JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry on Monday condemned the violence that erupted Saturday night in downtown Jacksonville while at the same time commending a peaceful protest that took place earlier that day.
He said one group represents what Jacksonville stands for -- the other does not.
“With all of our shortcomings ... this city has consistently been peaceful. While people are frustrated -- at times for very real reasons -- they've always acted in a way that represents what I know Jacksonville is,” Curry said. “That's smart, caring, resilient, loving people across all communities.”
Thousands of people in Jacksonville joined many others across the nation Saturday for an “I Can’t Breathe” protest following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. The police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck with murder.
Locally, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville organized the Saturday afternoon protest, calling for -- among other things -- the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to release body camera footage from police-involved shootings.
That group told News4Jax it began leaving the protest around 4 p.m. Saturday. Other groups, however, continued protesting, and the demonstrations turned violent.
Large numbers of police officers blocked off multiple intersections and commanded crowds to move back. As the protests continued, JSO personnel sprayed a crowd deterrent multiple times at protesters in the street.
Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams said that just after 6:30 p.m. Saturday, a group of about 200 people began confronting police, throwing water bottles and rocks and attempting to set police vehicles on fire.
Williams confirmed an officer had been injured by a group of rioters and was hospitalized. A source told News4Jax that the officer is recovering. Williams also said other officers were injured by rocks and bricks.
News4Jax crews spotted a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office cruiser with its front windshield smashed in and witnessed protesters throw water bottles at officers.
“The peaceful protests that we saw that started Saturday afternoon are exactly what our city represents,” Curry said. “The small group that stayed around and came in the evening and maybe were even planning various activities last night do not represent our community, do not represent our city.”
Curry said via Twitter on Saturday that he wants to work with the “law-abiding” citizens who came out for a peaceful protest to have their voices heard.
“While we have a long way to go before there’s a kumbaya -- we have a lot of wrongs over decades that we have to make right -- this city has consistently demonstrated they can move forward together,” Curry said, “as difficult as it can be at times, and to hang onto the idea -- the fragile idea -- it’s one city.”