Friday evening, police moved in to break-up a “No war with Syria” rally in Jacksonville’s Hemming Park, after the “peaceful” event degenerated into a mini riot between supporters of President Trump’s bombing of Syria and a group of those protesting the action. The violence erupted after about six Trump supporters attempted a counter protest. According to Richard Blake, one of the protest organizers, “Police completely ignored the pro-Trump provocateurs. I have never seen this kind of brutality.”
A spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department said that Initially the protest was reasonably peaceful, but started to escalate about 6 p.m. as protesters clashed with counter-protesters. Then a fight broke out and officers moved in to restore order. While some blows were exchanged, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office no one was seriously hurt.
As a result of the near riot, protest organizer David Marlow Schneider, 27; Connell Aubrey Crooms, 26; Christina Elizabeth Kittle, 27; William Thomas Wilder, 74; Thomas Craig Beckham, 26; and Robert Gordon Sheffield, Jr., 67, were all taken into custody. They are facing charges ranging from battery on a law enforcement officer to inciting a riot to resisting police with violence. One person who’s name was withheld was also charged with marijuana possession.
One video shows Schneider and Crooms perched on a concrete platform taking turns with a bullhorn and leading chants of “Hands off Syria!” and the ever popular BLM slogan, “No justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East” when a counter-protester waving a Donald Trump flag and a bullhorn of his own, climbs up alongside them.
The video shows the two exchanged words back and forth before a scuffle ensues over the flag. Crooms lunges forward, when the Trump supporter flashes an obscenity. That is when Police officers swarm the pair.
Witness Tavaris Beaver, said.“It should have been resolved way better than it was. There shouldn’t have been no fighting. Moments later, officers can be seen dragging Crooms to a waiting patrol car. That’s where several videos end, but Beaver said he saw the man later placed into an ambulance.
Officers saw a man splash a woman with a cup of liquid. That led to Sheffield’s arrest. Schneider, whom authorities identified as the primary organizer, was chased down as he walked away from the plaza, detained and later placed under arrest for inciting a riot.
The Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, which organized the protest, has scheduled a second demonstration beginning at noon Saturday outside the Duval County Courthouse. There protesters will call for the release of those jailed Friday.