'We hear you’: City leaders call for peace, change after protests rock Jacksonville

Jacksonville’s elected leaders gathered Sunday for a virtual meeting to discuss what comes next in the wake of a violent clash Saturday night between protesters and police downtown.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville’s elected leaders gathered Sunday for a virtual meeting to discuss what comes next in the wake of a violent clash Saturday night between protesters and police downtown.

Mayor Lenny Curry, along with members of the Jacksonville City Council and the Duval County School Board, all weighed in on the peaceful protest against police brutality that turned ugly when, authorities said, about 200 people ignited the violence, burning Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office vehicles and smashing windows. One officer was stabbed during the upheaval, Sheriff Mike Williams said.

The protests were originally part of a nationwide show of solidarity focusing largely on the death of George Floyd, who died while in the custody of the Minneapolis police.

“Jacksonville, we hear you,” Councilman Sam Newby said. “We hear your concerns, and we hear your voices. We are all going to work together to make Jacksonville a better place, a place that you deserve. And so we’re here to just to say we hear you and we love you.”

Mayor Curry said that the violence that emerged following the peaceful protest won’t be allowed in the city.

“I don’t want what happened later to overshadow the best of Jacksonville,” Curry said. “As the protest started as the evening wore on, and most of those thousand plus people went home, a smaller group of folks stayed. And I’m told some others came in and were perpetrating violence, vandalism.”

State Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, shared her own experience with police brutality along with a call for peace.

“I think it is very important to know that I am the mother of a black man who was recently brutalized by police,” she said. “And it wasn’t in Jacksonville, Florida. My 22-year-old son was maced, handcuffed and stuck in the back of a squad car where he couldn’t breathe because he had asthma, and was wrongfully arrested on his birthday.”

Kimberly Daniels, Florida House of Representatives District 14. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“But I need you to know that there is a difference between protesting and rioting,” she continued. “We can be angry, and rightfully so. But wrong cannot be made right with more wrong. My mom used to say two rights don’t make her wrong. Looting is wrong, destruction of property is wrong, physical harm to police officers and retaliation is wrong. Our city streets cannot become places of anarchy.”

Councilman Garrett Dennis laid at least some of the blame at the feet of City Council.

“We have not been hearing the concerns and cries of our people and what we are seeing is a direct result of our shared neglect,” Dennis said. “We have the ability to make policy changes to ensure a better quality of life for our neighbors.”

“We appropriate almost half of the city’s budget to public safety, close to $500 million, and crime is at an all-time high,” he continued. “We aren’t holding our sheriff accountable for the dollars. Contrary to the hollow words of some elected officials, saying your voices are being heard. Let’s be honest. They are not.”

Councilman Al Ferraro, who spoke after Dennis, pushed back against his peer’s claims.

“This shouldn’t be something that we’re trying to blame the City Council and elected representatives right now in our city for problems that are happening around the nation,” Ferraro said. “I stand 100% with you on trying to see what we can do to fix things, but we cannot stand for our city or any of the people to be frightened, or endangered because of somebody disagreeing. We have to work together on this thing.”

As city leaders were meeting, protests continued across Northeast Florida.

Dozens of people gathered in the streets near the Duval County Courthouse to continue the call for an end to police brutality. Two of the protesters were detained by police in what was a peaceful rally.

Another rally took place in St. Augustine Sunday afternoon.

Watch the full City Council meeting below.

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