After the Memorial Day brawl that made national headlines, residents of Jacksonville Beach have been campaigning for change. The movement, now dubbed “Respect Jacksonville Beach”, has the community buzzing.  This call to action was inspired by the brawl, but also seeks to address not just the recent bout of violence, but also an overall declining standard at the beaches as of late.

The topic of violence at the beaches was forefront at a recent city council meeting, where both residents and police offered their opinions and proposed solutions to avoid future incidents. Many of these proposed solutions included having more officers on hand at community events.

With Fourth of July on the horizon, the issue is still a hot one—and it seems that most of the community hopes it will remain one until it is resolved. On Monday night, mayor Charlie Lathom read a letter to city council that urged businesses not to participate in a scheduled July 4th bar crawl at the beaches. The bar crawl, hosted by 904 Happy Hour, has since been rescheduled to Saturday, July 6th. This move by the mayor has been met with controversy locally; bar crawls bring in a lot of revenue for small businesses.  Is asking a community that is home to numerous bars not to have promotional drinking events the city’s solution to the problems it faced on Memorial Day? This question remains unresolved.

Yet despite this controversy, the movement for respect appears to be going strong. It’s hard to drive down 3rd street without seeing a “Respect Jacksonville Beach” bumper sticker. 1,000 branded koozies were being handed out at Seawalk Music Festival this past Saturday, and t-shirts and tanks were also available for purchase. All proceeds are going to the “RJB” fund. The community is definitely advertising the movement, but rather than just sporting apparel that asks for change, the community needs to remember to be this change. Luckily, it appears that, at least for now, the people of Jacksonville Beach are ready to do just that.

Atlantic Beach resident Emily Jenkins wholeheartedly supports the campaign, saying “Its’ sad that such a big incident had to take place to make us wake up and face the problem, but it’s so inspiring to see everyone in our small community banding together to make a positive difference.”

Making a difference isn’t hard to do, as it’s really simple to get involved. The Facebook Page “Respect Jacksonville Beach”, which already has 540 likes on Facebook and counting, allows people to promote positive community events, as well as to voice their opinions and share ideas.  Many of the posts have included pictures of trash-ridden beaches. Although “trash” was not the initial issue on hand when the “Respect Jacksonville Beach” movement started, it has quickly become the central one.

Jacksonville Beach lifeguard Austin Schoenberg explained, “Nobody likes a dirty beach. I’ve been a lifeguard here for seven years and the beaches have been in rare form lately. People that don’t live at the beach don’t realize what we have here. It’s not their home so they don’t take care of it.”

With all this talk of change, we hope to see more people out at community events that support the beaches. This Sunday, for example, a beach cleanup is being hosted from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. at 16th Avenue South in Jacksonville Beach. The City of Jacksonville, Keep Jacksonville beautiful, Jacksonville Surf Training, Ocean Minded, and the UNF and First Coast Surfrider Foundation have teamed up to put together a cleanup that has prizes from various local businesses! Come out and Respect Jacksonville Beach. Don’t just wear the shirt—be the change our beaches deserve!