Monday, January 16, 2017

MLK Day 2017 in St. Augustine, Florida: We Shall Overcome

Dr. King was in St. Augustine at a segregated restaurant when he learned that the Southern segregationists' Senate filibuster was overridden.

This afternoon, January 16, 2017, hundreds marched to the Plaza de la Constitucion a/k/a "Slave Market Square" from St. Paul A.M.E. Church -- where the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the late Dr. Robert S. Hayling, D.D.S., and Ambassador Andrew Young spoke in 1964, helping lead demonstrations against Jim Crow segregation and racism, the rabid responses to which helped lead to adoption of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Walking in the footsteps of the St. Augustine movement, to a Slave Market Square that has two civil rights monuments (to Ambassador Andrew Young and to the civil rights foot soldiers, markers passed the same homes and made the same turn, at the corner of MLK (formerly Central Avenue) and King Street.


Jim Crow attitudes still afflict St. Augustine and St. Johns County, called "the most lawless" community in America by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964. One week later came the largest mass arrest of rabbis in America. It all helped empower LBJ to break the Senate filibuster and enact the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Ralph David Abernathy in St. Johns County Jail
(Dr. King said "it was the nicest jail I've ever been in.")

(Dr. King in police car after illegal arrest in St. Augustine -- St. Johns County Sheriff's website and 1995 yearbook falsely claim that Dr. King was arrested here by "federal agents," that Sheriff Lawrence O. Davis "held the town together" and that Davis was "exonerated" by Florida State Senate (he was removed by 44-2 vote in 1970).

By David Nolan (St. Augustine's noted civil rights historian)

St. Augustine was the only place in Florida where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested during the civil rights movement.
It happened on June 11, 1964 on the steps of the Monson Motor Lodge restaurant on the Bayfront.
Here is the conversation that took place between Dr. King and James Brock, the manager of the Monson:
KING: I and my friends have come to lunch.
BROCK: We can’t serve you. We are not integrated.
KING: We’ll wait around. We feel you should serve us.
BROCK: You are on private property. We reserve the right to refuse service. I ask you on behalf of myself, my wife, and my children to leave.
KING: We are sorry you have that attitude. You are doing a disservice to the nation.
BROCK: You can’t push this thing. We are a small business. We are caught in the middle of something. We find ourselves between two armed camps. If we integrate now it would hurt our business.
KING: We will stand here and hope that in the process that our conscious efforts will make this a better land.
BROCK: We will integrate under one of two conditions: by federal court order, or if a responsible group of citizens ask us to open to all customers.
KING: We are glad to know that you would do it under those conditions.
DR. RALPH ABERNATHY: Does your invitation to serve tourists include Negroes?
BROCK: Negroes can only be served in the service area of the restaurant. Maids and chauffeurs of white visitors have been served that way in the past.
KING: Can’t you see how this humiliates us?
BROCK: Will you please take your nonviolent army somewhere else? I must remind you that I have already had 85 people arrested before at my place.
[At this point Police Chief Virgil Stuart arrived]
BROCK to STUART: I’m glad you are here. I have asked Dr. King to leave twice, but he has refused.
STUART to KING’S party: You are all under arrest.

Dr. King in St. Augustine, responding to passage of 1964 Civil Rights Act

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