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Jacksonville City Council members hold solidarity march downtown

Council member Garrett Dennis organized the march Sunday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Jacksonville city leaders marched in the rain from City Hall to fire station number one downtown in what they called an elected officials solidarity walk Sunday. Those in attendance called for racial equality and changes in Jacksonville. 

"If you know anything about rain and what rain can actually do, if you plant a seed, but only if you plant a seed, can things grow from it," school board member Darryl Willie told the crowd. 

Jacksonville City Council members were joined by school board members, the mayor of Atlantic Beach, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, along with community members marched. 

"The citizens of Jacksonville deserve for the elected officials to come out," City Council member Samuel Newby said. "As you know, I had Coronavirus a couple of months ago. I am healthy, but I had to come out here to show Jacksonville we hear your concern."

Latasha Hobbs, who lost her son Maurice Hobbs to gun violence in 2017 in Jacksonville, marched with the local leaders.

"This represents change for me," she said. "I appreciate our city leaders acknowledging what's really going on here, and it's so unfortunate that it has taken the violent tragedy of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery to bring the change, but we are here now and we need to keep pressing forward."

Councilmember Garrett Dennis, who organized the march, said one way to make those changes marchers are calling for is through a bill he introduced this week. It calls for the State Attorney's Office and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to release body camera video at the earliest legal availability.

"Democrats, Republicans, white, black, we're standing in solidarity," Dennis told the crowd. 

"We want the community to know that we hear what you’re saying and we want to be a part of the change, but we can’t change until we change legislation until we have a plan in place and also we have to have dedicated funding," city council member Ju'Coby Pittman said.

The crowd also took eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence in honor of George Floyd.

"That eight minutes and 46 seconds changed the world and it can change Jacksonville," Dennis told the crowd.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who wasn't there Sunday, said he plans to participate in a walk this week and will announce policy initiatives and actions that will bring the city together.

"We're in this together. It's not an adversary type of relationship. It's about moving Jacksonville forward," Dennis said. "I wish him well on his walk. If I'm invited, I'll be a part. If not, I'll be supporting him from the sidelines," Dennis said.

"I definitely appreciate the mayor doing that and like I said, "we're going to put some legislation in place to make Jacksonville a better place," Newby said.

"No one group can do it by themselves and we have to have the mayor and the sheriff and the state attorney that lets our community know that we are all aligned. It's not just about the march. It's about putting plans in place," Pittman said.

The city council members said they hope to work with Mayor Curry on policies to bring the city together.

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