On April 7, 2017 five anti-war activists were brutalized and unjustly arrested in a violent attack by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) during a peaceful demonstration against the war in Syria. POWIR stands unequivocally in solidarity with the five who were targets of state repression: Dave Schneider, Connell Crooms, Willie Wilder, Kristina Kittles, and Tom Beckham.
The Jax5, as the group has come to be known, can be seen in multiple videos being attacked without provocation, first by Donald Trump supporter and known white-supremacist, Gary Snow, and then by police. The horrible incident, all caught on cellphone video, shows cops using activists as punching bags, putting them in chokeholds, and slamming them to the floor. One of the five, Connell Crooms, was first assaulted by Snow then beaten and wrestled to the ground by a group of officers who used their tasers, firing at his back while he was pinned to the ground. Crooms, whose hearing aid was knocked out of his ear when Snow attacked him, was left deaf for the rest of the incident which ended with him being dragged into a police car and then into an ambulance, beaten and unresponsive.
The treatment of Crooms and the rest of the Jax5 by the Jacksonville police is despicable. Beckham was taken down by JSO, choked, and almost passed out. Kittle was grabbed and slammed down, then hauled away, and William Wilder was choked and punched repeatedly in the face. Furthermore, the charges brought against our fellow anti-war activists should be frightening to all who organize against U.S. wars of aggression abroad. All five were charged with felonies. Schneider was charged with “inciting a riot,” simply because he was one of the organizers of this peaceful protest, turned violent only by police actions. We will not stand for these bogus charges against fellow activists in the movement.
The wars abroad always come back home. The use of military force by United States against other countries inevitably manifests within our own borders in the form of increased surveillance and repression of activists speaking out against U.S. imperialism. It is a fact that the JSO were spying on these activists for months before targeting them for arrests. This horrific display of suppression was planned and calculated and could happen to any of us in the activist community.
We believe that an attack on one activist is an attack on all. We stand with all those in the anti-war, labor, and Black Lives Matter movements in solidarity with the Jacksonville 5. We find the actions taken by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office against this group of peaceful protestors beyond deplorable and we therefore demand that:
1) All charges brought against the Jax5 be immediately dropped
2) That the JSO be prosecuted for its brutality and excessive use of force
3) A full independent investigation of the JSO is conducted regarding their misconduct, surveillance of Jacksonville community activists, and ties to white supremacists.