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THE FLOG

For the last two weeks, I’ve filed columns and blog posts exploring the controversial tweets Duval County Republican Party Secretary Kim Crenier posted in the wake of the Darren Wilson “No True Bill” decision in Ferguson, Missouri, last Monday night. At 10:34 p.m., as tear gas flooded the streets of Ferguson, Crenier, on her own account as well as that of @JaxGOP, excitedly tweeted: “No true bill! May God bless and protect Officer Darren Wilson and his family. Facts are facts.”

I’ve called for the party to explain her comments and to take a position on them and her; I’ve also called for Crenier to resign. In the wake of my original blog post, the story went national, taking off with outfits as disparate as the Washington Times and Daily Kos.

And with good reason. Her comments on the Jax GOP feed were questionable; the ones on her private feed were unconscionable. Her call for law enforcement to “turn the fire hoses” on Ferguson protesters who “probly need a shower” was a throwback to the Bull Connor era. When I asked her about it, she replied that “the civil rights implication never even entered my head” and that “water seemed to be less severe than mace,” which apparently was the chosen crowd dispersal agent of some of her fellow tea partiers in her Twitterverse. (She also had some choice statements about “President Racebaiter” Barack Obama, “our race-baiting, America hating President.”)

Time passed, and the Ferguson riots ran their course. Hands Up Don’t Shoot, replaced by I Can’t Breathe. Another week; another black man executed with extreme prejudice by a white cop. And she was still in her spot.

That ends soon. Crenier recently went on a local right-wing radio show, according to the Times-Union, and said that critics had “been calling for my head and calling for me to step down,” she said. “[Local …   More

THE FLOG

Update: I tweaked the headline, after Councilman Lumb objected that it was misleading: “I think it was pretty clear that I wasn't objecting that the Cultural Council defended MOCA, I objected to how they went about it.” 

Just when you thought #MOCAgate (or were we calling it #boobygate?) was over, here’s this:

Robin Lumb is not a happy camper. This afternoon, he fired off an email to Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville board members, chiding the Cultural Council for not knowing its place. Their crime, it seems, was #standingwithmoca — or specifically, for criticizing Clay Yarborough, our Great Moral Compass, who declared that a picture of a naked pregnant lady reclining on a couch was pornography that would corrupt THE CHILDREN and demanded that the mayor defund the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. (The mayor refused, citing First Amendment issues.)

Yarborough, of course, has been the subject of much derision, both here and nationwide. In The New York Times, the photographer/pornographer(?) in question, Angela Strassheim, quipped that maybe he hadn’t seen enough porn to know what porn really was. At Art Walk last night, a good-sized crowd mocked him with signs like “Ban Boobs from City Hall” (see image above). And in this mag’s pages this week, we wondered what artistic masterpieces would look like if they had to abide by Yarborough’s standards of decency.

We all had a good laugh. 

Councilman Lumb was not laughing. 

When he learned that the Cultural Council had email-blasted a plea for support for MOCA, saying Yarborough’s campaign was “unfortunate and could be viewed as an effort to stifle artistic expression” and linking to a number of anti-Yarborough pieces that had appeared in the local media, ours included, he wrote to “express my profound disappointment with the conduct of the Cultural Council in this matter as evinced by the …   More

THE FLOG

This just in from the Human Rights Campaign’s Twitter feed: 

BREAKING: 11th Circuit declines to extend stay of Florida marriage ruling. Barring SCOTUS action, marriages can begin in Florida Jan 5th!

Will update as we hear more.    More

THE FLOG

Breaking: Citing First Amendment concerns, the mayor’s office has rejected City Council President Clay Yarborough’s demand that the city pull funding for the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville over an image he deemed pornographic. 

Read the entire PDF here. The tl;dr version: Piss off, Clay.

Here is the text of Mayor Brown’s letter: 

Dear President Yarborough: 

I am in receipt of the enclosed email that you sent to my Chief of Staff on Tuesday, November 25, 2014. 

As you know, we asked the Office of General Counsel (OGC) if the action you requested could result in legal risk for the City of Jacksonville. OGC has opined that the action you sought would likely violate First Amendment rights and could subject the City to injunctive action and financial sanctions. I believe you have received that opinion via electronic mail, but I have attached another copy here. 

After thoughtful consideration of your request and the First Amendment issues involved, I will not seek to pull any of the funding that City Council appropriated to the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville in the current budget. This includes the Cultural Council’s subsequent award of a $233,029.00 grant to MOCA. 

I am hopeful that we can put this issue behind us so that the City can continue working with the arts and cultural community to revitalize Downtown, enhance our quality of life, and make Jacksonville a vibrant destination. 

Thank you again for sharing your concerns. 

Sincerely, 

Alvin Brown. 

