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Police Shootings Serve As Catalyst For Jacksonville Protests

Protests approaching the Main Street Bridge in downtown Jacksonville Sunday.

Hundreds of people took to Jacksonville’s streets Sunday to protest the police shooting of an unarmed black man in Springfield.

Tensions are running high after three other high-profile police-involved shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, and the killing of five police officers in Texas.

Demonstrators began the protest outside the Duval County Courthouse to draw attention to the shooting of Vernell Bing Jr., two months ago. The shooting remains under FBI review.

More than 300 peaceful protesters showed up and eventually moved to the Main Street Bridge, where three were arrested after refusing police orders to stay off the roadway.

University of North Florida Sociology Professor JeffriAnne Wilder, who founded its Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations, said that tactic follows a long tradition of peaceful resistance.

“It harkens us back to successful strategies that took place during the Civil Rights Movement,” she said.

A recent Washington Postinvestigation found black people are more than twice as likely to be killed by police, when adjusted for population. Wilder said she doesn’t think that’s a new phenomenon.

“Is it that more people are dying at the hands of police? Probably not. What’s happening is that we’re able to see it more because of smartphones, and videos and social media platforms,” she said.

Jacksonville’s Black Lives Matter protesters and Pastor R.L. Gundy plan to take to the streets this Friday for a demonstration they say will be larger than last weekend’s. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.