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After weekend protests, city offices remain closed but no 2nd curfew

City Hall, other city offices didn’t open Monday, some will remain closed Tuesday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One day after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry issued a citywide curfew “due to criminal activity that threatens first responders," the mayor announced just before 5 p.m. Monday that a second curfew was not needed.

“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 earlier 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.”

Late in the day, Curry tweeted that another curfew was not needed, although, “We have the capacity should the need arise.”

A city-wide curfew in Jacksonville was lifted at 6 a.m. Monday, but with unrest continuing across the country and the city, there was a tension downtown. City Hall, the Ed Ball building, JEA offices and the Tax Collector’s Office downtown did not open as scheduled for the first time since March, when Curry issued a safer-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jacksonville was cleaning up Monday morning after two days of downtown protests over the death of George Floyd and police brutality.

There were protesters, mostly on the lawn of the Duval County Courthouse. There were closely monitored by police but there were no conflicts.

Coincidentally, most city offices in Jacksonville were scheduled to reopen Monday morning for the first time since shutting down for the pandemic in March. But City Hall, the Ed Ball building, JEA offices and the Tax Collector’s Office downtown did not reopen Monday.

A spokesperson for the mayor said only essential employees would be coming to work. There was a group of police in Hemming Park keeping an eye on the city buildings.

Customers who had appointments in hopes of getting driver’s licenses renewed or paying taxes at the Tax Collector’s Office swamped the phone lines Monday because of the last-minute schedule change, which caused confusion.

JEA is set to open Tuesday, but City Hall will not. Only essential city personnel will be at work Tuesday, as well.

It was announced over the weekend that the Supervisor of Elections Office would not open to the public Monday after it was targeted by people during the violence that followed Saturday’s peaceful protest. The glass doors of the building on Monroe Street were smashed.

Multiple windows of the Jessie Ball duPont Center, at the order of Ocean and Adams streets, were smashed during Saturday night’s clash with police.

COVID-19 testing at Lot J of TIAA Bank Field also remained closed Monday but will reopen at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The site for coronavirus testing was closed Sunday to ensure public safety and that closure was extended to Monday, according to a post on Twitter.

Sheriff Mike Williams said Saturday night that one of the hundreds of officers who responded to the unrest was hospitalized after being stabbed or slashed in the neck. He didn’t have any information about the severity of the injury, but the Fraternal Order of Police said Sunday that the officer was out of the hospital.

Williams said he didn’t know how many people were detained or arrested by officers Saturday night, but he would get that number. News4Jax witnessed several more people handcuffed by police on Sunday, but there seemed to be none of the vandalism that occurred the night before.

Local stimulus payments were disrupted by protesters, too. The city of Jacksonville rescheduled its Sunday appointments for people seeking help with mortgages and rent. Those appointments are postponed until next weekend.

In an email Saturday, a city spokeswoman said the decision was made to delay those appointments “in order to ensure the safety of relief recipients and City of Jacksonville employees.”

Several businesses cleared their shelves of inventory or closed as a precaution.

In Clay County, the Orange Park Mall closed early on Sunday. Monday morning a spokesperson said they didn’t have any issues with protesters and the mall reopened at 11 a.m. Monday as usual, though one of their events had to be postponed. The free drive-in, Cinema Under The Stars was rescheduled for Wednesday.

Jacksonville city leaders held a virtual news conference Sunday afternoon to discuss how to resolve racial tensions in the city.

Out of the meeting, Councilman Garrett Dennis said the city devotes almost half of its yearly $1 billion budget to fund public safety yet crime is at an all-time high in the city.

Demonstrators march in Tampa Sunday for a second day in a row as protestors take to the streets to protest the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.  (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Demonstrators march in Tampa Sunday for a second day in a row as protestors take to the streets to protest the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP) (Tampa Bay Times)

Around Florida

Police officers fired tear gas on demonstrators who made their way onto Interstate 4 in downtown Orlando on Sunday night as several cities and counties across Florida issued nighttime curfews to curb the large crowds gathering to protest the latest killings of black people by police.

Orlando Police officials tweeted that demonstrators threw rocks, bottles and construction equipment, and they were forced to temporarily close a section of the main highway that goes through the metro area Sunday night.

In Miami-Dade, the state's most populous county, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he would postpone the reopening of the county's beaches, which had been scheduled to reopen Monday for the first time since March when they were closed to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Officials said nightly curfews would continue until the threats of protests turning violent subside.

In Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, peaceful protests turned more violent at times over the weekend, with some people throwing objects at law enforcement officers dressed in riot gear. At times, police used tear gas to back the crowds up.

In West Palm Beach, protesters briefly blocked I-95 on Sunday.

Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said during a Sunday news conference that just 13 of the 57 people arrested live in the city of Miami.

"Please don’t make the mistake of letting someone from outside suck you in to destroy our city,'' he said.

But Miami-Dade Department of Corrections records show 30 of those arrested have Miami-Dade County addresses. Eleven others were from South Florida's Broward and Palm Beach counties, while seven were listed as non-Florida residents and six were homeless.

"It’s important to understand that just because their drivers license says one address, doesn’t mean they live there,'' corrections spokesman Juan Diasgranados told the Miami Herald. "For example: They could have an address registered out of state and be going to school down here.''

Protesters were demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man who died after pleading for air as a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed a knee on his neck last week. The officer was charged, but that hasn't stemmed the protests happening in cities nationwide.

Many protests were largely peaceful across the state Sunday with thousands gathering in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Stuart and Tampa. Some organizers intensified efforts to contain their demonstrations and prevent the violence.

In Tampa, Black Lives Matter organizers had nearly 100 safety marshals in fluorescent vests patrolling their march, trained in de-escalation tactics and ordered to be on the lookout for antagonists. The group also had medics, used walkie-talkies to quickly squelch outbursts.

"We wanted to be able to provide a safe space for their voice and rage to be heard within a controlled environment. It's part of their amendment rights for them to be able to express themselves,'' said Chaikirah Parker, who helped organize the event.

The veteran activist said they purposely held the event early Sunday, despite sweltering heat, because it brought a more peaceful demographic.


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