Jacksonville mayor, sheriff give update on weekend protests that took place in the city

Jacksonville mayor, sheriff give update on weekend protests that took place in the city

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams and Florida Highway Patrol Major Steve Harris came together Tuesday afternoon to address the protests that took place in the city on Saturday, Sunday and Monday in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sheriff Williams thanked local and regional sheriffs, Major Harris of the Florida Highway Patrol and federal partners for their assistance as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office responded to the protests throughout the weekend.

Here are key times and events during the last three days of protests, information on arrests and injuries, as provided by Sheriff Williams:

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SATURDAY, MAY 30

1:30 p.m.: Protesters began to gather outside of the Police Memorial Building on Bay Street for a preplanned, organized event. More than 3,000 people were in attendance. Within two hours, the peaceful part of the protest ended, Williams said.

3:30 p.m.: About 400 people stayed on Bay Street. Williams said barricades were picked up and thrown, streets were blocked, objects such as bricks, rocks and bottles were thrown and a police officer was attacked. Officers quickly responded and a SWAT team was deployed.

10 p.m.: Police were able to “resolve that event” for the evening, minus a few stragglers, Williams said.

Breakdown of arrests, officers injured, property damaged on Saturday:

  • Twenty-five people were arrested and 23 of those people were Duval County residents.
  • Four officers were injured -- one was cut in the neck, two were hit with bricks and and one was hit with a tree limb/debris. All of those officers have recovered or are recovering and will be fine, Williams said.
  • Six Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office vehicles were damaged, one Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department vehicle was damaged and multiple businesses were vandalized.

SUNDAY, MAY 31

10 a.m.: A scheduled protest outside of the Duval County Courthouse was set to begin. The protesters stayed at the courthouse early in the day, Williams said.

1:30 p.m.: The protesters began to march and blocked traffic over the next several hours.

Williams said JSO’s posture was not to allow incremental steps that would cause the protest to escalate. Officers decided the event was no longer a peaceful assembly and ordered the crowd to disperse.

Williams said he asked Mayor Curry to issue a curfew for Sunday night and that he applauded the mayor for listening, as a curfew was put into effect from 8 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Breakdown of arrests, officers injured on Sunday:

  • Fifty-three people were arrested and 39 of those people were Duval County residents.
  • One officer was injured; no property was damaged.
  • Weapons were recovered.

MONDAY, JUNE 1

Sheriff Williams said a small group gathered at the courthouse Monday and they were very cooperative.

One person was arrested Monday night and Williams said the group cheered police when he was arrested.

Sheriff Williams was asked if there is any evidence a single organized group was responsible for the non-peaceful parts of the protests and he said absolutely in terms of tactics.

“We clearly see organization to activity that happened this weekend,” Williams said.

He said federal partners are looking at the people that Jacksonville police arrested and that JSO will cooperate with federal agencies as they investigate.

Mayor Curry said he is grateful to the peaceful protesters and that it was a small group of “bad actors” who resorted to violence and vandalism.

Curry said that “the threat is still with us” -- at 4 a.m. Tuesday, a fire bomb was thrown at the city’s fleet management yard. There was no damage to city vehicles, minimal damage to the grounds and no one was hurt.

“This demonstrates that I and we will be prepared to again enact emergency declarations or curfews to respond to these actions if necessary. We will not stand for that kind of violence in Jacksonville, Florida, and while I am rescinding the emergency order tonight, we will use the resources we have to protect our city. The decisions that I made over the weekend and as we move forward -- and informed with intelligence and advice I received from Sheriff Mike Williams and law enforcement professionals at the local, state and federal levels -- we remain in constant communication at all levels and they continue to provide the advice, expertise and intelligence information to us as we move forward. As we move forward, I want the people of Jacksonville to know that I and we remain committed to open communication between the sheriff, public safety professionals and the people of Jacksonville to address their needs and their concerns. This continuing dialogue is crucial to building a better and safer and very fragile idea that we’ve seen on full display not only in our city but in our country, and that is ‘One City. One Jacksonville’ for all citizens.”

