JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Black Lives Matter Movement protesting police violence against Black people spurred a series of protests and demonstrations last year in Jacksonville and across the country.
Monique Sampson, a community organizer with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, was active in the protests and said the violence that sometimes accompanied them goes back to the pain stemming from years of oppression and turmoil.
“It is seeing George Floyd be choked to death in front of them. And it’s normal. It’s pain after these verdicts come out: Not guilty -- or these cops aren’t charged. And it stems all the way back from, of course, slavery, protests and rallies were met with water hoses and dogs in the middle of the Civil Rights movement back in the 60s -- but mostly in the modern movement from Trayvon Martin,” Sampson said.
Sampson said the violent uprisings following some protests were used as excuses to belittle the movement because they resulted in property damage.
She related those moments to the Boston Tea Party, saying it was a riot with property destruction -- although it isn’t taught that way.
“We’re just taught that it was a just cause. And I know that because 95% of Black Lives Matter movements were peaceful protests, I know that history will absolve that 5%,” Sampson said.
In Jacksonville’s protests, dozens were arrested, windows were broken, police property was damaged, and an officer was stabbed. Most of the charges against protesters were later dropped.
In the wake of protests across Florida last summer, Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed House Bill 1, which elevates most crimes committed by protesters from misdemeanors to felonies.
Republican leaders say the bill will not take away First Amendment rights, but instead protect businesses. Sampson said the bill will only continue the battle for justice and police accountability.
“I think they’re so out of touch,” Sampson said. “I mean, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, almost half a million people have died (in the U.S.), and this is the governor’s priority?”
At an event at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at City Hall, participants will urge city leaders to speak out against House Bill 1.