A Protest Created By Accident Draws Hundreds To Downtown Jacksonville

Jun 3, 2020

David Sollars didn’t intend to organize a peaceful protest that stretched more than four blocks in  Downtown Jacksonville Tuesday evening. 

“Honestly, it was an accident,” said Sollars. 

Sollars said he posted on a Facebook page, asking if there were any protests going on. Soon after, he said he had around 50 people message him telling him they were following his comment in case more information came out.

“I changed it to ‘I can help you guys and I'm down to lead one,” Sollars said. “From there, one of the girls made a flyer and then we just started posting it everywhere and sending it to everyone, having people share it on their page.”

Sollars said he expected 50 to 60 people to attend the event, which started outside the Duval County Courthouse. 

Instead, organizers of the protest spoke to hundreds outside of the courthouse and marched through Downtown streets, making a quick stop at City Hall.

The protest took place after Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said there were no more protests that JSO was aware of as of Tuesday afternoon.

At 6 p.m., the crowd of a few hundred people grew as speakers started chants of “No justice, no peace,” and “Black Lives Matter.” 

Jacksonville pastors Anthony Beeks and Michael Jackson spoke to the crowd, with Jackson leading them in song. 

“They did not have a chance, to say goodbye,” the crowd sang, as Jackson called out the names of African Americans shot by police in recent years.

As the crowd grew to span several blocks, they circled Downtown, singing and chanting as some passing cars honked in support. 

After returning the courthouse, they climbed the steps, although the entrance was blocked off by orange barricades. By 8:30 p.m., most of the crowd had dispersed. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was minimal, and the protest remained peaceful through its entirety.

Sollars said he believes a strong message was made. “If you're not going to listen to us, you're going to feel us and we made them listen and feel our energy and feel our presence,” Sollars said.

And he said community protests were far from over. 

“We got a long ways to go,” Sollars said. “I know this is not gonna end. Our echo was so loud. It could only get bigger.”

A peaceful protest and walk is set for Wednesday at Southside Park in San Marco, beginning at 6:15 p.m.

On Thursday, another peaceful protest will take place at Jacksonville Beach beginning at 6 p.m., with Beaches For Change organizing it. 

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.