Community activist removed from city council meeting in handcuffs

Ben Frazier, others were speaking out against Confederate monuments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The tense debate over whether the Confederate monuments should remain or be removed from Jacksonville led to community activist and Northside Coalition of Jacksonville President Ben Frazier being removed from Tuesday night’s city council meeting in handcuffs.

Earlier in the day, 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.

RELATED: Groups in favor of removing Confederate statues holding rally Tuesday

Frazier was then told that his time was up, but he refused to step down from the podium. Then several Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office police dragged him out of the meeting in handcuffs and put him in the back of a police cruiser.

News4JAX spoke to Frazier before the meeting.

“We want to be clear that the city council and the city government and many other elected officials have been kicking the can down the road for far too long,” Frazier said.

Rally organizers said the monuments are painful symbols of racism and white supremacy.

“There is no reason why this city is still glorifying white supremacy and idolizing the various statues that symbolizes the various lynching, the torture and the separation of families,” said Mone Holder, Florida Rising senior director of advocacy and programs.

Organizations in favor of keeping the monuments were also present at the rally to voice their opinions, arguing removing the monuments would erase history.

“It was put up to honor women of the South, who took care of their families when the men were off at war -- nothing about white supremacy there,” Seber Newsome III said.

Attorney John Phillips released a statement about tonight’s public comment and Frazier’s arrest:

“At tonight’s city council meeting, public comment was limited to 1/3 of total time. One minute and 5 seconds. It saw people dressed up like Santa falsely claiming to be from the North Pole supporting keeping confederate monuments in place. Others lost civility to no consequence. Seeking to hold the city to its promise of removal, longtime community activist and client Ben Frazier spoke closer to the standard 3 minutes of allotted time. City Council President Terrence Freeman asked Mr. Frazier be escorted out of the meeting. Instead, he was arrested and taken to jail without his ADA assistant devices. Ben also has publicly battled cancer. We hope he will receive proper care and attention to his healthcare limitations.”

Because of the large turnout at the meeting, speakers were only given one minute to speak compared to the typical three minutes.

It’s unclear what charges Frazier may face.

This isn’t Frazier’s first time being arrested at city hall. In January, he was also arrested before a press conference with Gov. DeSantis. Those charges were eventually dropped.

Watch the video of Frazier’s arrest below:

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.