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Jacksonville community rally says: ‘Jail officer Cliff! Stop police crimes!’

By Fernando Figueroa |
March 31, 2015
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Organizations and community members rally for Devanta Jones
Organizations and community members rally for Devanta Jones (Photo by Fernando Figueroa)
Rakeeme Joyner, brother-in-law to Jones, marches in the streets with everyone JPC organizer Jose Alonso leads the crowd with chants Angela McGill (left) and Synobia Williams (right) carry banner made by JPC
Angela McGill (left) and Synobia Williams (right) carry a banner made by members of the JPC (Photo by Fernando Figueroa)
JPC organizer Jose Alonso leads the crowd with chants (Photo by Fernando Figueroa)
Rakeeme Joyner, brother-in-law to Jones, marches in the streets with everyone (Photo by Fernando Figueroa)

Jacksonville, FL - On March 30, about 150 people gathered throughout the afternoon to demand justice for Devanta Jones. Jacksonville Sheriff's officer Cliff Sames shot Jones, an unarmed African American, just the day before, after responding to Jones' phone call for help. After shooting Jones, the police told the media that Jones had been strangling his girlfriend, but his girlfriend immediately told reporters that was false. The shooting and subsequent rally took place at the Cleveland Arms Apartments complex in Jacksonville. This was not the first time that officer Sames shot someone.

The day before, organizers and community members agreed to converge outside a nearby corner store and rally to show support for Devanta Jones and his family. For several hours, protesters held signs and chanted, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” along with “Black lives matter!” and “Fired up! Fight back, fight back!” Participating groups, including Hurting Families with Children in Crime, the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC), Kemetic Empire and iCare, were all present with banners and sign-up sheets.

Wells Todd from the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition opened up a rally by setting the tone for the evening: “We're here to have a militant rally, and make sure we don't fill Jacksonville's jail cells tonight by being smart,” he told the crowd.

Several local news stations were on the scene reporting on the events. After some more chanting and a few speeches, the crowd began preparing for a spirited march around the neighborhood.

Rakeeme Joyner, brother-in-law to Devanta Jones, addressed the crowd from a bullhorn, “We're here to show that Black lives really matter, and ask that you please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers.” Afterwards, the crowd assembled behind a banner reading “Black lives matter – stop police crimes,” and began marching in the streets after involving most of the community members who had been participating in the day-long show of support.

The police reacted immediately as the march began, blocking off lanes of traffic both up and down the street. Interestingly enough, several ambulances with flashing lights, busy-looking fire trucks and even a school bus suddenly appeared on the streets where protesters were marching. Several community members remarked how odd it was that a school bus was driving children home from school at 7:00 p.m.

Many believed the police were deliberately trying to make the protesters look bad by trying to claim their interference as these service vehicles drove past. Jacksonville Progressive Coalition organizer Tefa Galvis saw through the trick and quickly organized the march to let the service vehicles past each time they appeared so that there was no delay to them. At the same time she told the crowd about the tactics police officers were trying to use against them. All the cops could do was stand by and look frustrated as the marchers went on chanting “Jail officer Cliff!” until the protest concluded later in the evening.

Community members and organizers vowed to keep demanding justice for the police crime of shooting Devanta Jones. They agreed to keep struggling and fighting until the family had been served justice and officer Cliff Sames was put in jail.