JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council has come together to fight antisemitic messages projected on buildings in the city.
Early Wednesday morning, the council approved a measure during a marathon meeting making it illegal to project anything on a building without the owner’s permission.
But there has been controversy surrounding the proposal because some say it’s all related to the upcoming city election.
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.
Under the legislation, anyone caught projecting anything on a building without permission of the owner could go to jail and be fined. That is something the full council applauded by passing the law.
The issues leading up to that has been whose idea was it to act on the matter in the first place — council member LeAnna Cumber, who is running for mayor, or council President Terrance Freeman. Both are Republicans who introduced identical legislation.
But it was Freeman who won out. Still, he added every council member’s name to it except for Brenda Priestly Jackson’s. She said she supports the legislation but voted against it because the council still hasn’t addressed Confederate monuments.
“We are a unified group, and I knew that one of the challenges I was going to face as well as is going, leading during a time of chaos when so many of us are running for reelection or for other offices,” Freeman said. “And it has always been my desire to lead in a way that is fair, to lead in a way that voices are heard. but to always keep — always keep — the interest of the citizens first, not necessarily our personal agendas. And I believe I’ve done that.”
Council member Matt Carlucci originally cosponsored Cumber’s bill. He is glad the council came together but said what happened in getting to this point is disturbing.
“I supported that. I supported the bill, and it was his bill, it really doesn’t matter who gets credit. The big issue is that we passed the bill. OK. And I think after the meeting was over with, time heals all wounds, and I think that wound healed up pretty quickly,” Carlucci said. “And I think we’re all ready to move on to other issues, and thankfully, we did something very good last night — a little messy, but it got done.”
Freeman added that the other issues like monuments will be addressed soon. He also believes homelessness, health care and workforce development will be the other issues the council will try to tackle soon.
The one thing that observers — including News4JAX political analyst Rick Mullaney, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute’s Shircliff executive director and founder — say is happening now is politics are always in play.
“There was community support, there was political support, there was council support in the end, but those council members who showed the most leadership are facing reelection challenges,” Mullaney said. “They, of course, wanted to be recognized for their leadership, and whether it was Terrance Freeman or LeAnna Cumber, both of them showing leadership on this issue, in the end, the legislation got done, but we are in the political season.”
All that is left now is for the mayor to sign the legislation. He is expected to do that soon.