Charges dropped for Jacksonville activist after arrest at city council meeting
Four months after the President of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville was arrested and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest after a city council meeting in December, it was announced Monday that the charges were dropped.
Community activist removed from city council meeting in handcuffs
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 Fraizer being removed from Tuesday night’s city council meeting in handcuffs.
Some are calling for Sheriff Mike Williams to pay back his salary and more to taxpayers
While the city’s general counsel mulls over the looming legal issues surrounding Sheriff Williams’ move to Nassau County, there are calls for his salary and retirement to be paid back to the taxpayers if lawyers determine Williams vacated his seat last spring.
Activist’s attorney files notice of intent to sue over trespassing arrest at site of DeSantis’ news conference
Activist Ben Frazier’s attorney, John Phillips, has filed a notice of intent to sue, over his January arrest for trespassing at a state office building in Jacksonville where Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was scheduled to hold a news conference.
Jacksonville activist defends actions that led to arrest before governor’s news conference
A Jacksonville civil rights activist arrested Tuesday on a misdemeanor trespassing charge before Gov. Ron DesSantis’ planned news conference with health officials in Duval County defended his behavior during an interview Wednesday on The Morning Show.
DeSantis: Additional monoclonal antibody treatment site to open in Jacksonville if feds provide supply
Florida is ready to open additional monoclonal antibody treatment sites, including another site in Jacksonville, if the state gets more supply from the federal government, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.
3rd council committee vote to leave Confederate monument in Springfield Park sparks protest
A third Jacksonville City Council committee has voted over two days against spending $1.3 million to move a Confederate monument from Springfield Park, the decision coming after activists chanting, “Take ‘em down; take ‘em down” were cleared from the room.
2 Jacksonville City Council committees vote down removal of Confederate statue from Springfield Park
During its Tuesday evening meeting, the Jacksonville City Council is scheduled to discuss an ordinance that would appropriate $1.3 million to fund the removal of a Confederate statue in Springfield Park.
City’s remaining Confederate monuments take spotlight in public comment during Council meeting
For weeks, the Northside Collation of Jacksonville has been pressing the city follow through with the removal of all remaining Confederate monuments, and on Tuesday, the organization held another rally outside City Hall.
Jacksonville City Hall emails reveal discussions before guideline signs went up
The News4Jax I-TEAM has obtained internal emails showing what was happening behind the scenes at Jacksonville City Hall before signs were posted in the building, telling visitors they cannot go to certain areas without permission.
Impact of Derek Chauvin’s conviction; Jacksonville’s infrastructure needs & proposed gas tax increase
On this edition of “This Week in Jacksonville,” Northside Coalition President Ben Frazier and Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona each discuss the impact of the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin verdict. Then Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney joins the show as Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nat Ford and Jacksonville Civil Council Chairman John Delaney each discuss the city’s infrastructure needs and the proposed gas tax increase.
Auditorium packed for discussion on renaming Robert E. Lee High School
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The second to last meeting to discuss changing the name of Robert E. Lee High School took place Tuesday night, and there was a big turnout. A spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools said the public interest in the name change at Lee High School is 20 to 25 times higher that other schools. “I hope the name gets changed and everyone sees the sky doesn’t come falling down,” said Rhonda Stringfellow, a Lee High School alumnus who attended the meeting. Ad“It’s going to be Robert E. Lee High School for me for the rest of my life,” said Janie Lee, a member of the alumni. There’s a group of alumni from Lee High School are pushing to keep the school’s name, saying that Lee High has too much history to be renamed.
Changing name of Robert E. Lee High takes spotlight at community meeting
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Northside Coalition and other members of the Jacksonville community gathered Monday afternoon ahead of a meeting, rallying for a name change at Robert E. Lee High School. pic.twitter.com/D7DATGJe60 — Brie Isom (@BrieIsomWJXT) March 15, 2021Some of the names suggested during the Monday meeting included Avondale High School or Riverside High School. There’s a group of alumni from Lee High School are pushing to keep the school’s name, saying that Lee High has too much history to be renamed. It’s about Southern pride,” Lee High School alumnus Joey Steves said previously. Jackson High, Ribault High, and Ribault Middle schools were added to the list in early August.
