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Northside Coalition arranging legal observers on beaches for Orange Crush Festival

Saturday is expected to be the busiest of the three-day event starting at 3 p.m. in Jacksonville Beach.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tens of thousands of young people are expected to visit Duval County this weekend for the Orange Crush Festival. 

It kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday at the Justice Pub downtown when those in the entertainment industry come together for a mixer. 

Saturday is expected to be the busiest of the three-day event starting at 3 p.m. in Jacksonville Beach. 

“Orange Crush Festival is Father’s Day weekend. You can expect a lot of festivities," said Stephan Smith, the Orange Crush Festival organizer. 

Orange Crush organizer Stephan Smith is expecting at least 20,000 young people in Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach this weekend for the festival. 

“I’d say the ratio with college kids is probably about 30%. Everybody else is at least 25 and up," Smith said. "From Orange Crush, you can expect downtown to be lit up. The beach is definitely going to be big.”

The Orange Crush Festival moved from Tybee Island last year.

“All week, just be safe and expect a lot of fun,” Smith said.

The Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, a local Civil Rights organization, is working with local faith leaders to monitor what happens on beaches during Orange Crush. 

“We’ve decided to put legal observers out there at the beach to ensure the safety of our young folks," said Ben Frazier, president and founder of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says they're transferring inmates to make room in the jail for possible arrests this weekend.  

Frazier calls the move by JSO discriminatory. 

"I have reached out to State Representative Angie Nixon who is also very concerned," Frazier said. "We are distressed about the obvious racial bias in terms of JSO's policies, practices, and procedures. We also take issue with the attitude the JSO brass exhibits regarding the policing of the Black community."

Most of the people expected in town this weekend are Black. 

“The sheriff’s plans are suspect and appear to be stained with racial bias," Frazier said. "That is our primary concern.”

Frazier called on JSO to make a statement about people being treated fairly at the festival. 

JSO spokesman Christian Hancock sent First Coast News this statement:

The City of Jacksonville, Beaches Area Leaders and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office have been working together to prepare for the Orange Crush Festival, the first large scale event without participant restrictions since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

 The three-day beach weekend, previously held in Tybee Island, is set to begin on Friday, June 18 and conclude in the late evening hours of Sunday, June 20. There are multiple events scheduled all three days and the venues span from the Beaches Areas into Downtown Jacksonville.

 Sheriff Mike Williams said, “We are pleased to have a collaborative approach to welcoming the 3-day festival into our community. Large scale events like these are not new to our folks and we are ready. I am confident the men and women of JSO will provide an exceptional level of service to both our residents and our visitors for this busy weekend. As always, JSO is here to assist anyone in need. We want everyone to have a safe and fun weekend…” 

 Orange Crush organizer George Mikey shared that the participating leaderships met and “agreed the success of the event rests on effective communication and cooperation from all parties. We share a common goal: a safe, well-organized, and profitable event for the City of Jacksonville. Sheriff Williams and (I), both military veterans, agree that a law enforcement presence is the best recourse given the expected turnout.”

 “The commitment of law enforcement together from JSO, Sheriff Mike Williams and the Beaches Officials is key to ensuring our visitors have fun and feel safe, during the event's festivities. I look forward to welcoming the first-time 3-day Orange Crush Fest to our community. Businesses are preparing for the weekend boost and economic impact, as we showcase the assets of Jacksonville and the Beaches as a place of distinction in Northeast Florida” added Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman.

 With the locations for the more than 40 scheduled events spread throughout the city and the beaches, we would expect traffic to be heavier than normal as participants travel between the venues. As such, we would ask that participants and citizens alike be mindful of the possibilities of traffic congestion as they make their way in and around these areas. This will most likely occur on the routes between downtown Jacksonville and the beaches areas – to include: Atlantic Boulevard, Beach Boulevard and J. Turner Butler Boulevard. We would ask that those traveling these major thoroughfares be mindful of the possible congestion leading to delays.

 In an effort to assist with the impending traffic congestion, as typical with large scale events in and out of the Beaches Areas, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office may have extra officers stationed at key points along these routes. These officers will assist in manually working the traffic lights if necessary, assist motorists and clear travel lanes should crashes occur during peak times. 

 We look forward to a fun and safe weekend for each participant travelling to Jacksonville for the Orange Crush Festival.

 Please refer to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Twitter account for any major updates regarding traffic during the weekend, twitter.com/JSOPIO.