A group of Jacksonville lawyers is suing to block the Republican National Convention from being held in the Florida city, claiming the gathering will make residents sick.
“We’re being made guinea pigs,” said plaintiff Tad Delegal, whose law office is not far from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, where Trump is set to officially accept the 2020 GOP presidential nomination on Aug. 27.
“It is just startling that Jacksonville is being treated as the one group of chumps willing to take an event no one else wants,” he told First Coast News, adding that the convention’s “participants are so unconcerned about this pandemic that they refuse to listen to the previous city’s efforts to try to protect against it. I think it’s starling that we’re being used as the unwilling victims of a political effort to deny the reality of this pandemic.”
COVID-19 cases have spiked recently in Florida. According to Johns Hopkins data, the state reported 9,255 new confirmed virus cases on Wednesday. A month earlier, on June 8, 1,153 new cases were reported.
On Wednesday Florida recorded 48 deaths, up from 36 on June 8.
The convention was originally scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, but most convention-related activities were moved to Jacksonville after North Carolina officials said that given COVID-19 restrictions in place, they could not guarantee the expected level of crowds could attend the event.
The lawsuit claims that the convention will result in the spread of COVID-19 throughout Jacksonville and the surrounding region.
“The Republican National Convention on August 24-27, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida involving tens of thousands of people congregating together may cause to spread beyond anything experienced in the world to date,” the lawsuit claims.
The convention “will result in a previously unprecedented super spreader event which will not only result in a massive number of illnesses among the people in attendance, but will spread COVID-19 throughout Jacksonville and Northeast Florida,” it says.
“The congregation of thousands of people in close proximity for extended periods of time will constitute a nuisance and result in massive spread of COVID-19 among the persons in attendance and throughout the City of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida and interfere in Plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their property and right to be free of infliction of disease and death.”
The lawsuit calls the convention “a nuisance injurious to the health, welfare and property rights of Plaintiffs, in particular, and the health and welfare of the community of Jacksonville, Florida.”
In particular, the suit says the neighborhood where the arena is located is “predominantly African-American,” noting the COVID-19 death rates are higher among black Americans than among white Americans.
It also claims that the homeless population in the area of the arena will be put at undue risk.
The suit portrays Republicans as a risky bunch.
“The standard practice and example of the leadership of Defendant RNC and the nominees of the Republican Party for President and Vice President of the United States is to eschew safe COVID-19 health practices. President Trump has repeatedly refused to wear a mask in public, even in places and jurisdictions that require doing so,” the lawsuit says.
“Vice President Pence, who ostensibly has been responsible for overseeing the Administration’s response to the crisis, has hosted internet photographs of himself meeting with campaign workers, shoulder to shoulder in a small space, without wearing masks and without any pretense of social distancing.”
The suit says Republicans picked Jacksonville “in order to avoid compliance with safe-health practices and carry on their business in closed spaces, crowded settings and close contact among the attendees.”
But Republican Rep. Michael Walz of Florida, a member of the convention’s host committee, said safety is not being ignored.
“They’re working out the details as we speak but there will be testing for all convention-goers, and that is extremely significant,” Waltz told WJXT-TV. “Everybody will be tested every day.”
Walz shrugged off the controversy, and said the city needs the economic boost the convention will bring.
“I’m talking to just as many people, hospitality industry, transportation industry, food service and others that are thankful and thrilled that the convention is coming,” he said. “I think to say that it’s going to be controversial or people are going to have mixed opinions shouldn’t be a surprise.”
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