Demonstrators travel from Jacksonville to Tallahassee to rally against ‘anti-riot’ bill
About a hundred people arrived Tuesday afternoon at the Florida Capitol to rally against the "anti-riot" legislation. JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Demonstrators traveled from Jacksonville to Tallahassee on Tuesday to rally against House Bill 1, which has been dubbed “anti-riot” legislation. Supporters of the bill say it would help crack down on violent protests, while opponents say it’s overkill and could be used to restrict people from peacefully protesting. “We want lawmakers to know that we oppose House Bill 1.”Ben Frazier with the Northside Coalition is among those who say the bill would limit First Amendment rights. About a hundred people showed up Tuesday afternoon at the Florida Capitol to make known their displeasure over the legislation.
Community groups opposed to ‘anti-mob’ bill want to hear from Jacksonville’s mayor
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Community organizations rallied Saturday at Jacksonville’s City Hall, calling on city leaders to speak out against “anti-mob” legislation proposed by Gov. It’s an ongoing fight over House Bill 1, which would increase penalties for violent protests in Florida. Organizations against its passing say they need to hear where city leaders stand on this. RELATED: Jacksonville Mayor: Violent demonstrators ‘do not represent our city’The controversial proposal is pitting those who people believe First Amendment rights are being threatened against others who believe the increased penalties are a way to combat public disorder. And those who organized or funded violent protests would be treated as members of an organized crime group.
Community conversation on Black church covers history, music, meaning
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A community conversation about the Black church covered its history, music and meaning. News4Jax joined the virtual discussion Monday night in conjunction with a new documentary, “The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song.”“The Black church is where I cut my teeth on being a leader,” said the Rev. All three panelists agreed the Black church should be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. “To me, how can you really be a follower of Christ and not care?”“Yes, Black Lives Matter because Black lives were made in the image of God,” Boddie said. This mysterious silence must end.”February is Black History Month, and News4Jax is celebrating Black culture, elevating the people and stories that thread together our American fabric.
First elected Black female judge in Duval County sworn in
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rhonda Peoples-Waters made history in Duval County on Tuesday when she was sworn in at the courthouse as the first elected Black female court judge to take the bench in the county. Peoples-Waters is not the first Black female in the role, as three others have been appointed, but she is the first to be elected. Today with family and friends beside her, Peoples-Waters, will finally take her seat as judge Peoples Waters and become a part of the diversity the city wants in courtrooms. Today with family and friends beside her, Peoples-Waters, finally took her seat as Judge Peoples-Waters and become a part of the diversity the city wants in courtrooms. “Both the state and the city are finally starting to move forward, and finally starting to eliminate discrimination by sex and race.
UF Health CEO gets first COVID-19 vaccine in Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Eleven months after the earliest recorded case of coronavirus in the United States, the first 10,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived Monday morning at UF Health Jacksonville and the first 10 shots were quickly administered to emergency room and intensive care workers, including the medical center’s CEO. Pfizer’s COVID19 vaccine shipment from Michigan arrived around 9:15 a.m. Jacksonville’s vaccine supply was transported in freezer packs along with 3 million other vials set to be delivered across the country. News4Jax spoke with African Americans in Jacksonville about the new vaccine who had mixed feelings about the shot. The first shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine headed out from Michigan Sunday morning. Five of Florida’s largest health systems, including UF Health in Jacksonville, will receive 100,000 doses.
Gov. DeSantis backs ‘anti-mob’ proposal in response to protests
The proposal titled “anti-mob legislation draft” would expand the list of “forcible felonies” under Florida’s self-defense law to include property crimes. “We don’t want to see our cities burning like across the nation without consequences, so Gov. Meanwhile, a rally to protest the proposal is planned for 1 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Duval County Courthouse. The first survey question by AP VoteCast found 42% of Florida voters surveyed have a gun in their household. Only 32% of Joe Biden voters have a gun in their house compared to 51% of President Donald Trump voters.
Well-known Jacksonville community activist voting for the first time
Ben Frazier has been a vocal advocate with the Jacksonville-based Northside Coalition for years, spearheading numerous causes. These include the push to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces and the passage of Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to Florida’s former felons. “Since the passage of Amendment 4, I felt a tremendous energizing power that it was now my time,” Frazier said. Frazier regrets not voting years ago before trouble with the law took his rights away. “There are a number of people out there who have never voted,” Frazier said.
