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Jacksonville marches for Michael Brown

By Fern

Protesters gather for a group photo while chanting "Hands up! Don't Shoot!"

Jacksonville, FL – The entire country is carefully watching what is going on right now in Ferguson, Missouri after the police murdered 18-year-old African American Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Black people around the country are the most interested, and in the South, where Black people often constitute a majority or large plurality in some areas, people want real change. Community members in Jacksonville came together and held a rally and march downtown here, Aug. 16, for Michael Brown and his family.

The main demands of the action were to jail the killer cop, end police brutality and terror, and to get justice for Michael Brown. Organizers in the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC) also made it a point to link their struggle against State Attorney Angela Corey, the attorney in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis murder cases who failed to get justice for these young Black men. It's the same system protecting killer cops and murderous vigilantes, and Angela Corey is a symbol for that corrupt system here in Jacksonville.

About 100 people gathered at Hemming Plaza Saturday evening and began chanting as news vehicles drove up. Several interviews were conducted by the local media of protest organizers. Connell Bam Crooms, a Black warehouse worker at UPS and a member of Teamsters Local 512 in Jacksonville, was the first speaker to address the crowd. “Its been 50 years since the Civil Rights Act and here we are still having a conversation about race. Black men in America are viewed as disposable, as evident by the ridiculous rates blacks are imprisoned or murdered by the police compared to whites. Our leaders and their corporations view us as good for nothing but sports and manual labor. You'd be hard pressed to find a Black man in an administrative capacity with a degree and the expertise to make important decisions. If we aren't doing labor for big capital, we are either dead or causing trouble – or so our leaders would have us believe.”

After a round of speakers, the crowd began marching downtown to the Police Memorial Building to confront the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) and slam them for police brutality in the community.

This comes hot on the heels of Operation Ceasefire, a racist campaign by JSO where police officers attempted to enter over 18,000 homes in the majority-Black Northside of Jacksonville. The JSO officers used this campaign to invade people's right to privacy and terrorize the Black community on a large scale under the pretext of “making people safer” by searching for contraband. JSO also installed surveillance cameras all over the Black community.

Along the way, the crowd chanted, “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation is a crime,” and “Justice for Michael Brown.” Other chants included “Same thing every time, being black is not a crime,” and “Ferguson, JSO, killer cops have got to go!”

After the march had taken the street and blocked off a lane of traffic on their mile-long march, they got to the Police Memorial Building and assembled on the steps. Several speakers gave fiery speeches to the crowd, including Opio Lumumba Sokoni, president of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

At the end of the speeches, the crowd continued to chant, “Hands up, don't shoot!” and took a group photo with their hands held up in a sign of defiance. The people then got into a single file line and led a procession up to the door of the Police Memorial Building where they laid down their signs for all those who had suffered from police brutality, like Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Michael Brown.

People vowed to continue the fight for all victims of police brutality. Many plan to attend the next meeting of the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition on Aug.17 at 5:00 p.m. at 966 N Liberty Street. The JPC meets every third Sunday of the month at the same place and time.

Opio Lumumba Sokoni, president of the local Southern Christian Leadership Confer

Biko Misabiko and Maria Belen Sisa hold a banner at the rally.

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