Activist arrested at city council meeting released after night in jail; faces trespassing, resisting arrest charges

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville community activist who was arrested during a city council meeting Tuesday night was released without bond Wednesday morning.

Northside Coalition of Jacksonville President Ben Frazier, 72, was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and resisting arrest without violence after he refused to leave the podium during public comment after his allowed time had ended.

Frazier was released with no bond Wednesday, and a judge set a court date for Jan. 9.

Frazier could be seen in the courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit and sitting in a wheelchair before the judge addressed him. He did not speak in front of the judge, but News4JAX spoke with Frazier shortly after he left the jail.

He said he would do it again and might have to in order to get his message across.

MORE: Community activist removed from city council meeting in handcuffs

Frazier told News4JAX he has faith the monuments will eventually come down.

“I think that what we’re seeing is momentum gaining among average people, young and old, Black and white,” he said. “There’s a general feeling that Jacksonville is waiting to get this issue behind us. It’s time for us to move forward, for the city council to move with great resolve, with its political cowardice and move on with political courage, guts and gumption, to stand on the right side of history.”

Frazier said if Richmond, Va., a city that served as the capital of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, can remove its last city-owned Confederate monument, so can Jacksonville.

Frazier and others were at Tuesday’s meeting to call for the removal of Confederate monuments across the city, including a statue in Springfield Park and a bandstand at the old city cemetery.

For some, it wasn’t a surprise Frazier was arrested. Several sources told News4JAX he planned on getting arrested to make a statement concerning the lack of actions by the city council to take down the remaining Confederate monuments in Jacksonville.

According to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrest report, Frazier continued to speak after Jacksonville City Council President Terrance Freeman told him to stop. The report said Frazier continued to speak loudly which began to gain a reaction from those in the crowd.

Freeman then ordered Frazier to be removed, and uniformed JSO officers approached him and told him to leave.

Ben Frazier appears before a judge Wednesday morning before he was released on no bond. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“Officers attempted to physically remove the defendant at which time he dropped to the floor and refused to make any effort to leave the Council Chambers,” the report states. “The defendant was asked and ordered to stop resisting and peacefully leave the Council Chambers in which he refused.”

JSO said Frazier continued to passively resist officers until being removed from the building.

Frazier, who said he was recently diagnosed with cancer, was cleared by paramedics for potential high blood pressure before he was taken to jail, JSO said.

In January, he was also arrested while trying to attend a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis. Those charges were eventually dropped.

Before Tuesday’s city council meeting, the Northside Coalition, Take ‘Em Down JAX and other community organizations held a rally across from City Hall at James Weldon Johnson Park to call for the removal of the remaining Confederate monuments around town.

Following the rally, Frazier and other supporters of removal headed to the city council meeting so they could directly address city council members during the public comment section of the meeting.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, these racist statues have got to go,” Frazier said during public comment.

Mayor Lenny Curry reiterated his stance on Confederate monuments in a tweet Tuesday night.

“I’ve given the Jax City Council a budget that includes the needed funds to remove the monuments. Obviously, I think they should. They have decided to ignore the issue, Each member should take a position. Yes or No on monument removal. Take a vote. Do your job on tough issues,” Curry said.

The debate comes two years after Curry said they need to come down.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.