Chaos breaks out in Hemming Park during Syria airstrike protest

Steven Dial reports 4/7/17

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A peaceful protest turned violent Friday night resulting in officers punching protestors and six people being arrested.

"Why did yall jump on an innocent man for nothing,” said Christina Denny.

JSO says there were two groups of protestors.

One group in opposition of the recent air strike in Syria and a Pro Trump group.

"I saw the protest and decided to do a Facebook live and see what was going on,” said Tavaris Beaver. "I thought they handled it very wrong."

Others in the crowd say JSO went too far.

"They could have done better, JSO beat this man for nothing,” said Denny.

"They were beating him very bad and then when they were done they dragged him to the car so you know he was beat bad,” said Asia Campbell.

JSO says they worked with both groups before the protest.

16 officers were there during the protest and nearly 10 other officers responded during the fight.

"I don't know if we blame the leaders, I think there is always someone in the group that is going to be insightful."

Lt. Jimmy Judge says six people were arrested.

Three for assault an officer and the other three for inciting a riot.

He believes police use the appropriate use of force.

"It is hard when you are dealing with this many people and you have officers being jumped on and officers being deprived of their radio, their radio was thrown."

According to a release from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, police were working security for a protest "about Syria" in Hemming Plaza. Police say that there were 100-200 people at the protest and they became "riotous" and were fighting and attacking each other and police.

Police have released six arrest reports for Christina Kittle, 27, charged with inciting or encouraging a riot, Thomas Wilder, 74, charged with possession of not more than 20 grams of marijuana, use or possession with intent to use, drug paraphernalia, and inciting a riot.

They also arrested Thomas Beckham, 26, and he was charged with resisting an officer with violence and affray, Robert Sheffield, 67, charged with affray or causing problems.

The final two arrestees are David Schneider, 27, charged with trying to incite a riot, and Connell Crooms, 26, resisting an officer with violence and trying to incite a riot.

JSO stated in another release:

* It is incumbent upon JSO officers to take the appropriate enforcement action on  violations of law. To fail to address criminal activity would certainly serve as negative reinforcement to all involved parties.
* It is legal for protestors to voice their opinions, no matter how offensive they may be to some, and hold these protests in public forums.
* It is illegal for protestors to block roadways, ingress and egress to buildings and parks, or to encourage others to commit criminal acts or advocate imminent violence. It is also unlawful to specifically provoke people to commit any unlawful actions. 
* When asked about body cameras I stated that we are looking forward to having yet another tool for our everyday jobs, and that most officers welcomed these cameras.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
More Stories