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Jacksonville Black Lives Matter demonstrations slam police crimes, mass incarceration

By staff |
August 14, 2015
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Protest against Angela Corey outside Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center
Protest against Angela Corey outside Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center (Photo by Camila Buitrago)

Jacksonville, FL - On August 8, activists in Jacksonville staged two demonstrations tied to the Black Lives Matter movement. In the morning, community organizers rallied for a press conference outside of the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center against the mass incarceration of Black youth. Later that day, young activists led a Black Lives Matter march through downtown Jacksonville against racist police crimes.

Demonstration against mass incarceration and State Attorney Angela Corey at the Juvenile Detention Center

Around 11:00 a.m., the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC) gathered outside of Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center to speak out against State Attorney Angela Corey and racist prosecution practices that target Black youth. Corey's 4th Judicial Circuit leads the state of Florida in the charging of Black male juveniles as adults. However, Corey has never charged a police officer in her circuit with unlawful use of force, despite dozens of police killings in her nearly seven years in office.

Activists gathered around a banner with the slogan, “Black Lives Matter,” while handing out literature about mass incarceration to participants, spectators and media. Several members of the JPC and the community spoke about Corey and her role in the mass incarceration of Black people, particularly juveniles, in Duval County.

“We are here today at this Juvenile Detention Center to break the silence in Jacksonville concerning Angela Corey's mass incarceration regime,” said Wells Todd, a lead organizer with the JPC, during a speech at the event. “We are here today to speak out against our children being tried as adults. We are here to speak out against the intimidation tactics used by Angela Corey's office, intimidating children and their families into taking plea deals when there is not enough evidence to take the case to trial.”

Todd continued, “We are here because Angela Corey is building her career on the backs of our children, and we are saying we mean to stop her.”

After Todd's speech, the nearly 20-person crowd chanted “1, 2, 3, 4, Angela Corey out the door. 5, 6, 7, 8, we want justice, we can't wait.” Undeterred by the blistering Florida heat and the half dozen police cars that encircled the facility, they continued chanting for over an hour. Cars and cyclists that rode by honked and waved in support.

Other speakers at the demonstration tied the struggle against Corey with the Black Lives Matter movement around the country.

“We say 'Black Lives Matter' because Black lives have never mattered under this system,” said Connell Crooms, a member of the JPC and a deaf community organizer in Jacksonville. “This is an opportune time to force the issue. We can no longer be ignored. We will no longer be ignored.”

Youth-led Black Lives Matter courthouse rally marches through downtown

Later in the afternoon, more than 50 people from the Jacksonville community gathered outside the Duval County Courthouse. The event, organized by the newly formed Black Lives Matter Jax (BLMJAX), drew an energetic crowd of mostly young African-Americans.

“I think it is important to march for Black Lives Matter because it’s our job as millennials to take on this responsibility of fighting this new breed of racism, which is institutional,” said Joshua Parks, one of the main organizers of the event and a student at Howard University. “This form of racism is rather oblique. So it is our responsibility not only to bring attention and awareness to this issue through protest, civil disobedience and demonstration, but to also take action in attacking this covert system and all of the structures that uphold it.”

The crowd marched through downtown Jacksonville and chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, the New Jim Crow has got to go,” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police.” Some carried signs that read “Jail killer cops, not Black youth,” “Angela Corey out now,” and “Straight outta patience,” the latter inspired by the album Straight Outta Compton by the hip-hop group N.W.A.

At the Landing, a popular tourist spot on the Saint Johns River in downtown, the crowd regrouped for a brief community discussion on racism and police crimes nationally. Speakers talked about the need to build a movement against white supremacy and discussed strategies to empower one another locally.

Members of BLMJAX spoke about many of the police crimes committed across the country, such as the suspicious circumstances of Sandra Bland's death in Texas. Bland was found dead in jail after a routine traffic stop.

D'Angelo Stallworth and police crimes in Jacksonville

A couple speakers at both events talked about the murder of 28-year-old African American D'Angelo Stallworth in Jacksonville on May 12. Stallworth, father of three, was shot six times by two white police officers, who claimed that they thought D'Angelo looked suspicious. He was unarmed at the time of the shooting, and an independent autopsy ordered by the family indicates that police shot him in the back as he ran away – in other words, executing him.

To date, State Attorney Angela Corey has not indicted either officer. JSO has refused to release the names of the two officers to the public.

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