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500 march against racist police crimes in Jacksonville, defy police orders

By staff

Protesters denounce police killings, mount statue of Andrew Jackson.

Jacksonville, FL – Over 500 people marched through downtown Jacksonville on July 10 demanding an end to racist police crimes. Local organizers affiliated with the #BlackLivesMatter movement called the protest in response to the recent murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

The march drew a diverse crowd from across the city, including high school students, residents from Cleveland Arms and Eureka Gardens housing projects, families of victims killed by police, and union workers. Community organizers from the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC), the Kemetic Empire and Black Educators for Justice also attended with bullhorns and signs.

At about 1 p.m., people assembled on the steps the Duval County Courthouse. Speakers denounced the murder of African Americans by racist police in Jacksonville and across the country. Demonstrators chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and carried signs demanding “Community control of the police” as they prepared to march.

As the rally swelled in size, the crowd set out marching through downtown Jacksonville. Defying police orders, protesters spilled into the streets and shut down traffic. Passing cars honked in support and onlookers in Hemming Park joined the march. The crowd chanted “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell!” as they passed the federal courthouse and City Hall.

When they returned to the Duval County Courthouse an hour later, the people made it clear they weren’t finished marching. The crowd embarked on a second march along Bay Street to shut down major roads and bridges around downtown.

Panicked police from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) attempted to blockade the highway with patrol cars and officers. However, the protesters linked arms and overran the police lines, pressing on towards Riverside – a major neighborhood in the city’s urban core and a major site of gentrification in Jacksonville.

Back in downtown, the protest paused at a statue of the city’s namesake: Andrew Jackson, the slave-owning seventh president of the U.S. and mass murderer of American Indians. Several protesters climbed onto the statue, waving the pan-African flag and the socialist red flag from it.

Connell Crooms, organizer with the JPC, spoke about the legacy of white supremacy in Jacksonville and Duval County. “Andrew Jackson was a slave owner! Duval [the namesake of Duval County] was a slave owner. This city was so racist even Martin Luther King couldn’t march here in the 1960s, but today we did. Today we took over this city!”

The march continued on towards the Main Street bridge. Police from the JSO were forced to shut down the bridge in both directions for over an hour as demonstrators walked towards San Marco, the neighborhood across the Saint Johns River.

JSO officers arrested three demonstrators who crossed onto the other side of the bridge. The protesters were arrested for obstructing traffic despite the fact the police were the ones who shut down traffic. Protesters followed the police back to the Pre-Trial Detention Facility and demanded the release of the three people in custody.

Chanting “Black lives matter” and “Fists up, fight back,” the protest drew knocks of support and cheers from inmates inside the facility. Shortly thereafter, JSO placed the jailhouse on lockdown and denied entry to anyone, including family members of inmates and bail bondsmen. Protesters angrily denounced this move and chanted “Open up the jail.”

Another protest is planned for July 15, at 6 p.m. at Hemming Park in downtown.

#JacksonvilleFL #PoliceBrutality #PeoplesStruggles #Antiracism #PhilandoCastile #AltonSterling