Four days after the Jaguars organization-wide peaceful protest march, running back Leonard Fournette held a peaceful protest of his own. At 10 am on Tuesday, Fournette and a host of peaceful protestors met in front of City Hall in Hemming Park.
As a show of solidarity, the city removed a confederate statue that loomed outside the park for decades. There have been discussions in the past, all of which were tabled, about removing the monument. But Mayor Lenny Curry decided this was the appropriate time to remove the symbol that represented Jacksonville's dark racial past.
It was a foggy Jacksonville morning, but the message from Fournette, Mayor Lenny Curry, and the peaceful protestors was clear: Equality for all.
As Fournette took center stage, he spoke about his upbringing, children, and desire for a world in which everyone is treated equally.
"This is bigger than me; This is bigger than football," said Fournette. So we're going to continue praying; Continue coming together; Continue doing what we have to do to have a better generation for our kids, for the next generation — Black lives matter. Let's keep fighting."
After Fournette addressed the crowd of hundreds, he handed the mic off to Lenny Curry. As Jacksonville's mayor began speaking, a group of vocal protestors chanted, "No justice, no peace." Once the uproar died down, Curry made a commitment — a promise — to the city of Jacksonville.
"This (the removal of the confederate statue) is one action," said Curry. "There is more work to come. But yesterday, there was a confederate monument in that park. It's gone. And the others in this city will be removed as well. We hear your voices. We have heard your voices. There are a number of issues: body cams, economic opportunity, infrastructure; it's a long list."
"I'm going to introduce legislation that formally brings together the sheriff's office, the state attorney's office, the public defender, city council, my office, with independent voices from the community as a part of that group that will be heard to help guide decisions. Thank you; I look forward to walking with you."
The mayor has set the table for action to take place; For equality to flourish, and for a brighter future for all of Jacksonville's citizens. His first step towards doing so was the removal of a confederate monument — little more than a symbolic gesture. What happens next will be key. Will Curry follow through on his promises to the city of Jacksonville?
As for Leonard Fournette, his example is one that other famous athletes should follow. Several of his teammates were in attendance, including Ronnie Harrison, DJ Chark, Rodney Gunter, Shaq Quarterman, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole, and more. Fournette is hardly the first black athlete to organize such an event. But more work is needed from Fournette's peers as the country moves forward.
Following speeches by Fournette, Curry, and entertainer Lil' Duval, the march began. From City Hall, the protesters proceeded down Laura, took a right on Adams, and headed straight for the courthouse. The same route was taken back to City Hall, where the protest concluded.
This was a good, good day for Jacksonville. Is it a sign of things to come?
I hope the answer is yes, but the city's history suggests that this could be just another blip on the radar, not a sincere step towards racial equality.
Time will tell.
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