Jacksonville leaders, minus mayor and sheriff, plan march on Sunday

Mayor says ‘this isn’t time’ to join demonstrators in streets but to focus on legislation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Councilman Garrett Dennis will lead elected officials in a march through Downtown Jacksonville on Sunday to show solidarity with those who have been speaking out against social injustice and police brutality.

He invited Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams to join the group -- as leaders in other cities have done -- but both declined, saying they will participate “in the near future” but Sunday isn’t the time.

Curry said he felt he would be a distraction for law enforcement and could put others in danger if he marched this weekend.

“There are times where I put law enforcement resources at risk because they have to focus on me if I’m there which isn’t responsible,” Curry said. “That’s a distraction to them doing their jobs and making sure the entire protest moves peacefully.”

Sunday's walk will begin at City Hall at 11 a.m. and will wind through downtown to Fire Station No. 1 on Liberty Street.

Dennis said several City Council members will join him, including outgoing president Scott Wilson and incoming president Tommy Hazouri.

Williams, who was invited to join in, said he will “engage in a walk,” but it won’t be Sunday.

“It will happen,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be Sunday, but we will put something together or be a part of something that’s put together in the near future.”

Curry said outside of violence that erupted downtown Saturday night, protests across Jacksonville over the death of George Floyd and calls for criminal justice reforms have been peaceful, and he’s grateful.

He said he would like to participate in a march, along with Sheriff Williams, just not right now. He said for now he’d like to see change made through legislation to address the underlying issues that sparked the protests in the first place.

“Clearly, if I did that, you guys would give me a great photo op and say all these accolades on television and in print, but I would not really have affected change. There may be a time, Mike and I, where we go out and walk. We’ve talked about this. This isn’t the time,” Curry said. “I’m interested in action items that we can do through legislation and budgets that will address the needs of the people – jobs, economic disparities, and some of the other issues that you’ve heard folks express in the protests.”

Dennis said he plans to focus on legislation also, and Hazouri and Wilson will host a virtual meeting on June 10 to address the specific issues of social injustice, law enforcement and economic development.

The general public is invited to observe the June 10 meeting via the Zoom online platform. The information for participation will be posted on the City Council website in the near future.

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