JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said it is reviewing video that appears to show an officer punching a protester near the courthouse Sunday afternoon. The protester, Chad Hollett, said he and a group of others were not violent or disruptive during their demonstration.
"They shut us down. We were walking down the sidewalk. They told us if we didn’t go home, they would start arresting people,” he said. Hollett didn’t leave.
He was arrested Sunday afternoon and then released from jail Tuesday morning. Injuries to his eyes were still visible.
“I was slammed to the ground and repeatedly hit by officers,” Hollett said.
Video doesn’t show what happened before the officer can be seen throwing a punch, but the officer clearly hits Hollett in the face and then in the back when he was on the ground.
Arrest bookings show Hollett was charged with unlawful assembly and resisting an officer without violence.
Bernando Santana, a filmmaker, was also arrested during Sunday’s protest for unlawful assembly. Santana said he was filming and taking pictures with his fiancee.
Video shows the situation escalates while Santana was filming the arrest of another protester.
“The cop said ‘Push back, push back,’ and I complied, I stepped back, stepped back, and I was cool,” Santana said. “Then, out of nowhere, I was yoked up from behind and thrown to the ground and arrested.”
On Tuesday, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said no officers to date had been fired as a result of complaints from the protests.
In a prior news conference, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said five officers were injured in the weekend protests. One of the officer’s necks was slashed, others were hit with bricks and other debris.
“As soon as the first rock is thrown, fire is lit, it is no longer a peaceful protest. You can’t go from breaking the law, back to peaceful protests, breaking the law, back up. We’re not gonna allow that to happen,” he said.
Williams said JSO will protect citizen’s rights to protest peacefully, but the department has to maintain order.
When the sheriff was questioned about his officer’s clash with protesters and if the sheriff would walk with protesters as had been seen in other parts of the country, Williams said he would if he was given the chance and if the timing was right.