UNF students join Black Lives Matter rally

Danae Leake

The record-breaking temperatures could tempt anyone into staying indoors on a Sunday afternoon. But for a group of nearly 300 citizens in Jacksonville, it was a perfect time to protest. The protest bringing civilians together was a Black Lives Matter rally.

Photo by Danae Leake
Photo by Danae Leake

It commenced in front of the Duval County Courthouse, where protesters carried signs displaying their frustrations with perceived injustices within the black community, like police brutality and racial inequalities. Last week’s shootings of two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minneapolis, led to the myriad of protests throughout the nation and even international cities, such as London.

On the steps of the towering courthouse, chants rose from the crowd, including “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.” Two young black womenone sporting a blue trapper hat and the other draped one in a pan-african flagbroadcasted their message through a megaphone.

“If we really want to see change, we’re going to have to support black businesses. Because at the end of the day, people can ignore protesters, but they cannot ignore money,” said Hulbyu Sincler, the woman with the tri-colored flag.

Peppered throughout the throng were UNF students. A few of them were at the top of the steps and quietly displayed their homemade signs. UNF student Richard Miele held a white poster with black text reading: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” According to Miele, this is his second protest he had ever attended.

Richard Miele (right) stands with other UNF students at the rally.
Richard Miele (right) stands with other UNF students at the rally. Photo by Danae Leake

“The other night I went to a vigil for Vernell Charles Bing, Jr.” Miele said. “He was killed in Jacksonville in the Springfield area. There was speech after speech of people going on about his shooting. It honestly gave me a perspective that I never really had before.”

Many of the protestors were of those from the black community but there was a mix of others there to support the cause. Miele brought this up in regards to his own identity.

“It’s hard to realize it from my perspective as a white male but I feel like I’ve had some kind of awakening to notice the inequality that’s going,” he commented. “It’s just not fair so I’m here to protest that.”

Hulbyu Sincler stands with her pan-african flag. Photo by Danae Leake.
Hulbyu Sincler stands with her pan-african flag. Photo by Danae Leake

Other students were present at the vigil, including Lera Williamson. With one hand holding a poster sign in the air and the other holding a batch of other handmade signs, Williamson shouted along with the chants. She made an appearance at the protest after being fed-up with what she had repeatedly been exposed to on social media.

“I thought that if one extra person gets out there and does something, then it’s better than not doing anything at all,” Williamson said. “Whenever I do have a family, I’d want for them to have the same opportunities that everyone else has.” The end goal for her , according to Williamson, it to pave the way for future generations and their opportunities to have a better life.

When it comes to deciphering whether protests are still relevant to promoting social change, another UNF student present at the rally had a few words on that.

“As someone in a seat of privilege,” said Azure Jones, a student studying art history, “I need to be able to use my voice to make a difference because something needs to change. [The violence] is not OK and what’s happening. [Protests] are a platform where people’s voices can actually be heard.

UNF student Lera Williamson. Photo by Danae Leake.
UNF student Lera Williamson. Photo by Danae Leake

As the crowd growled, protesters decided to march out their message.

The mass of citizens ditched the courthouse and then marched through the Brooklyn neighborhood in the Riverside area. From there, protestors marched down the Bay street area toward the Jacksonville Landing, where some of the protestors climbed atop the Andrew Jackson statue.

After walking over the Main Street bridge three individuals were arrested for jaywalking. The remaining crowd members trekked to their last stop at the county jail. This rally spanned from about 1-4 p.m.. All in all, the rally ended on a peaceful note with nobody harmed.

According to the Facebook group All N: New Black Wall Street (Jacksonville, FL), the next protest meet will be in Memorial Park at 6 p.m. on July 16th.

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