‘Walk the Vote’ & ‘Party at the Polls’ events encourage early voting
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens of #WalkTheVote Parades across the county took place Saturday to encourage early in-person voting, including two events in Jacksonville and St. Augustine. It’s part of a nationwide initiative to encourage voters to join in by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and voting early ahead of Election Day. Rapper Common from Chicago was in Jacksonville for a “Party at the Polls” event to encourage the community to get out and vote. Walk the Vote is being held in more than 18 cities in a number of swing states to encourage in-person, early voting ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. All counties in Florida have now opened their early voting periods, and most counties continue early voting through next Saturday while Nassau and Duval counties remain open on the Sunday before Election Day, as well.
Grassroots groups want City Council to reject JSO budget, re-allocate funds
“The major problems involve racial issues, the city budget and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.”The activists want more oversight from the City Council of JSO’s budget spending. “The city council should establish new methods to evaluate how effectively JSO is spending the lion’s share of our city funds,” said Ben Frazier, founder of the Northside Coalition. The city has broken promises and ignored the needs of Black neighborhoods for more than 50 years.”In addition to that demand, the groups say the City Council should:Create a police accountability council to review police investigations. “The People’s Budget calls on the city to reallocate and reinvest money from the proposed half-billion dollar budget for JSO,” said Christina Kittle with the JCAC. That budget will be voted on by City Council before the end of the month.
Melissa Nelson wants longer sentences for people convicted in gun crimes
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Melissa Nelson, the state attorney for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit, says she is fighting back against gun violence by seeking longer sentences for people convicted in gun crimes. Ben Frazier, a community activist in Jacksonville, has been outspoken about gun violence. He released a statement about the checklist, which reads in part:“My one word response to this new policy is “hogwash.” The overarching issue here is how do we reduce gun violence? The state attorney doesn’t know if the change will help reduce crime but she wants it to be resource to help the community and help her office do their job effectively. Nelson hopes that it is a deterrent specifically to stop gun violence in the city.
New policy on police bodycam video to be put in place soon in Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new policy regarding the release of police-worn body camera video is going to be put into place soon. There have been meetings between JSO, the state attorney and groups like the Northside Coalition to speed up the process of releasing body camera footage. During Monday’s meeting, City Council member Ron Salem told the committee a new policy is coming very soon. The State Attorney’s Office confirmed to News4Jax that it is working on a new plan and will release it soon. Right now, there is no time frame for the release of body camera video in police shootings.
Mayor Curry wants to expand Cure Violence program to other neighborhoods
On Wednesday he addressed Cure Violence, a program he started last year. Now, Curry wants to expand Cure Violence to other neighborhoods. Curry said it suggests that the program is showing promise and that is one reason why he added $1.7 million to his budget for Cure Violence. “We are applying a Cure Violence Band-Aid to a massive and open hemorrhaging wound,” said Ben Frazier. “I think we have to examine how the money is being spent in Cure Violence.
Hemming family may ask court to block changing name of park
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The descendants of the man who donated a Confederate statue to a downtown park that later took on his name told News4Jax they are looking into taking legal action to attempt to block changing the name of Hemming Park. In the background, Ben Frazier of Northside Coalition walked around the park remembering coming to the park with his mother when he was 10 years of while the park was still segregated. (One) side of the park was the colored peoples side ... and to the east was the white peoples side. In the confines of this park, there were white and colored water fountains, white and colored restrooms, Frazier said. After all of the fights, after all of the protests, was Frazier surprised to see the changes?
Jacksonvilles violent crime problem raises budget questions
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Several consecutive nights of violent crime in Jacksonville have some asking questions about what is and isnt working to combat the citys crime problem. Ben Frazier, a community activist and president of the Northside Coalition advocacy group, doesnt think the citys current approach to reining in violent crime is working. The citys effort to reduce gun violence needs creative leadership and a good swift kick in the budget, Frazier said Friday. He said some of the funding allocated for the Sheriffs Office, which represents a significant chunk of the city budget, should be shifted to other programs. Sheriff Mike Williams addressed some of those issues Thursday when he met with City Council members to discuss the city budget.
