Since it opened almost 150 years ago, Hemming Plaza has been the city's public platform for protest.
The tradition continued Thursday when a group of about 50 Syrian-Americans gathered in the park to express their opposition to possible American military action in Syria.
"I want America to stop interfering with my people. Leave our country alone," said Faten Maida.
Mary Zeidan added, "We don't want to see what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq happen in Syria."
At least one American who has experienced Syria only as a tourist participated in the protest.
"I have been to Syria many times and it's a beautiful, prosperous country. I don't want the U.S. to bomb Syria. May God bless America and may God bless Syria and its innocent people," said Helen Zemanek.
The square block at the front door of City Hall was established as a public space in 1857 by Isaiah Hart, the founder of Jacksonville, with the condition the 1.54-acre space would remain in perpetuity open to the public.
Known first as City Park and later St. James Park, it was renamed Hemming Park in 1899 to honor Charles C. Hemming, who donated the statue of a Confederate soldier that is displayed on a column in the fountain near the Skyway station.
In 1978, the City converted the park to the current brick-paved plaza and renamed it Hemming Plaza.
The park's history includes being the site of a campaign stop and speech by John F. Kennedy when he was running for president in 1960. After his speech, Kennedy was entertained by local dignitaries at the Seminole Club at the northwest corner of the plaza.
The park also played a role in Jacksonville's civil rights history on Aug. 27, 1960, when protests over a group of black youths ordering food at a lunch counter along Hogan Street ignited what is known as "Axe Handle Saturday."