Sheriff Williams was asked about one of the concerns of those who were peacefully protesting: the release of body camera footage, specifically in the case of Jamee Johnson, a Florida A & M University student who was killed by a JSO officer during a traffic stop in December.

“These events this weekend is not about body camera footage. You had 70 cities around the country erupt in violence and it’s not because of Jacksonville’s body camera policy. That being said, we have have always had very active conversations about body camera policy. We release body camera footage every day. Some of the more complicated cases, the more complex cases, we have a State Attorney’s Office review ongoing, the criminal investigations on police officers that occur after an officer-involved shooting, which is mainly the focus of these conversations, that’s where the footage has not yet -- and I say yet -- been released, cause they haven’t worked their way through the process yet. Our very first officer-involved shooting captured on body-camera video was 2019. We have a -- we’ve explained the process many times -- a State Attorney’s Office review of the case to determine whether or not the officer broke the law. And then we have other restrictions on our review of the case that’s related to the internal investigation of the police officer and we’re bound by state law in how we address those investigations. When it gets to the end of that, the plan has always been to release that body camera footage. So we have our very first case, we will have our Response to Resistance board next week, and depending on the outcome of that, as long as there’s not a protracted internal investigation and we don’t anticipate that there will be, that’ll be the first body camera footage that we release cause it will be public record at that point, of an officer involved shooting in Jacksonville. The Jamee Johnson case is still under review by the State Attorney’s Office. The State Attorney and I, Ms. Nelson, have had a lot of discussion in the last couple days about when is an appropriate time to release, by law, the body camera footage, those types of things. So that’s the concern. This is a new process for the nation. So, remember, body cameras are a new thing just a couple years ago. We are one of the few agencies in the country where every officer has a body camera. It’s not a department where we’ve got 1,800 people and 300 have a body camera. Every sworn officer below the rank of lieutenant wears a body camera every time they put on their uniform on. So we’re committed to that process and we would not have committed to it if we were not going to share video. But again, there are some complexities we have to work through. You may see some changes if we can, legally. Again, we’ve had a lot of good conversation -- where a release point is in the video, where does it become public record but doesn’t impact the case negatively. And when I say that, you know, once you put a piece of evidence -- and that’s what body camera footage is, is evidence -- once you put a piece of evidence out to the community, nobody else can really come forward and speak to that evidence because we don’t know if they really are a witness or if they’ve just watched something on television. So it’s a challenge for us to be able to work through. Prior to this, ongoing conversations about it, during this obviously, we’re still having those conversations. But I do want to make the distinction this is not what this is about. It’s part of a discussion that we need to have with the community, that we’ve been having and will continue to have. But this did not lead to this weekend in Jacksonville.”

Sheriff Williams was also asked about his reaction to the video showing a Minneapolis police officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, holding his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than five minutes as Floyd pleaded for air, sparking outrage.

“It’s incredible to me to see something like that happen. It’s not a training issue, it’s not a mistake, it’s just a murder at the end of the day. And what’s more troubling to me is you have four other police officers standing around watching that happen. We’ve had multiple discussions here with leadership and line level officers and everybody says the same thing. I think you see that around the country -- you don’t have one law enforcement leader, I haven’t seen one person anywhere trying to justify, ‘oh it was an incorrect use of a tactic,’ cause it’s just not. It doesn’t make any sense. I think back as a young policeman in the ’90s, there’s no way I’d have stood there and watched that and I think everybody agrees with that. It’s beyond tragic, to be honest with you. Again, here we are, one police officer in Minnesota and here we are today. Not just in Jacksonville, but around the country. Listen, training’s important, selection’s important, discipline and maintaining discipline in a large department is important. We do a good job of that here; I’m always open and welcome to talk about that. But, not all police departments around the country are created equal and they don’t all do things the same way.”

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