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Jacksonville, FL: Walkout at city council meeting to protest budget, JSO funding

By staff |
September 1, 2018
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Walk out at Jacksonville city council meeting.
Walk out at Jacksonville city council meeting. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Jacksonville, FL – It was a very violent weekend in Jacksonville. There was a shooting at the Raines High School versus Lee High School football game on Friday, August 24, and the following day, August 25, there was a shooting at the Jacksonville Landing during a video game tournament, leaving families and friends all over the city mourning. The Jacksonville city council typically meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, and although rescheduled due to voting in the statewide primaries, the city council meeting on Wednesday, August 29 was attended by many angry community members and activists that wanted answers.

People from all over Jacksonville attended the meeting to demand accountability from the police. There were over 50 uniformed Jacksonville Sheriff Office (JSO) officers at the Raines v. Lee football game and they did not stop the triple shooting that left one person dead. JSO also failed to protect people at the Landing, where three people were killed, including the gunman, who fatally shot himself after injuring a dozen others - proving more cops isn't the answer. This directly contradicts what Sheriff Williams and Mayor Curry keep telling people will stop violence in the community.

Government officials are already opportunistically using the events of this past weekend to try to push a budget that many residents oppose, allocating yet another $30 million to JSO’s already outrageously overfunded budget. JSO’s budget, encompassing almost a third of the entire city budget, has not put a dent in the over 70% unsolved crime rate here in Jacksonville. Instead, we see JSO and the state protecting the white vigilante murderers of people like Keegan Roberts, whose family has still yet to receive justice. JSO has also failed to make an arrest in the murder of a local musician, Maurice Hobbs, and has not investigated the murder properly.

City Council President Aaron Bowman sought to silence public discussion about these issues by suggesting that any council member who would like to respond to a resident should go into a private room, keeping the information discussed away from the public. Councilman Garrett Dennis proposed an appeal of this decision, that these discussions should be allowed to happen in a public setting. Out of 19 council members, only four voted in favor of the appeal.

Upon seeing the vote results broadcast on the screens around the council chamber, the community decided it had finally seen enough. Leader of the Northside Coalition, Ben Frazier, asked the council “What about the voice of the people?” and as the City Council President Bowman directed JSO officers to harass the audience, many people began to walk out, chanting in unison “No justice! No peace!”, as well as “No new JSO!”

“What a slap in the face to Black and other marginalized communities who see poor roads, zero to little programming for our youth and no public infrastructure,” said Michael Sampson, a lead organizer with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, adding, “yet we can give another $30 million to JSO? That is wrong and the city council needs to stand against it. That money should go towards creating good jobs, housing, education and programs designed to improve people’s lives and neighborhoods – things that families really need.”

Protesters vowed to continue fighting against over policing and underdevelopment in African American neighborhoods in Jacksonville, as well as the 2018-2019 city budget, which allocates $30 million to the JSO, and which already takes a third of the city’s total operational budget. The activists all agreed that residents want better access to health services, better infrastructure, better jobs and better education - not more police or racist incarceration.

The Jacksonville Community Action Committee is calling on all those who oppose an increased police state in Jacksonville to rally with them outside Jacksonville City Hall this Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 6 p.m. on the National Day of Action Against Police Crimes.