JSO reviewing protest policy in Jacksonville after Friday night protest, arrests

Clark Fouraker is on your side. 4/10/2017

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams released a statement Monday after Friday's Syria protest and arrests at Hemming Park: the law enforcement agency is reviewing possible changes to how they manage protests.

"We take reasonable precautions to protect those attempting to engage in peaceful demonstrations," reads part of Williams' statement. "But, as a result of Friday night's criminal activity, there is a new dynamic involved in Jacksonville that has prompted me to look at how we manage protests."

A police spokesperson could not clarify this statement to First Coast News.

At a small protest at Hemming Park Friday evening over the Syrian air strike, a counter-protester and the protesters got into a brawl and police became involved. Five protesters were arrested. 

FIRST REPORTED | Chaos breaks out in Hemming Park during Syria airstrike protest

Police gave a lengthy explanation on Facebook Friday - which you can read here - but that tale of events was decried by protesters and many on social media who'd watched videos of the brawl posted. An officer can be seen punching a man in the face several times and two people are violently thrown to the ground.

In their explanation, JSO says those tactics were necessary to ensure the safety of non-protesters and the officers in the area.

Spokespersons for the sheriff's office say protesters were violent toward people and officers, and claim the leaders of the demonstration were trying to start a riot in downtown Jacksonville. 

RELATED | Protesters rally after six arrested in Hemming Park during Syria airstrike protest

A chief deviation in narratives between the protesters and police were the number of people assembled downtown - protesters put the numbers as a high as 30, but police say hundreds. Videos of the protests appear to show only a small number of people, but it remains unclear if police have more information.

"I am working with my leadership team to determine what new protocols may be put into place to successfully manage these events moving forward," Williams continued in his statement.

It is not clear at this time if those new protocols will involve what the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition has been asking the sheriff's office for: separation of protesters and counter-protesters by police. 

We will update this story as more information becomes available. Read the full statement by Williams below:

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Statement Regarding Hemming Park Protests - Friday April 7 2017 by Jacob Rodriguez on Scribd

 

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