With RNC out, activists hope Mayor Curry focuses on removing Confederate monuments
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Now that the Republican National Convention has been pulled out of Jacksonville, some activists say it gives Mayor Lenny Curry time to focus on removing Confederate monuments from the city. On Friday, a group protested in front of City Hall urging the mayor to focus on a promise to remove the monuments. Its been over a month since the city removed a Confederate monument from Hemming Park. The city said it doesnt know when the Confederate monuments will come down but said that its working on a schedule with the Parks and Recreation Department. News4Jax has also been following the removal of the Confederate monument in St. Augustine.
Why Jacksonville civil rights activist thinks people should rethink ‘Duval’ chant
William P. Duval, who Florida Historical Society historians and archivists say owned slaves and made a living off slavery. According to historians, Duval was a firm believer in the slave economy and an avid defender of slavery and state’s rights throughout his life. William Duval, courtesy: Florida Historical SocietyWhen his father eventually emancipated his own slaves, historians say, he strongly disagreed with the decision. Recently, News4Jax has reported the controversy over the removal of Confederate statues in public parks, including ones in Northeast Florida. He feels the Duval chant does the same.
Community group calls for defunding JSO
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The Northside Coalition, a local community advocacy organization, is calling for Mayor Lenny Curry to defund the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office. The call comes after Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams last week asked for $6 million more in the JSO budget. RELATED: Activists react after JSO asks for $500M in fundingBen Frazier, of the Northside Coalition, said the current JSO budget is massively overweight, inflated and ineffective. He said money allocated to JSO should be reinvested to fund community service and resources. The City Council, the mayor and the sheriff should redirect the public safety budget to be more focused on prevention and intervention, Frazier said. All communities should address poverty, education and infrastructure but taking money from public safety to accomplish this goal is a fast track to a less safe city, the statement reads, in part.
Duval County jail will now test all new inmates for COVID-19
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health will begin testing about 2,700 Jacksonville inmates after some employees and inmates of the Duval County jail were exposed to a medical professional who tested positive for COVID-19. We have had now 20 inmates that we have tested that have tested positive, said Undersheriff Pat Ivey with the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office. The Duval County jail said it will now test every new person coming into the detention facility for the virus. RELATED: 20 inmates at Duval County jail test positive for COVID-19This marks the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that any positive cases have been reported at the Duval County jail. The JSO said by Sunday, 18 more inmates tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Board votes to explore removing Confederate names from Duval schools
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Amid renewed calls for the renaming of schools dedicated to Confederate civil war figures, the Duval County Public School Board voted Tuesday night to explore changing the names of six schools. The unanimous vote came after a letter from School Board Chairman Warren Jones recommending the board approve the renaming of J.E.B. Stuart Middle School, Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, Joseph Finegan Elementary School, Jefferson Davis Middle School, Edmund Kirby Smith Middle School and Robert E. Lee High School. In 2013, the Duval County school board voted unanimously to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, later renaming it Westside High School. Demonstrators stood outside the Duval County School Board building before the meeting, holding signs, urging the district to take action.
Local activist calls for names of confederate generals to be removed from Duval County schools
A local activist is demanding that the Duval County Public Schools remove the names of confederate generals from all public schools in the district. Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition said the names of prominent confederates should be removed and new names should be established based on feedback from the public. Northside Coalition requests for name changes are being made in conjunction with established Duval County school board policy," Frazier said in a statement. "That policy clearly states that A request to change a schools name can come from students, parents, alumni, or the community serving that school.Frazier said that one of the major goals of the confederacy was to keep and perpetuate slavery, and listed Robert E. Lee High School, J.E.B Middle School, Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, Joseph Finegan Elementary School and Jefferson Davis Middle School as schools that should remove names. The Duval County Public Schools board states that the superintendent or any school board member can submit a written request to the school board to change a name and that community input is desired and highly valued, but the board has final authority over the name of any school.
