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'I wanted the world to see what's going on': Jacksonville photographer arrested in BLM protest speaks out after settlement

Judner Fiacre's face was plastered on television and social media after his arrest in May 2020, alongside dozens of other protesters.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Last summer's "Black Lives Matter" protests in Jacksonville ended with dozens of arrests, many of peaceful protesters. Months later, one of those arrested is speaking out following a settlement with the city.

Judner Fiacre, a Jacksonville photographer and father, had been traveling to different cities to document protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

"I wanted the world to see what's going on, I wanted the world to see we're standing up with them," he said.

So when protests began in Jacksonville on May 30, Fiacre started attending to take pictures and stream live on social media.

The first day of protesting began with a large, peaceful protest across the street from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, but devolved into chaos later in the day and culminated with vandalized businesses and an injured officer.

But Sunday, May 31, was a much calmer scene.

"I felt like I had to be out here because of my children," Fiacre said, standing on the lawn of the Duval County Courthouse where the protest that day started and ended.

A small group of protesters arrived at the steps of the courthouse Sunday morning, an area where they would remain to demonstrate for a couple of hours as the group swelled to a couple hundred.

Eventually, the group began to march onto the streets before moving back onto the sidewalks and making their way back to the courthouse. A later march would lead to a confrontation with police as the group attempted to cross the Main Street Bridge.

Once protesters arrived back at the courthouse, remaining peaceful, police in tactical gear began to move in to disperse the crowd.

"They basically circled us in. So we couldn't really run if we wanted to. A few people did get away, but they grabbed so many," Fiacre said. "I witnessed people get punched in the face, get picked up and slammed to the ground. It didn't have to get to that extreme." 

First Coast News reporters watched police encircle the group, blocking off most routes of exit save for those lining the front of the building. Dozens of arrests were made as police vans and buses arrived to transport protesters.

Fiacre, who was streaming live on Facebook, was walking east on Adams St. and away from the area when he was arrested.

"They basically put me in a circle and just jump on me, beat me up and almost broke my camera and arrested me," he said.

Protesters who managed to get out of the area were seen wiping their eyes, reporting the use of pepper spray.

Fiacre said he and the others were taken to a field where they were held in the vehicles for hours.

"They wouldn't let us use the bathroom. I was witnessing kids going to the bathroom on themselves sitting right next to me. They wouldn't feed us no water, food," he said. "It was a nightmare."

And while his court appearance was Monday morning and he said his bond was posted the same day, Fiacre added he was not released from jail until Tuesday evening.

Ultimately, the State's Attorney's Office declined to prosecute a majority of the protesters arrested Sunday. Later, a federal lawsuit would be brought against the city and the sheriff's office, which JSO would eventually shell out $100,000 to settle while also agreeing to a change in how future protests are handled.

Fiacre just received his portion of a settlement stemming from his arrest.

"What I went through that day, no amount of money can make that go away," he said. "That picture stuck in my head is gonna be there forever." 

While Fiacre's attorney declined to speak on camera, he said his client was beaten during the arrest and that any litigation would have been centered on a false arrest claim.

Fiacre said he doesn't regret attending the protest, and would make the same choice again.

"I just cannot wait for that day when I wake up and I can see love around the city, [when] I can see love around this country, because that's what we need," he said. 

    

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