Group of pastors has ‘grave concern’ over Jacksonville hosting RNC

A group of almost 80 black pastors sent a letter to the mayor Monday, voicing concerns about the Republican National Convention coming in August.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been up front about his excitement for the Republican National Convention coming in August, but on Monday his office received another letter arguing against it.

A group of more than 70 Black pastors signed the letter. More than a week ago, the mayor’s office received a letter from nearly 200 physicians who signed a letter saying the RNC should be postponed.

Pastor Gary Williams spoke with News4Jax about the most recent letter that urges city leaders to “reconsider” hosting the convention.

“I think it’s both just practical and prudent to try to err on the side of safety,” Williams said.

The letter states in part: “There is grave concern that hosting RNC signifies that our city is placing profits over people.”

Williams said it’s not about Republicans or the convention and that it’s about any major event that could hurt the city.

“If I have the flu or if I’m sick, I will not invite someone to my home while I’m sick,” Williams said. “If they are sick. I will not invite them to my home to have dinner. Third thing, if both of us are sick. I will not invite them to my home to have dinner.”

The pastors also point to the history of Aug. 27, which this year marks 60 years since Axe Handle Saturday.

“When you look at the history of that particular day, and when you look at the climate of what we’re in now, I mean incendiary rhetoric, bellicose language, etc, etc. Then it’ll turn the city into a powder keg is what it will do,” Williams said.

A spokesperson for Mayor Curry said: “We are going to respond to the pastors as we do everyone who contacts Mayor Curry and the administration, but we are not commenting otherwise.”

News4Jax asked the host committee for a comment on the letter from the pastors. It directed us to a memo that addresses several topics and reads in part:

Jacksonville is a world-class destination that serves more than 22 million visitors a year and we are confident we will be ready. We have built an experienced team that has been hard at work to ensure success this August.

Everyone attending the convention within the perimeter will be tested and temperature checked each day.”

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.