JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Legislation proposed to Jacksonville City Council gives the first glimpse into how the city plans to handle protests during the Republican National Convention and where demonstrators will be allowed to congregate.
The ordinance, obtained by WJXT, establishes two zones near the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field and the rest of the city’s sports and entertainment district where convention activities are expected to occur the last week of August: an overlay zone and a security zone.
The overlay zone, to include the arena and stadium, would allow special event vendors to conduct business and alcohol to be consumed.
The security zone, where staged protests and marches would be allowed, is off A. Philip Randolph Boulevard north of the sports complex.
Within that space that’s about the same footprint as TIAA Bank Field, marches will be allowed, but only during the morning and afternoon -- ending by 6 p.m. -- with an empty lot set up for speakers to voice their opinions.
Any group of more than 20 people will need a permit.
Cookie, who owns the Avenue Grill on A. Philip Randolph right next to the security zone, said she is not worried about what could happen.
“I think it’s going to be a peaceful protest,” Cookie said. “I don’t think no one is going to come looking for trouble. I think everything is going to go how it’s been going and they’re only going to attend to the business that they are coming to, which is the RNC.”
Others in this East Jacksonville neighborhood who did not want to speak on the record said they wish the marches would take place downtown.
The ordinance appears focused on putting rules in place that will allow the city to receive a $33 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help pay for security during the convention. It’s not clear when the money would arrive and who decides how it is spent, which is why Sheriff MIke Williams expressed concerns about security during the RNC earlier this week.
City Council President Tommy Hazouri is also concerned.
“I don’t think any of that $33 million is going to be going into our Sheriff’s Office and the other agencies he has to bring in to protect the people downtown in the protest zone,” Hazouri said. “That’s where the sheriff is coming from. There’s money in there to help them but not money to help his rank and file -- the men and women in blue, the first responders downtown.”
Hazouri is hoping to get more answers when officials from the RNC, the city and others meet at a special City Council meeting on Friday
On Wednesday, the undersheriff said JSO now has commitments for near 30% of the force they need to help during the event -- up from 25% on Monday which Williams voiced his concern.
The convention to nominate President Donald Trump for a second term is scheduled to held Aug. 24-27.