‘I’m offended:’ Black Republican councilman announces opposition to Jacksonville hate crime bill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A local effort meant to combat hate in Jacksonville suffered a setback Monday, with a powerful councilman coming out in opposition.

Rules Chair Terrance Freeman (R-Group 1 At-Large) called the bill “offensive.”


The bill will have to pass through the Rules Committee as it moves through the legislative process.

Initially slated to come up for a vote in Rules Monday, the bill was deferred back to the planning commission for further review instead.

The developments suggest the bill, which would increase fines and jail time for certain hate crimes, may be on shaky ground.

“I’m a Black man that has been raised fifth generation here in the state of Florida, been in Jacksonville for 20-plus years. I’m offended how this was presented,” Freeman said.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

Freeman argued the crimes are already covered under state law. He also noted council already passed legislation addressing hateful projections just last year.

“This doesn’t do anything to move our city forward. What it does is it continues to divide us,” Freeman said.

But bill sponsor Jimmy Peluso (D-District 7) argued his bill is a direct response to concerns raised by his constituents after the racist Dollar General mass shooting.

Read: 4 dead, including shooter in racially motivated mass shooting at Kings Rd. Dollar General

“I’m here to make sure that our community, as they’ve said to us for months now, that we’re responding to their needs when they say we feel unsafe and we feel like nobody cares about the fact three people were killed here,” Peluso said.

Peluso said he’s optimistic there is still a path forward for his bill and is open to suggestions and amendments.

“I welcome criticism. I welcome edits. I welcome people that say, ‘Let’s take a breather and look at this.’ I welcome that. What I don’t welcome is people saying this is being done to pander,” Peluso said.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Freeman said he’d rather see the legislation come in the form of a resolution.

“If that is something that is pressing on that council member’s heart and their mind that they want to address an issue that’s already been addressed at the state level, been covered here at the local level, I do believe that a resolution is the most appropriate way of doing it,” Freeman said.

Because the bill was deferred to the Planning Commission, it will have to make it through that body before it’s able to come back to council for any votes.

The commission is slated to meet Thursday, but the bill is currently not on the agenda.

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.

Comments on this article