And here is that referenced letter from Jason Gabriel of the city’s Office of General Counsel: 

Gentlemen —

Per the below request, our office has looked into this issue. 

Based on relevant federal case law, the City cannot remove artwork from the Museum based on what it may deem offensive. While the City can choose to fund agencies or activities however it wishes …   More

THE FLOG

As you may have heard, City Council President Clay Yarborough has been in the news lately. But what you may not remember is that this isn’t the first time Yarborough has determined that he and he alone should be the decider of what is good and wholesome in our fair city. 

Back in 2008 — long before I was associated with this esteemed publication — Folio Weeky published a cover story by John E. Citrone, then the paper’s managing editor, on Northeast Florida’s BDSM scene. The cover showed a dog collar and had the words “Whip It Good.” 

Clay Yarborough was not amused. Then, as now, he demanded the city get in on the censorship business, for the children. Here is the letter he wrote to then-Mayor John Peyton, demanding that the city remove our publication and distribution racks from all city-owned property because he found an article offensive. (He also objected to “scantily clad women” in a couple ads.) 

Peyton, to the best of my knowledge, did not play along. I suspect Yarborough’s latest anti-MOCA campaign will similarly fizzle. 

From: Yarborough, Clay 

Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 5:07 PM

To: Peyton, John

Cc: Davis, Daniel; Fussell, Ronnie; Gubbin, Barbara

Subject: March 11 Folio

Mayor,

I walked through the door of a Jacksonville Public Library today and my attention was immediately caught by the cover of the March 11, 2008 issue of Folio Weekly with the words "Whip It Good" thereon. Pages 17-23 contain a long, explicit article (with photos), entitled "House of Pain," about a sadomasochism residence on the Westside. The article also explains, in-depth, the details of a stage show performed at a local nightclub in which sexual acts and abuse are graphically simulated, and speaks of the audience members "groping each other"

Here is more (edited for content), taken directly from the article:

Page 17 “A man’s [genitalia] is pierced …   More

Bill Bishop, former Council President and a candidate for Mayor, broke ranks with local Party leadership and called for the resignation of Crenier. In a press release, Bishop said her comments were “deplorable and must not be tolerated”, and that “the chairman must do what is required to restore credibility and respectability to our party”.

Folio talked to Bishop Friday afternoon about his decision to call for Crenier’s removal from her position.

“I felt it was important to make a statement,” Bishop said. Describing her comments as a “grenade in the room”, one that “does not reflect official Republican thinking”, it was clear to me that Bishop couldn’t understand why Crenier would make such statements, that he was horrified by the callous inhumanity of her series of Tweets.

Bishop has known Crenier for a few years in a casual capacity, and he was surprised by her intemperance. “I never would have thought she would have said anything like that,” he said, describing her comments as “out of character”, “shocking” and a “Christmas present” to the Brown campaign.

Crenier responded to a message from Folio Friday evening clarifying her remarks. 

"I have apologized for the insensitivity of the fire hose comment numerous times now. The civil rights implication never even entered my head when I posted the tweet in response to tweets advocating mace and tear gas and rubber bullets. I just thought those people should disperse and go home and water seemed to be less severe than mace," she said regarding the martial law tactics used against African American protestors in Ferguson.

Crenier had a message for her critics.

"Unfortunately, there are those who will paint me as a racist and a hateful person regardless of what I have to say because they want it to be so. The tweets were on my personal twitter page and I am not speaking on …   More

THE FLOG

We told you yesterday how Clay Yarborough, Jacksonville City Council President/Self-appointed Guardian of Civic Virtue and Decider of All That Is Wholesome and Righteous, had wandered into MOCA, saw an incredibly benign image of a naked pregnant lady lying on a couch — this thing ain’t Mapplethorpe, y’all — and freaked the fuck out. Here’s the T-U’s version of that story, which tries very hard not to make Yarborough look like a hayseed dipshit. 

In that online version of this crazypants debacle, the T-U published on its website a quickly Photoshopped-censored version of this fine arts image that Yarborough has his knickers so in a twist about. And, seeing as how this image is very much art and not at all pornography or obscene — sorry, Clay — that’s a problem for our town’s paper of record. Are we saying that little Jimmy should glance across the morning breakfast table at Dad's tablet as he reads the morning paper and be horribly scarred for life by the image of a couple of well-lit breasts on a pregnant lady? (Little Jimmy, one presumes, was not breastfed, and does not have access to the Internet.) Of course not. But there are better, more responsibly ways to treat the subject matter at hand.

