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Jacksonville protest confronts financial backers of State Attorney Angela Corey

By staff

Jacksonville, FL – More than 30 protesters marched on W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors, Inc., Feb. 28, for its financial support of State Attorney Angela Corey. The mid-morning protest drew supporters from across Jacksonville and around the state who oppose Corey and her racist attacks on African-Americans.

Organizers from the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC) called the event as part of its ongoing Angela Corey Out Now campaign. Several community groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) came out to the protest. Student activists from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapters in Tampa and Tallahassee also attended in support.

Corey leads the state in direct commitments (plea deals) of juvenile offenders, most of whom are African American. From 2009 to 2013, Corey's 4th Judicial Circuit incarcerated 1475 juveniles, compared to just 32 in Miami. While the criminal injustice system in the U.S. disproportionately incarcerates Blacks and Latinos, the situation in Jacksonville under Corey is even more disastrous. From 2006 to 2011, Black males comprised 70% of all juvenile offenders tried as adults by Corey, versus 52% statewide.

Corey's botched prosecution of Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, and her vicious persecution of African American mother Marissa Alexander for firing a defensive warning shot sparked the campaign in 2014. Recently, the JPC has targeted many of Corey's corporate and financial backers, including W.W. Gay, Firehouse Subs, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and BBVA/Compass bank. Corey is up for re-election this year.

The event kicked off to high enthusiasm in Riverside, a historic neighborhood in Jacksonville. Loud chants of “One, two, three, four – Angela Corey out the door,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the New Jim Crow has got to go,” caught the attention of passing drivers, many of whom honked or shouted in support. Protesters carried signs reading, “No justice, no peace!” and “Stop supporting Angela Corey” and passed out leaflets about Corey to people out walking.

Later the crowd took over a lane of traffic on Stockton Street and marched to the front gates of W.W. Gay. Chants of “Kids deserve an education, not mass incarceration,” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” grew louder as the protesters marched under Interstate 10.

After arriving at W.W. Gay, Wells Todd from the JPC spoke before the crowd on Corey's attacks on Jacksonville's Black community. He blasted W.W. Gay and the Corey's other financial backers for directly supporting mass incarceration. Todd ended his speech by encouraging the crowd to keep marching and continue building a mass movement against racism.

W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor Inc. is a Jacksonville-based plumbing and industrial contractor giant that spans across Florida and the U.S. South. Along with its associated companies, W.W. Gay has invested thousands of dollars into Corey as state attorney since her first election in 2008. More than a year before the 2016 election, they had already given Corey $2000.

These companies directly benefit from the expansion of the criminal injustice system in Jacksonville, which Corey helps facilitate. In 2009, the city council awarded the $25 million Duval County Courthouse construction contract to W.W. Gay. More recently W.W. Gay and its associated companies landed major roles in the construction of the new state attorney's office building – a renovation project valued at almost $26 million.

The JPC will continue organizing to remove Corey from office and build a mass movement against racism in Jacksonville.

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