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Lawsuit Seeks to Block Republican National Convention in Jacksonville

July 9, 2020 by Dan McCue

A Jacksonville attorney filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a circuit court  to declare next month’s Republican National Convention a nuisance “injurious to the health,” and require it to either be cancelled or scaled down to a much smaller event with strict mask and social distancing requirements.

President Donald Trump demanded the convention be largely moved from its original host city, Charlotte, North Carolina, due to Gov. Roy Cooper’s refusal to guarantee the event would be open to all who wanted to attend, regardless of the coronavirus risk.

The Republican National Committee subsequently announced that Trump’s nomination for re-election and other major speeches had been moved to the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Now in a lawsuit filed in Duval County Circuit Court, attorney W.C. Gentry argues the Jacksonville events, planned Aug. 24-27, should be put on ice due to the threat it poses of spreading the virus and harming residents and local business owners.

“To avoid community spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and welfare of plaintiffs and the community, it is necessary and essential that all super spreader events where large numbers of people congregate in close proximity indoors not occur,” Gentry wrote in the lawsuit.

“Unless restricted by the court, the congregation of thousands of people in close proximity for extended periods will constitute a nuisance and result in massive spread of COVID-19,” he added.

The lawsuit goes on to cite a 1917 state law letting citizens go to court to get relief from nuisances that affect the public in general and sue in the name of the state, which is also listed as a plaintiff.

Reached by The Well News on Thursday, Gentry declined to elaborate on the lawsuit, saying the complaint was “self-explanatory.”

The lawsuit named the City of Jacksonville, the Republican National Committee, President Trump’s reelection campaign and ASM Global Parent Inc., the company that manages the arena, as defendants.

In addition to Gentry, the plaintiffs are Curtis Booker, pastor of God’s Way of Living International Church;  Jack Meeks, a certified public accountant; Dana Miller and Robin Wallace, owners of hair care businesses in the area; and Albert Buckner III, a Duval County schools employee.

Also named as plaintiffs are attorneys Dexter Davis and Tad Delegal.

The suit asks for a court order either blocking the gathering from happening at the 15,000-seat arena or shrinking the event to no more than 2,500 people.

Currently, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s executive orders limit all venues like the arena to 50% occupancy limit. Whether those requirements will remain in place late next month is unknown.

A spokeswoman for Jacksonville said Wednesday the city had only just received the lawsuit Wednesday and was continuing to review its options.

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