In Jacksonville, Florida — on Friday night — a Deaf man who was with a group of people protesting against military airstrikes in Syria was arrested and held down by at least four police officers, beaten, taken to the hospital, then to jail, where he was charged with two felonies: inciting a riot and resisting an officer with violence.
His name is Connell Crooms and he was arrested along with several other protesters after they got into a confrontation with a man carrying a big TRUMP flag — he is identified as “Gary Snow.” He is someone who is a “counter-protester” and a pro-Trump activist — he regularly goes to protests to confront them.
The officers are from the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office (JSO). The location is Hemming Park.
There are multiple cell phone video footage of the incident — I will show you what happened from multiple camera angles.
You will see Connell speaking in the video. Connell uses a hearing aid, can speak, and uses his voice throughout — there is no ASL in the video.
I asked an interpreter to help me understand what Connell was shouting in the megaphone. They were chanting “U.S. out of the middle east, no justice, no peace.” The interpreter also said Connell said “black people knows what it feels like to be targeted, we know how it feels — they bombed Syria, what sense does it make?”
The JSO said on their Facebook post that Connell “changed the dynamic” of the crowd when he took the megaphone and said “F*** the police.” The JSO called Connell a “violent aggressor.”
It is unclear what sparked the confrontation — but apparently a protester took Gary Snow’s megaphone, so Gary responded by taking it back — and that’s when Connell put himself in between Gary and the other protester. You can see Gary pushing Connell away with his forearm.
Then something happens on the other side of the “stage” and both Gary and Connell run towards it. That’s when a JSO officer runs in to step in between the two. As the officer tried to escort Connell away, he turned around and pointed at Gary, shouting something. Gary gave him the middle finger, only inches away from his face.
In front of the officer, Connell swats his arm aside and charges towards Gary — it didn’t appear to me that he wanted to fight him — but to jaw at him. The JSO officer was looking at Connell and reacted to his charge by arresting him.
That’s when the chain reaction started — as JSO officers took down Connell, a protester responded by pulling back at an officer — so that protester was taken down, then the same thing happened with several another protesters. It was chaos with six people arrested at the end.
Others tried to tell that Connell was deaf. One officer hit Connell with his fist at least five times and placed a taser on his back, but I’m not sure if he fired it. Gary Snow was filming the arrest while police were on top of Connell. Connell was dragged to a police car, then transported to an ambulance, then to the jail, and released on bail.
Gary Snow was not arrested or charged. Apparently police asked him to sit on a police car after the arrests. He later told media that he went to the protest because he thought it insane of them to protest Trump’s order to bomb the Syrian airfield. He said when he was there, people tried to take away his things, and that Connell attacked him and a police officer.
The next day, on Saturday, there was a rally outside of a courthouse by people who protested against JSO’s arrests. Connell’s mother, Feliciaia, spoke out about how his son was arrested. He said he had not talked with his son and found out about it on the news. She said she was blocked from seeing him at the police station and at the hospital and was disappointed that people who are supposed to “protect and serve” bullied and beat his child.
People in the crowds shouted, “Drop the Charges!” They’ve called the group of protesters the “Hemming Park Five.” People want an independent investigation of why the JSO didn’t arrest Gary Snow.
A GoFundMe account was set up for Connell and it raised almost $6,000 of its $5,000 goal.
Connell is already known in the city of Jacksonville. He has been involved with activist organizations and regularly attends and is a part of protests. His likeness was painted in a giant mural last year on a concrete tower at the shipyard.
Connell was a student at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and briefly attended Gallaudet University.
It appears that Connell and the Hemming Park 5 are working with lawyers to fight the charges, and it is possible there will be a lawsuit, but I have no confirmation of that. I have reached out to people invovled and hope to provide more information and updates on this.
Connell’s Mother Speaks Out: http://jacksonville.com/video/2017-04-08/watch-mother-deaf-protester-arrested-jso-speaks-out-claims-excessive-force
Articles about Arrest: http://jacksonville.com/news/public-safety/2017-04-08/6-arrested-1-hospitalized-after-jacksonville-protest-over-syria /// http://jacksonville.com/news/public-safety/2017-04-08/counter-protester-denies-inciting-crowd-jacksonville-protest-over /// http://folioweekly.com/stories/activists-cry-foul-after-protest-turns-violent,17297
JSO Facebook Post/Statement about Protest: https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleSheriffsOffice/posts/10154546500577896
Article/Video About Mural: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/community/the-man-in-the-mural-new-artwork-towers-150-feet-over-shipyards/357486786
Corby Video: https://www.facebook.com/cat.corby/videos/vb.100005696435914/628678367332039/?type=2&theater
Action News Video: https://www.facebook.com/ActionNewsJacksonville/videos/1520745767997904/?hc_ref=SEARCH
Mike Todd Video: https://www.facebook.com/mikeltod/videos/vb.516067922/10155520177352923/?type=2&theater
Alice Wonder Video: https://www.facebook.com/100012776254427/videos/vb.100012776254427/290134801422393/?type=2&theater