JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Faith leaders in Jacksonville gathered Wednesday on the steps of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to call for justice and peace after the death of George Floyd.
“Real peace does not come by force,” said Rev. Susan Rogers, with The Well at Springfield. “It comes by tending to the wounds of your people, by reallocating funds in order to level things out, making reparations and creating systems of transparency and accountability.”
During what they called a prayer conference, the leaders of several faiths leaders kneeled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time video shows a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck on Memorial Day. That video, in which Floyd can be repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” provoked nationwide protests for the past week, some of which have escalated into violence.
Ben Frazier, with the Northside Coalition that organized Saturday’s peaceful rally in Jacksonville that was followed by vandalism and attacks on police, joined the faith leaders at Wednesday’s event. Frazier called for an honest dialogue with city leaders, including the mayor, sheriff and State Attorney’s Office.
“We have a great racial divide in this city and people are looking the other way,” Frazier said. “They are turning a deaf ear. They want to say it’s playing the race card. They’re not being honest. We’ve got to begin to grab the bull by the horns and be honest in dealing with the issues that divide us.”
The Northside Coalition outlined 10 specific changes it wants to see:
- The release of all body camera videos of officer-involved shootings without edits or redactions.
- The JSO bodycam policy be revised to more closely align with established civil rights principles.
- The creation of an elected citizens oversight board that has investigative and subpoena powers to deal with allegations of police misconduct.
- The Sheriff’s Office issues a public declaration that all officers refrain from excessive use of force.
- JSO reviews and revises policies, practices and procedures that could be racially discriminatory.
- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates all police-involved shootings in Duval County.
- A review and strengthening of JSO’s initiative to identify and discipline “problem” cops with input from community organizations.
- City officials and JSO support reforms to treat officers accused of crimes the same as other individuals.
- City officials engage in a series of serious and honest discussions about the issue of racism and discrimination in law enforcement in Jacksonville.
- Chief Circuit Court Judge Mark Mahon, representatives of the community, Perkins Bar Association and other legal representatives address the various aspects of racial bias in the criminal justice system in the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
The faith leaders and the Northside Coalition said they will continue to protest peacefully and they are calling on other communities in Northeast Florida to do the same until city leaders listen to the demands and begin that honest conversation with them.