City Council to consider identical bills to ban projecting unwanted messages on property

Council members appear to be taking sides on antisemitism bills — an issue they say they agree on

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two identical bills are set to appear on Tuesday night’s City Council agenda to address a series of hate messages that have appeared in Jacksonville recently.

The bills do the same thing: ban any message projected onto someone else’s building or property without permission.

The most recent hate message that sparked the swift response from council members was a swastika and an outline of an antisemitic cartoon apparently displayed on the CSX building during a Jaguars’ game. The image was seen in a photo that was circulated on social media.

The response seemed unanimous — outright condemnation from members of the Council.

RELATED: City leaders propose multiple bills to stop messages of hate, antisemitism in Jacksonville

“We’re getting all these hate messages all of our buildings. It’s just disgusting and it’s time to stop it,” Councilman Rory Diamond said previously.

“My thoughts are like everybody else,” said Councilman Matt Carlucci. “They’re sick — well, they’re cowardly.”

“We are going to call it out for what it is, and we are not going to allow this to happen in our city anymore. Period,” said Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber.

But the council is split over which of the two bills filed should pass: One filed by Cumber and Carlucci or one filed by Diamond, City Council President Terrance Freeman and several others.

They are word-for-word identical -- setting “projections of text, graphics, logos, or artwork onto a building, structure or any other place (including public spaces) without the consent of the owner or person in control of the building, structure or space” as blight and graffiti, and making the violations a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days and a fine of not less than $2,000. Any equipment or vehicles used in the crime will be seized by the Sheriff’s Office and forfeited to the city.

READ: Cumber/Carlucci bill | Freeman, others bill

Neither bill specifically mentions hate speech -- and the creators say because they are content-neutral, they would not infringe on free speech.

Council members will discuss the bills during Tuesday night’s meeting, which begins at 5 p.m.

Taking sides?

Members of the city council seem to be taking sides, even on an issue they all say they agree on.

Carlucci attended the announcement for his and Cumber’s bill outside the CSX building and has since sent a letter complaining that Council rules were circumvented and that disrespect was shown to other members in the filing of the other bill.

Part of it (in full at bottom of this section) says: “It is a disappointment to see Council members undermine the work of others, especially concerning an issue of such importance to our city.”

Later, Carlucci says, “In the spirit of professional courtesy and statesmanship, I respectfully request the withdrawal of (the bill) 2023-0044.”

Freeman led a news conference the same day as Cumber’s news conference last week and briefly addressed the dueling bills.

”We have an issue that was impacting our city. We have a process and a plan now to address it, and it’s going to be addressed,” Freeman said. “Who gets the credit, that shouldn’t matter. That shouldn’t be the story. The story should be that we are not, as a city, we are not going to stand for hate speech to be acceptable in our city. And that’s what’s most important to me as president.”

Freeman responded to a request for comment Monday night with the following statement about Carlucci’s letter:

“It’s a shame that in a moment of unity, with the Mayor, Sheriff and 13 of my colleagues coming together in support of Bill 2023-44 that Mr. Carlucci has chosen to play politics. We should be focused on condemning antisemitism and standing up for our Jewish neighbors - not self-righteous grandstanding over who gets credit for what.”

It’s unclear what will happen Tuesday night when the bills are read and potentially voted on.

The full letter from Carlucci reads:

Not far enough?

Some citizens, while they support the sentiment of the bills being proposed by the city council, don’t believe the efforts go far enough.

A local group of grassroots advocates and activists, spearheaded by Ben Frazier’s Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, said “city officials should move now to eradicate all public displays of racial and cultural hatred in Jacksonville.”

They want not only the ban on projections on public buildings but the removal of Confederate monuments in the city.

The group includes 904ward, the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida, Leadership is for Everyone, Inc., and OneJax.

They drafted a statement about the issue:

We applaud all efforts to BAN the stream of hate messaging on buildings and banners in the sky. But much more must be done. We encourage members of the City Council to take a courageous stance and to now reintroduce legislation to remove Confederate monuments from public property. This action is long overdue and represents the proverbial can that has been kicked down the road for far too long! Hypocrisy is not a good look. All symbols of racism and hatred should be removed and banned in our city.

“The Confederate monuments represent racial hatred, racism and white supremacy,” said Dr. Rudy Jamison of the LIFE organization.

“With the imminent passage of proposed legislation to combat racial hatred, City Council is taking steps in the right direction but still more must be done,” Dr. Kim Allen of 904ward said. “Let’s continue to show the city, state and nation the kind of community that we are by taking another bold step to remove Confederate monuments.”

“The Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida and the Jewish community at large condemns any action, speech or figure that conjures up or promotes hatred or bias,” said Mariam Feist of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida.

“It’s far too much strife and division in Duval. What we need now is racial healing and reconciliation,” said the Rev. Kyle Reece of OneJax.

The council should have the political courage to remove the monuments from public property once and for all. The Council should not condemn antisemitic messages on one hand; while on the other hand ignoring the racist messaging projected by confederate monuments,” Frazier said.

About the Authors:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.