MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – People in support of the Black Lives Matter movement held a rally Saturday at the corner of County Road 218 and Blanding Boulevard in Middleburg. Across the street, Blue Lives Matter supporters gathered.
Dozens participated between the two groups, voicing different views.
Zac Taylor was among the Black Lives Matter supporters.
“I just feel it’s time that people realize Black Lives Matter in Clay County, too,” Taylor said.
“When we say Black Lives Matter, that it solely means Black lives are better,” said Kevin Connor with Black Lives Matter Clay County. “What we are saying is all lives are here, and Black lives are down here. They are the ones need rescuing still, and then all lives will matter.
News4Jax asked Connor whether he thought it was counterproductive for the movement to be called Black Lives Matter because of the opposition.
“No, I don’t think BLM -- I think that is a perfect fit. I don’t think it should be changed. Those three words are a mirror of the U.S. You have to do something with it when you hear that. I believe that it is a mirror showing America. We still have a long way to go, and it is ugly,” Connor said.
Standing on the same side of the road of the Black Lives Matter supporters was Norm Brewer, a Blue Lives Matter supporter.
“I have been encouraged,” Brewer said. “That’s probably why one of the reasons why I don’t associate with a group of people.”
While News4Jax was speaking with Brewer, counter-demonstrators could be heard and seen, seemingly trying to interrupt the interview.
Brewer’s message: “Unless you are being productive and part of the solution, don’t be part of the problem. I mean, it’s just that simple.”
Brewer explained further why he stood with the Black Lives Matter supporters even though he supports the Blue Lives Matter movement.
“They’re more in continuity over here. Over there, there are just people who are tired. They have just shown up. They are patriots for this country and they have had enough, so they are going to be a little discontented with what they’re seeing because truly right now they have not had a voice and they are just now starting to have that voice,” he said.
Brewer added that there are also patriots on the side he was standing on.
“I am sure they are. They just have a different mindset on different topics,” he said.
Eager to talk was Clay County resident Michelle Wannall, a Blue Lives Matter supporter.
“We are little people trying to stand up and voice our opinion on what’s happening,” Wannall said. “Judge me by the content of my character, not by the color of my skin.”
Clay County resident Robin Sirois, a Blue Lives Matter supporter, said: “If you have to put a color in front of the word matters, that makes you all racist -- not us.”
What started out as a conversation was quickly disrupted when a man approached the News4Jax crew from behind and shouted “fake news” into a megaphone, inches from News4Jax reporter Zachery Lashway’s ear. Authorities were involved. The Blue Lives Matter supporters who News4Jax was speaking with quickly condemned the man’s actions.
“It has to stop. If you can’t move forward in that thought process, then get off the sidewalk,” Brewer said.
News4Jax was told the group who organized Saturday’s Black Lives Matter rally was the same group that organized a rally July 11 in Orange Park. At last weekend’s rally, a group of Blue Lives Matter supporters counter-demonstrated across the street from the Black Lives Matter rally near the corner of Blanding Boulevard and Kingsley Avenue. The groups did not clash, and people who News4Jax talked with said both groups were peaceful and stayed on their respective sides.
Participants in last weekend’s Black Lives Matter march walked single-file down Blanding Boulevard in silence. There was no chanting. Though it was quiet, organizers said they were speaking out against what they call police brutality toward people of color.
Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels previously said he’d stop any protest that wasn’t peaceful and that he’d deputize every gun-owning resident.