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Charges dropped for Jacksonville activist handcuffed at Gov. DeSantis press conference, says lawyer

Earlier this month, police placed Ben Frazier in handcuffs and put him in the back of a JSO patrol car when he refused to leave a news conference for Gov. DeSantis.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The charges against a Jacksonville community activist who was handcuffed and escorted out of a news conference for Gov. Ron DeSantis have been dropped, according to his attorney.

Earlier this month, Northside Coalition Founder Ben Frazier showed up to an event where DeSantis was expected to speak in Jacksonville.

He told DeSantis' staff members, who were reportedly trying to remove anyone who was not a member of the media, that he and other community members were present to hold the governor accountable.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Officers on site placed Frazier in handcuffs and put him in the back of a JSO patrol car.

"We are pleased to announce that trespass charges against respected civil rights activist Ben Frazier were dropped on Friday, January 21," said John M. Phillips, attorney for Frazier, in a statement. "...There is no need for a hearing; and there was, in fact, no need for an arrest. They knew it. Now we begin the process of legal action pertaining to Mr Frazier's illegal and inappropriate arrest and restriction of speech..."

Frazier and his legal team have made several requests for a meeting with DeSantis. They say the Governor’s Office has confirmed that they’d be willing to facilitate a meeting, but haven't set anything in stone.

RELATED: Citing conflict, Gov. DeSantis refuses to pick a new State Attorney to prosecute activist Ben Frazier

“Freedom of speech is as important today as it was when the Bill of Rights was first written...," said Frazier in a statement after the charges were dropped. "We invite him to live up to his office’s promise of a meeting for the purpose of discussing the cares and concerns of poor and Black Floridians."

After the incident, the Governor's Office argued that the purpose of an official press conference is for credentialed media to cover information from the governor’s office that is essential for the public to hear and not a place to protest.

In an interview Tuesday, Frazier told First Coast News, "It was our intent when we went to that news conference to have honest dialogue with a public official at a public building on public property about public issues."

"Every citizen has the right to protest in public places – but not to trespass in a secured facility in order to disrupt a press briefing and prevent information from being conveyed to the public," said The Governor's Office following the incident.

"The White House is also a government building, so it is public property. If Mr. Frazier had attempted to enter a White House press briefing to “protest peaceably” in front of President Biden, Mr. Frazier would likewise have been removed and detained. The only difference would be the liberal media’s reaction, or lack thereof."

When asked about the charges being dropped, his office sent First Coast News this statement:

“Governor DeSantis does not have a comment on this because he wasn’t involved. In fact, he did not even know about the incident until after his press conference that day, when a reporter asked him about it."

RELATED: 'It's absolutely appalling:' Jacksonville activist speaks out after being handcuffed ahead of Gov. DeSantis news conference

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