Jacksonville activists take to steps of City Hall to demand end to gun violence

Community rallies against violence

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — No more violence and no more tears.

That's the message local activists and organizations sent on Monday evening as they held a press conference on the steps of City Hall in Downtown Jacksonville.

Families, friends and survivors of gun violence say they're fed up with all of the bloodshed happening in the River City.

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Community leaders told Action News Jax Courtney Cole they want city leaders to take crime more seriously by: closing the gun show loophole in Duval County, requiring a waiting period and background check for firearms being sold and by establishing a Community Advocacy Commission to work more closely in high-crime areas.

"We demand that our leaders take this seriously and create the change that we need to make Florida a safer place,” said Bonnie Hendrix, Co-Captain of Women’s March Florida Jacksonville.

Mario Peterson says that demand becomes greater each-and-every-day that goes by…as the person or person(s) who killed his granddaughter and great granddaughter--remain free.

“The violence hasn’t really stopped and that’s why we’re out here -- to show our support for the community leaders,” Peterson told Action News Jax.

In December 2017, Ariyan Johnson and her child's father were shot and killed. Their Christmas tree inside their Woodland Acres home was also set on fire.  The smoke killed his 11-month-old granddaughter Arielle.

“When I was growing up we had problems in the city of Jacksonville. But it wasn’t like this extensive way it is right now,” Peterson said.

Peterson said news of the deadly shooting at Raines High School and at the Jacksonville Landing —was devastating.

“They think it’s easier just to pull the trigger and kill someone, but no one ever thinks of the consequences of the lives you affect and the family members your affect after these lives are gone,” said Peterson.

He went on to tell Action News Jax  he think the solution to gun violence doesn’t necessarily stand and end with increasing police presence—but instead, turning the focus to improving the affected communities from within.

“Have after school programs, get these kids involved where they don’t have to be out here in the streets wanting to pull the trigger. Help educate their minds!”

AJ Jordan of MAD DADS Jacksonville told Action News Jax gun owners also play a big part in cutting down on the crime as well. The activist organization is calling on gun owners to be more responsible and follow the #9PMRoutine advocated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s very heavy for MAD DADS because MAD DADS been out here fighting this battle for 15 years."

Jordan says they created a memorial board to show just how many lives have been affected by crime in Jacksonville, adding the names of Eli Clayton and Taylor Robertson, on Monday.

“We created this board so that families will know their loved ones are not forgotten. That MAD DADS are out here fighting every day for them,” Jordan told Action News Jax.

But it doesn't end here, Jordan says the community must continue to come together until the violence stops.

Local organizations in attendance at Monday’s press conference plan to continue to conversation for change with city leaders during the next City Council meeting on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.

A vigil for the victims of the Jacksonville Landing mass shooting will follow at 8:00 p.m.