April 28, 2017
Willie Hager (Wilder), participated in a peaceful demonstration against the recent bombing of Syria. The police brutally arrested him and four others. Below is the first statement the coalition of participating organizations released.
"This was an attack on our community in order to discourage what have been for the most part successful protests with mutually respectful relations with Law Enforcement (Jacksonville Sheriff's Office - JSO) since October 2011 Occupy Jacksonville's occupation of City Hall front steps for 14 mos. During that Occupation, the city was involved in pension plan scandals and they laid off hundreds of JSO deputies and Civil Services Officers. When that occurred, we in Occupy fell out on the City Hall steps with signs reading 'We support JSO, they are the 99% - rehire JSO lay-offs.". Since that time we have always had good liaison with the police, while never formalized it has been practiced since that time without incident. The JSO on site has always worked to keep opposing factions separate during rallies...that's what we call protests here, in River City. This recent incident was definitely a one-off from our history of peaceful protest/rallies since October 2011. In the videos there is definitely evidence of collusion between JSO, armed Park Security Guards, and Gary Snow to disrupt the messaging and theme of the rally; No More War in Syria. A collusion that ultimately led to a violent outcome wherein the JSO suddenly rushed in and began beating and arresting leaders from the various groups of the rally sponsoring group the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC), of which VFPJax is a charter member. There is now a Justice for the JAX 5 Facebook page that has been created to garner support for the JAX 5, and which has a good synopsis of the incident and profiles on the 5 (I'm listed as William Wilder, my "legal" name, Willie Hager is my nom de guerre)."
Jacksonville Progressive Coalition Statement on Hemming Park 5 Incident
Date: April 10, 2017
Firstly, we want it to be known that we are a coalition of peace and social justice activists and organizations, and as such, we hold nonviolence as one of our core principles. We even offer trainings to other groups in nonviolence. (As you can imagine, our phones have been ringing off the hook by groups asking to gain some expertise in this area.) But no system is perfect, especially if law enforcement is not invested in keeping the peace.
We believe that the incident which broke out in Hemming Park on April 7 was entirely preventable. There was a large police presence for the small number of demonstrators on hand (60-70). The police were asked by organizers to separate the counter demonstrators from us and were refused. We have been peacefully demonstrating in Hemming Park and other locations around the city for five years, all without incident.
We call upon Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, and the State Attorney Melissa Nelson to begin immediate and transparent investigations into private security and police actions (and inactions) in Hemming Park on Friday, April 7, 2017.
We call upon the State Attorney’s office to review the multiple videos of the incident and to interview eyewitnesses. We feel confident that if this is done, none of these hefty charges will stand.
We call upon the media to cease creating reports based solely upon the Jacksonville Sheriff Office’s information, and to reach out to organizers for comments, to review video footage, and to interview people who were present before crafting a narrative of events. We believe in the First Amendment guarantee of Freedom of the Press, as well as Freedom of Speech. We hope that the media representatives in our community will work together with us to ensure the continuation of both of these rights enshrined in our nation’s constitution.
We want to offer heartfelt thanks to the citizens of Jacksonville for their outpouring of support. We were able to raise all five arrestees’ bail bonds (totaling over $150,000) in a short amount of time, and over $6,000 for their medical expenses, as well.
Finally, we wish for people to know that the Mr. Sheffield who was also arrested that evening was not a part of our demonstration. He is unknown to us, and we know no more about the events leading to his arrest than the general public.
Here are "Demands"
1. Drop all Charges Against the #Jax5
2. Demand the protection of the right to free speech and to peacefully assemble.
3. Full Investigation of JSO Misconduct, brutality & any ties to White Supremacist Groups/Individuals
4. Full Investigation of Surveillance and Spying on union leaders & Community Organizers
Please visit and like Justice For the Jax5 for more information.