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Jacksonville Activists Gather To Discuss Charleston Shooting

Gregory Todaro

Jacksonville activists responded to Wednesday night’s shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church Thursday morning.

The group came together at Chamblin’s Uptown, a bookstore downtown, to plan how the local community should show its support.

The regular morning crowd mixed with those gathered to reflect on Charleston.

Middleburg resident Karen Rhodes was waiting for her grandson to finish art camp.

She says she overheard the group leader, Aleta Alston-Touré, talking to the assembled Black Lives Matter organizers.

“Well, I heard some of the things she was saying about complacency and about racism,” Rhodes said, “and I just looked at her and I said, 'You are absolutely right.'”

Alston-Touré says it's important to talk about how the shooting in Charleston relates to Jacksonville’s race and class issues.

“What’s happened in Charleston is a reflection of what could happen in Jacksonville,” Alston-Touré said. “It’s unfortunate to say.”

The bookstore’s owner Jennifer O’Donnell says she hopes dialogue like this is the first step toward preventing hate crimes from happening here.

“I’m sure the people of South Carolina didn’t see this coming either, and unfortunately because of their loss, we have to take action now to prevent it from happening here,” O’Donnell said.

The group says it plans to meet again to continue to the conversation.