an immediate update on the officer’s condition. But a source told News4Jax the officer is expected to recover from his injuries.
As of about 8:45 p.m., Williams said there were still about 100 protesters still downtown. Police planned to have crews downtown throughout the evening.
“All this ends when these rioters go home,” Williams said. “This is a small group that stuck around to create chaos."
As the protests continued, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office used a crowd deterrent multiple times in an attempt to break up large groups.
Speaking alongside Williams, Curry said the city has a history of people protesting peacefully and respectfully, and he said that’s how things began during the afternoon.
“I watched it. There were some kids out there making their voices heard, respectfully, and then they left and the folks that are left are -- it’s not about peaceful protest. It’s not about reform. It’s not about change. It’s about violence," Curry said. "Police officers have been attacked, and we’re not going to tolerate it in our city. We’re not going to let them burn our city to the ground.”
When asked if a curfew might be imposed, Williams said “not at the moment” but that authorities “will talk about it.”