JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville is still being talked about as a potential location for the Republican National Convention, and the mayor and sheriff on Thursday addressed questions about whether the city would be able to handle such a major undertaking given the coronavirus pandemic and expected protests.
President Donald Trump announced Tuesday night that the convention will be pulled from North Carolina because the state refused to guarantee the event could be held in Charlotte without public health restrictions to contain the coronavirus. The top alternative locations that RNC officials are said to be considering: Nashville, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Orlando, Jacksonville and venues in Georgia.
Since word came out that Jacksonville is one of the top choices, there has been a lot of social media outcry, pro and con, about holding the convention in the River City. Sources said it could happen in the arena and other locations throughout Jacksonville.
On Thursday, News4Jax asked Mayor Lenny Curry whether Jacksonville could afford to host the convention given the cost of extra security and health precautions that the city would have to take to make sure it’s safe.
“I know it’s going to be a heavy lift. There’s no definite answer as to whether it’s coming here or not. But I think that if we land it, people are going to appreciate the jobs and we will do it responsibly,” Curry said.
Sheriff Mike Williams added: “I will tell you that this is not just a JSO (Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office) event. We would have support from around the country, from local law enforcement agencies around the country, obviously federal partners weighing in heavily on an event like this."
Over the last week, the city has seen protests, some of which turned violent. With any political convention, it’s expected there would be more.
As far as the pandemic, Curry has been pushing for safe practices. But some are asking whether inviting the convention to Jacksonville would be a step backward. The mayor said no, it would be a way forward.
“We’ve got to get back to business in our city. We just had an entire economy shut down because of a global pandemic, and anything you do in life, there’s risk. There are no certainties, but we’ve demonstrated the ability in the city over a number of years to host events and moving forward responsibly," the mayor said. "I would say to the people that are concerned, we’re going to have all the safety protocols in place. But I’m not going to make economic decisions for this community out of fear. If we were doing that, heck, we would probably all still be in our homes right now because COVID-19 is still with us.”
Jacksonville should know by next week if it will host the convention.