JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday approved legislation that bans any message projected onto someone’s building or property without permission.
City Council’s agenda included two identical bills that were created to address a series of hate messages that recently appeared in Jacksonville.
The most recent hate message that sparked the swift response from council members was a swastika and an outline of an antisemitic cartoon apparently displayed on the CSX building during a Jaguars’ game. The image was seen in a photo that was circulated on social media.
The response by council seemed unanimous — outright condemnation from members of the Council. But the council was split over which of the two bills should pass One filed by Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber and Councilman Matt Carlucci or one filed by Councilman Rory Diamond, City Council President Terrance Freeman and several others.
They were word-for-word identical — setting “projections of text, graphics, logos, or artwork onto a building, structure or any other place (including public spaces) without the consent of the owner or person in control of the building, structure or space” as blight and graffiti, and making the violations a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days and a fine of not less than $2,000. Any equipment or vehicles used in the crime will be seized by the Sheriff’s Office and forfeited to the city.
Notably, neither bill specifically mentioned hate speech — and the creators say because they are content-neutral, they would not infringe on free speech.
The bill that was passed was the version introduced by Freeman, Salem, Newby, Diamond, Pittman, Clark-Murray and Howland. The vote was 18-1 in favor, and Brenda Priestly Jackson was the lone “no” vote.
Council then voted to withdraw the other bill.
Miriam Feist, with the Jewish Federation and Foundation, said she’s relieved the city is taking action.
“We are thrilled about the emergency bill,” Feist said. “It marks the first step in saying our city will not tolerate any hate speech of any kind.”
Not far enough?
Some citizens, while they support the sentiment of the bills being proposed by the city council, don’t believe the efforts go far enough.
A local group of grassroots advocates and activists, spearheaded by Ben Frazier’s Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, said “city officials should move now to eradicate all public displays of racial and cultural hatred in Jacksonville.”
They want not only the ban on projections on public buildings but the removal of Confederate monuments in the city.
The group includes 904ward, the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida, Leadership is for Everyone, Inc., and OneJax.
“I think this is a big moment for jacksonville where we’re saying we don’t want those projected, but we can go one step forward and also say we also don’t want those statues,” said Kimberly Allen, with 904ward.
They drafted a statement about the issue:
We applaud all efforts to BAN the stream of hate messaging on buildings and banners in the sky. But much more must be done. We encourage members of the City Council to take a courageous stance and to now reintroduce legislation to remove Confederate monuments from public property. This action is long overdue and represents the proverbial can that has been kicked down the road for far too long! Hypocrisy is not a good look. All symbols of racism and hatred should be removed and banned in our city.+
“The Confederate monuments represent racial hatred, racism and white supremacy,” said Dr. Rudy Jamison of the LIFE organization.
“With the imminent passage of proposed legislation to combat racial hatred, City Council is taking steps in the right direction but still more must be done,” Dr. Kim Allen of 904ward said. “Let’s continue to show the city, state and nation the kind of community that we are by taking another bold step to remove Confederate monuments.”
“The Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida and the Jewish community at large condemns any action, speech or figure that conjures up or promotes hatred or bias,” said Mariam Feist of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida.
“It’s far too much strife and division in Duval. What we need now is racial healing and reconciliation,” said the Rev. Kyle Reece of OneJax.
The council should have the political courage to remove the monuments from public property once and for all. The Council should not condemn antisemitic messages on one hand; while on the other hand ignoring the racist messaging projected by confederate monuments,” Frazier said.
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