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Jax Activists Rally For Community Control of Police

Wells Todd holds a microphone in front of the Duval County Courthouse.
Sydney Boles
/
WJCT News

Several dozen advocates for police reform gathered peacefully outside the Duval County Courthouse Wednesday night in response to the verdict earlier this week in the Minneapolis murder trial of Derek Chauvin, convicted of killing George Floyd. 

Activists say the guilty verdict was a relief, but it was just one step towards justice. 

Specifically, members of the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, the Northside Coalition, and the Jacksonville chapter of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida made their case for more civilian oversight of the police. 

“Community control would look like regular people, working people, the black community, having a real say-so in how they communities are policed,” said JCAC co-founder Michael Sampson. “We’re fighting for a police accountability council, that would make it so the community would have a seat at the table when it comes to how police procedures are done.” 

According to the data analysis by the group Mapping Police Violence, between January 2013 and December 2020, 47 people were killed by members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Black people were killed at twice the rate of white people. Among those killed were Kwame Jones, a 17-year-old killed during a traffic stop; 22-year-old Jamee Johnson, also killed during a traffic stop; and Reginald Boston, a 20-year-old killed during a sting operation.

Activist Wells Todd connected police brutality to a host of other issues: Confederate generals’ names on area high schools, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-riot bill and the disciplining of Robert E. Lee High School teacher Amy Donofrio for flying a Black Lives Matter flag. 

“Malcom X said, ‘That’s not a chip on my shoulder; that’s your foot on my neck,’” he said. “We saw that literally happen to Mr. George Floyd. And I say ‘mister’ because in my lifetime, Black men were never given the respect to be called ‘mister.’ We were ‘boy.’” 

The protest concluded within two hours as the activists raised their left fists and chanted in unison, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.