Sparks at community healing session

Two local activists were asked to leave the community event held at The Sanctuary at Mount Calvary Church after criticizing the area’s councilmember.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Sparks flew at a community healing session for last week’s mass shooting at a Dollar General.

Two activists were asked to leave the event held at The Sanctuary at Mount Calvary Church for criticizing the area’s city councilmember.

They say work needs to be done before anyone can start healing from the shooting.

“Ain’t no safe space in here where we can tell the truth,” said Duval Black Economic Council President Denise Hunt after leaving the community meeting.

Hunt says she was asked to leave a community meeting after criticizing Councilmember Ju’Coby Pittman for her handling of the crisis.

“She took the mic from me and shushed me and told me that wasn’t the right place,” said Hunt.

Hunt felt it was the second time she was silenced in a week. Pittman quieted a crowd booing and jeering Governor Ron DeSantis during a prayer vigil after the shooting.

“The fact that she was shushing us, quieting the rage that people felt. I felt like it was very disrespectful,” said Hunt.

Pittman says she doesn’t regret how she handled the Governor’s visit.

“I’m not supporting what he does, but I asked for the money for the families,” said Pittman. “I asked for that. The idea he decided he wanted to give to the families, I can’t stop the governor from doing that.”

Dr. Stanley McAllister Jr. was also asked to leave Saturday’s healing session after speaking against the councilmember.

“Been in the office eight years, and you’ve got people in Flagtree living with mold, where was she? You show up when the cameras rolling, but where was she? I’m mad,” said McAllister Jr. “This is what trauma looks like.”

Pittman says the gathering was to help families of the shooting victims, not a political event. However, Hunt and McAllister say they have started an election recall petition targeting Pittman.

“I’ve been very strategic about what I do to help the low income, the homeless,” said Pittman. “I’ve been doing this work because it’s a mission. I’ve done it effectively for 35 years as well as on the city council.”

The councilmember says she’s taking feedback from the meeting and 20 years worth of community surveys to create a plan to help the folks living on the Northwest side of Jacksonville near Edward Waters University.

Pittman added she’ll bring that plan to city council soon.

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