Crowd control a concern at Jacksonville’s Irma relief events

As more and more people seek financial help in the wake of Hurricane Irma, problems are beginning to crop up from large crowds.

The Red Cross shut down an event held Sunday at a church in Northwest Jacksonville when crowds grew unruly because of what organizers characterized as a misunderstanding.

Hundreds of people showed up at the event near Kings Road and Division Street after hearing rumors that the organization was handing out cash vouchers.

In reality, the Red Cross was giving the vouchers to qualified residents whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged in the storm.

Some of those who turned out said they waited for hours in the hopes of getting help only to walk away empty-handed. At one point, the police were called.

“They said they were done for Jacksonville,” said a woman who goes by Drina. “All because a handful of people were either fighting at the other location yesterday or because a handful of people skipped a bunch of elderly people, and I don’t feel that it’s right.”

Videos making their rounds on social media provided an unvarnished glimpses of what took place. In one clip, a woman can be heard ushering residents back to their vehicles.

“Please leave,” she said. “I don’t know how much more I can make this more clear. Please leave. Get out of line, get back in your vehicles and leave.”

In a statement, the Red Cross indicated there is financial help available but only for residents with proof their homes were destroyed or significantly damaged.

“As we continue to offer assistance to those impacted by Hurricane Irma, the Red Cross is offering casework to help residents through the recovery process. This means talking with people individually, providing them an opportunity to share their needs with a trained caseworker and — for those who qualify — providing limited financial assistance,” the group said in a statement.

Residents whose homes suffered major damaged or were destroyed by Irma are encouraged to call 281-728-8000.

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Gov. Scott declares state of emergency for white nationalist’s speech

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is declaring a state of emergency in advance of a speech white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida.

Scott warned in an executive order Monday that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, in north Florida. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus on Thursday.

Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August.

Scott’s executive order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The university has already said it expects to spend $500,000 on security.

The governor is also activating the Florida National Guard to help with security, if it is needed.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican whose north central Florida district including Gainesville, released a statement calling for calm on both sides.

“Hate groups and groups that promote violence and anarchy have no place in our society. They simply have a self-serving agenda and feed off mob-like participation and divisiveness,” Yoho said. “When Richard Spencer comes to Gainesville, I want to ask that all people of differing viewpoints take responsibility for themselves and the groups they have invited to attend the event.”