One of the very first rules of photojournalism is that a photo should NEVER be doctored. Repeat: A PHOTO SHOULD NEVER BE ALTERED. Especially if it’s a work of art. Doing so negates trust and makes you look dishonest. Yes, it was labeled as edited, but it's difficult to tell what was blacked out and what wasn't, which always raises questions. If anything, the censorship should have been much clearer. Furthermore, and more troubling, blacking out the naughty bits makes it look like the paper agrees with Yarborough that there’s something shameful here — and holy hell, seriously? Would they censor a painting …   More

THE FLOG

Around the time that a suburb half a country away was exploding last Monday night, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer named J.C. Garcia tried to pull over a car driven by a man named Brian Dennison, whose 6-year-old daughter was in his car, after he cut through a parking lot trying to avoid a traffic light.

The police say that Dennison didn’t stop when Garcia pulled up behind him, and continued driving all the way to his apartment complex. According to Dennison’s family, the 31-year-old was in a rush to get home because his daughter was having an asthma attack. Dennison got out of his car; one family member told News4Jax that he stuck his hands out of the car window and said, “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot. I got my daughter in the car.”

Garcia claimed he saw a gun. He pulled his service weapon and fired a shot. 

Dennison — who, fortunately, was not harmed — did not have a weapon. He was, however, arrested on misdemeanor charges. The family is demanding answers.

If history is any indicator, they won’t get them.

Between 1999 and 2013, Florida cops in 110 different law enforcement agencies were involved in 574 homicides that were deemed justified, according to an investigation by NBC 6 South Florida. Of those, 42 cases involved the JSO, the second-highest total of any police agency in the state, behind only the Miami-Dade Police Department. That number is spiking, too — up from just 14 incidents in ’99 to 67 in 2012 and 58 last year — along with a pronounced, concomitant spike in civilian justified homicides that began around 2006 (thank you, Stand Your Ground), even as violent crime rates here and nationwide have plummeted since 1993.

If you’ve reported on cops for any amount of time, as I have, you know how rare it is for police agencies to decide that one of their own did anything wrong, ever, no matter the evidence — like Sasquatch-spotting rare. A few …   More

THE FLOG

Most of us saw a tragedy unfolding: The grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, the fires that burned in storefronts, the police and National Guardsmen subjugating rioters with tear gas. It was a day that brought ignominy on the city of Ferguson, the state of Missouri, and the United States of America itself.

But the person manning a social media account associated with the Duval County Republican Party seemed downright exuberant: At 10:34 p.m., as tear gas flooded the streets of Ferguson, @JaxGOP excitedly tweeted: “No true bill! May God bless and protect Officer Darren Wilson and his family. Facts are facts.”

Facts are indeed facts, and I wanted some. I wanted to know who tweeted this and why. I wanted to know if that person spoke for the party — @JaxGOP is no longer the Duval GOP’s official feed (that’s @DuvalGOP), though it apparently still carried the logo until the hullabaloo that followed this particular post (see the image above), at which point someone saw fit to post multiple messages stating that @JaxGOP is no longer the official account  — and if not, if the tweeter had been asked to resign for posting such an irresponsible, tone-deaf message. And I wanted to know what “facts are facts” meant in this context.

Despite my best efforts, and two conversations with party principals, answers weren’t forthcoming.

The first was with events chairwoman Karyn Morton, who repeatedly wondered if she should even be talking to me. “Quite frankly,” she said, the tweet came forth “from an individual who didn’t even realize she was posting on the Duval GOP site.” The tweet, she explained, was quickly replaced with the Kumbaya hashtag #PrayForFerguson — which I suppose is more acceptable, because with cops like that, God knows they need all the prayer they can get.

The Twitter …   More

THE FLOG

Last Wednesday, Nov. 19, the Miami Marlins reached an agreement with outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on a $325 million contract, the largest contract for an athlete in the history of American professional sports. As absurd as it may seem, I find myself in the odd position of defending this admittedly mind-boggling deal. I understand that there are many people who find baseball as enjoyable as listening to your drunk uncle eat mashed potatoes while talking politics at the Thanksgiving dinner table. I know that this contract works out to about $69,000 a day, which is a slap in the face to schoolteachers, fire fighters, and basically every other working slob in America. Those discussions are for another time. I speak to you here strictly as a fan of baseball — more specifically as a rare fan of the Miami Marlins, and nothing else. If you don't care about baseball, you can probably stop reading now. Before you do, consider that there’s a local angle here, too.

You see, Giancarlos Stanton (then known as Mike Stanton) used to hit a majority of his majestic home runs right off of (if not onto) A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. It was there that he called The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (still our best playing field in this city — I'm looking right at you, Khan) home as a member of the minor league Jacksonville Suns. For those not familiar, the Jacksonville Suns serve as the AA farm team of the Miami Marlins. For those not familiar with farm teams, well, they are where major league baseball clubs pay players to hone their skills in order for them to become professionals before joining the parent clubs. The NFL has something similar called college football, except there they don't do silly things like compensate players.

Even while still in the minors, it didn't take an MLB scout to realize that Stanton was going to be special, and his home runs were already the stuff of legend. Anyone who got a chance …   More