Groups opposed to hosting RNC relieved after Jacksonville event called off

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – President Trump announced Thursday evening that the Republican National Convention won’t be held in Jacksonville, citing a “flare up” of COVID-19 cases in Florida.

The event was met with its share of opposition, including a group of attorneys who filed a lawsuit that demanded changes be made to keep people safe. A group of 70 pastors wrote a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry, expressing “grave concern” over the city hosing the event. And, nearly 200 physicians signed a letter address to the mayor’s office, saying the RNC should be postponed.

The moment Trump announced the RNC would be canceled in Jacksonville was a sigh of relief for activists like Michael Sampson with the March on the RNC Coalition. The group had planned to protest during the convention.

“We don’t want more folks who want to inflame and divide people in Jacksonville,” Sampson said. “We don’t want people to come to the city who don’t believe in science, who don’t believe that COVID is real.”

Sampson said he believes the event would have created racial divide in the community.

“We want to make sure that the people’s movement here in Jacksonville is still being built. We’ve seen a lot of change the past month and a half,” he said.

On Monday, Sheriff Mike Williams announced the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was not prepared to secure the RNC, after only having 75 days to prepare.

“We’ve only been able to pull together about 25% of what we requested. Some of this is due to concerns over reimbursement, while additional issues are related to the pandemic that we’re facing today,” Williams said.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, a former Jacksonville officer, says putting together a safety plan in that amount of time is nearly impossible.

“When the sheriff asked for 2,000 men and women police officers that he would need to successfully pull it off and you only get a response of 25 percent of people, which is about 500 people, you’re 1,500 short going into it. That’s a problem,” Jefferson said.

The week the RNC was planned would have occurred on Ax Handle Saturday, a date that marks a racially motivated attack in 1960 in Jacksonville. Sampson said groups still plan to hold a rally that weekend in remembrance.

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