JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — By appointment or invitation only, new Jacksonville City Hall signs tell the public they cannot go past the first floor, and to keep the noise level down.
After two demonstrations at city hall in the last two weeks, internal emails obtained by Action News Jax from the city reveal the new signs were put up in response to a local group protesting Confederate monuments.
“This is not just a question of black and white, it’s more precisely a question about right and wrong. This is a question about accountability and integrity,” said Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville.
Emails from the assistant general counsel mention the Northside Coalition by name and discuss safety protocols after finding out the group was coming.
One email in response to the protest warning reads: “Ok now it is an emergency. Please see me asap.”
“I wish they would move with the same kind of haste to remove the Confederate monuments. That should be an emergency,” Frazier said.
The signs say anyone who violates what is asked can be trespassed and even arrested if they refuse to leave.
Making no official comment, a city spokesperson told Action News Jax Friday that the move was not at the direction of Mayor Lenny Curry but instead was an instruction from city attorneys.
Action News Jax was told over the phone from the city spokesperson that it was a restatement of current law and clarification to determine what demonstrations were allowed in the building that could disrupt city business.
Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson, who has years of experience in the FBI and police force, said the city wants to let people know they cannot go to the upper floors because it interferes with day-to-day operations of city government.
However, no city officials have provided comment on exactly how the measures will be enforced. While you now need permission to go past the first floor, Carson said it might be a double-edged sword.
“If you know the members of the group and you’re comfortable they’re not there to be violent, I think that’s a different situation,” Carson said. “Today, the responsibility is on the government to protect employees.”
In June 2020, Mayor Lenny Curry announced all Confederate monuments across the city would be removed.
Ben Frazier said they made their voices heard peacefully on Sept. 1 and 14, and want to see the change.
“We think our request for a meeting with the mayor to sit down and discuss matters regarding racial relation in this city is a reasonable request,” he said.
When asked if he thinks he will ever get that chance, Frazier said, “Yes, and I think the monument comes down.”
It should be noted that the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville holds several protests every year and that violence has never been an issue.
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