JACKSONVILE, Fla. – Following the height of the protests this weekend, one city councilman said: "We hear you, we hear your concerns and we hear your voices.” On Monday, News4Jax took a closer look at exactly what those concerns are and whether city leaders are willing to make any changes based on what they heard.
Local poet Elisha McFadden is meditating on a peaceful resolution. McFadden says basic inequality is at the heart of what needs to change.
“We are still the blueprint of justice in America, and when I say we, I mean people of color,” McFadden said. “It’s time for change. I know change is happening.”
News4Jax reached out to locals, community activists and Jacksonville City Council members compiling a list of immediate concerns that they are hearing about from their constituents locally.
Outside of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office releasing body camera video to the public and being more transparent, activists say they want local leaders to identify nepotism and cronyism in the judicial system and local police departments.
Many say the race of local judges should represent the demographics of the community they serve.
And they’re calling for police to commit to reviewing their policies, practices and procedures to make sure not one of them is racially discriminatory in any way.
Activists are also calling for community redevelopment on the Northside and Westside, where there are some communities that still operate solely on septic tanks. Some Jacksonville residents were promised access to city sewer services in the late 1960s. Today, thousands are currently forced to live with septic tanks, which results in businesses avoiding opening up on their side of town.
"They should be very mad because we find dollars for others instances, but it just falls on deaf ears when it comes to certain parts of town, and it’s wrong,” said City Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Dennis says locals also want more opportunities to be heard in City Council, pointing to a vote last year that eliminated comment at the beginning of meetings. Dennis says some Jacksonville residents feel they aren’t being heard.
“People have to get it out and if they’re not getting it out to the city leaders and City Council, they are rioting and protesting, so I think part of what you’re saying here in our city is a direct result of us muting the public,” Dennis said.
City Council President Tommy Hazouri told News4Jax that allowing two sections of public comments in council meetings right now isn’t something they are not discussing, but council wants to make sure everyone is heard.
A spokesperson for JSO said their policies are reviewed frequently by their directive review committee to ensure fairness is applied.