Protesting, race relations in Jacksonville; Where JEA probe stands; Possible hurdles for prosecutors in George Floyds death
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. On this edition of This Week in Jacksonville, Ben Frazier, of the Northside Coalition, talks about dealing with race-related issues. Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond explains where the JEA investigation stands. And former prosecutor and Jacksonville Universitys Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney breaks down the case against the former officers charged in the death of George Floyd.
Councilman: Gas tax could help tackle racial disparities in predominantly black Jacksonville communities
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Decades after Jacksonvilles consolidation, City Council members say they want to address the racial disparities is predominantly black neighborhoods. Bowman is proposing the creation of a Urban Core Development Authority and said the gas tax will be discussed at the City Councils next Finance Committee meeting. Bowman said the size of the increase is undetermined, but he said a $0.01 gas tax increase would generate $5 million annually for the city. Jacksonvilles current gas tax is 6% and by law can be raised to no more than 12%. The even distribution of taxpayer dollars to communities is one of the demands peaceful protesters have called for in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville activists call for the release of body camera footage for all police-involved shootings
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The recent protests in Jacksonville have sparked new discussions about Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office bodycam footage. Activists want footage from all Jacksonville police-involved shootings released immediately calling it an agreement that has been broken. Dennis plans to write a bill that could make it law to release JSO body camera footage if he doesn’t run into any legal roadblocks. If it does, it would be the first body camera in a police shooting that could be cleared for release. News4Jax asked Sheriff Mike Williams earlier this year about body camera footage, and Williams said the video is treated as evidence, and will eventually be released.
Businesses left to pick up the pieces after night of violent protests in downtown Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. It was a quiet Sunday morning in downtown Jacksonville as crews began cleaning up the mess left behind from a protest that erupted Saturday night. Multiple buildings in the downtown area were left vandalized with graffiti and smashed windows. The Jacksonville Sheriffs Office arrived to back up cleaning crews who worked to remove shattered glass where protesters smashed in a window at the Jessie Ball Dupont Center on East Adams and Ocean Streets. It was just some graffiti and the Downtown Ambassadors are being really phenomenal and trying to help out painting over any profanity.Hoang said his business has been in downtown Jacksonville for 26 years and he has never experienced anything like this. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a curfew Saturday night that will be in place daily from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Peaceful protest marred by riots in downtown Jacksonville
Demonstration happening in front of the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office. The group told News4Jax it began leaving the protest around 4 p.m.[UNCUT: Organizer of peaceful protest weighs in on violence that followed]Other groups, however, continued protesting. News4Jax crews spotted a Jacksonville Sheriffs Office cruiser with its front windshield smashed in and witnessed protesters throw water bottles at officers. News4Jax crews spot a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office cruiser with its front windshield smashed in during a Jacksonville demonstration in the national 'I Can't Breathe' Protests. (WJXT 2020)As the protests continued, the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office sprayed a crowd deterrent multiple times at protesters in the street.
People in Jacksonville expected to join national I Cant Breathe protests
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. People in Jacksonville are expected to join many other people across the nation Saturday, protesting recent violent events involving police officers -- primarily the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Theyre called the I Cant Breathe protests, referring to some of the last words Floyd spoke while an officer had his knee on Floyds neck. On Friday, Minnesota authorities said the police officer who was seen on video kneeling on Floyds neck was arrested and charged with murder. Saturdays protest in Jacksonville is planned to be held in the vacant lot across from the Police Memorial Building on Bay Street. While things have occurred in different cities far away from Jacksonville Florida, we think that Jacksonville has the very same issues, Frazier said.
Mother of 2 struck, killed was celebrating her 40th birthday
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A mother of two was out, celebrating her 40th birthday, over the weekend when she was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Northwest Jacksonville, according to family members. “I can’t believe my daughter is gone a couple days after her birthday and it’s not right for my granddaughter to have to graduate without her mother," said Ruby Chavis, Shekeida Sherman’s mother. I miss my daughter.”Alexandria Sherman, Shekeida Sherman’s daughter who will graduate from high school this year, said she is heartbroken over the loss of her best friend. “It’s super sad and heartbreaking,” said Candice Kassab, the owner of the LaVilla Sportsman Club. The LaVilla Sportsman Club is a popular weekend spot that gets busy, and people often have to park across the street and dodge traffic to get there.