Lawsuit argues GOP Convention will be a ‘nuisance injurious’ to welfare of Jacksonville

This group says if the arena cannot remain closed they want only 2500 people to be allowed inside, to allow for proper separation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents and business owners near the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena -- where President Trump’s renomination event is scheduled to be held in August -- have filed a lawsuit asking a judge to declare the Republican National Convention a public nuisance.

Defendants mentioned in the suit filed Wednesday included the City of Jacksonville, which is the owner of the arena, ASM Global, which manages and operates the arena, President Donald Trump and his campaign, and the Republican National Committee.

The lawsuit states in part that the congregation of thousands in and around the arena in Jacksonville, “under the circumstances and practices encouraged and required by the Republican National Committee and its leadership to be a nuisance injurious to the health, welfare and property rights of plaintiffs, in particular, and the health and welfare of the community of Jacksonville.”

The suit argues that the congregation of people in close proximity inside the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena will “constitute a nuisance and result in massive spread of COVID-19″ among those attending the event, unless restricted by the court.

Attorney Dexter Van Davis is one of the plaintiffs mentioned in the suit. He stated that he’s had several close family members who have contracted COVID-19, saying that someone close to him died from the disease.

Curtis Booker, the pastor of God’s Way of Living International Church, which is near the arena, is another plaintiff. According to the suit, many visitors to his church are elderly and it states he won’t be able to carry out his ministry during the RNC.

The lawsuit argues that the proposed convention in Jacksonville falls within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of a “highest risk” spreading event.

Should the court declare the event a nuisance, the lawsuit asks the arena remain closed to the event, or if opened, that admittance be limited to no more than 2,500 people. It demands that at least 12,500 seats in the arena be isolated or roped off to keep people six feet apart. It demands people attending the event be required to wear masks and maintain a safe distance of six feet apart at all times. It also demands measures to keep the arena clean and sanitized.

Members of the RNC Host Committee sound unfazed by criticism and challenges to the convention. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, is part of the committee and grew up in Jacksonville. He calls the convention a huge positive opportunity and says safety is not being taken lightly.

The spike in COVID-19 cases in Duval County has led to a legal challenge aimed at stopping the Republican National Convention from coming to Jacksonville.

“They’re working out the details as we speak but there will be testing for all convention-goers, and that is extremely significant,” Waltz said. “Everybody will be tested every day.”

Waltz reiterated that his concern is for the economy of the region, and that he’d be in favor of the Democratic National Convention in Jacksonville, too. He’s not alarmed by people who want the convention turned away or shrunken.

“I’m talking to just as many people, hospitality industry, transportation industry, food service and others that are thankful and thrilled that the convention is coming,” he said. “I think to say that it’s going to be controversial or people are going to have mixed opinions shouldn’t be a surprise.”

The City of Jacksonville told News4Jax its legal team is currently reviewing the suit.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident & broadcast news producer who's been reporting & writing for nearly a decade here at The Local Station.

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.