One of St Augustine’s favorite breakfast and lunch restaurants was the victim of picketing by Flagler College students; then later in the day, members of the extremist group, Black Lives Matter.
This morning, Halloween morning, the Bunnery told their employees that it would be okay for them to wear a costume to work instead of their regular uniforms. Lori, the baker, is a long-time employee who other employees told Historic City News editor Michael Gold, is well liked by her co-workers as well as regular customers. She thought, for her costume this year, she would make a little fun of her job that involves baking breads, pastries, and making pancakes and waffles in the kitchen. She made her own costume modeled after the character of Aunt Jemima.
Restaurant owner, George Cross, saw the costume when he overheard some of the other employees laughing about it. Cross said that he had no idea what any of the employees intended to dress as, and since no one working this morning expressed objections to Lori’s costume, including two black employees that we spoke to for this article, he didn’t give it a second thought.
An incident occurred about 10:00 a.m., when a Flagler College student, Courtney Olson, from Fort Collins Colorado, came in as she has on past occasions. Although Olson is white, she says she felt offended by the baker’s choice of Halloween costume that included dark-brown makeup to make her look like the fictional character.
Olson pointed out to the manager that white people in black face is considered a racial stereotype. Olson advised the employee to get out of her makeup, then Olson left the St George Street restaurant. Although Olson left without incident at that time, as soon as she left, she reached out to another Flagler College student who says she is the local organizer for the national Black Lives Matter movement.
The friend, Hasani Malone, who lives in Atlanta when she’s not in school, returned to the Bunnery with Olson and immediately became disruptive just inside the doorway to the dining room. The owner heard the disturbance and came to see what had the student’s so agitated. Malone, who is black, demanded that Cross and Lori stop their “racist” portrayal of Aunt Jemima and that they both apologize for having done so.
Not wanting to escalate the situation any further, Cross told Historic City News that he made an attempt to explain what the employee had done, that it was not malicious or racially motivated, and that he apologized for any misinterpretation of Lori’s intentions. That was not enough for Malone who continued to argue, getting louder and louder, and at one point, profane. That is when Cross said he ordered them both out of the restaurant and called the police to restore the peace.
Community Affairs Officer Delarn Brown was one of the officers who responded to the call. He reported that by the time he arrived, the employee was already out off her costume and makeup. Brown said Lori was very upset at being called racist; first of all, because she isn’t and secondly, she raised two daughters — one of whom happened to have married a black man and another who happened to have married a Hispanic man. She has mixed-race grandchildren and says she loves them dearly.
Police notified Olson and Malone that were not to return to the premises or they would face arrest for trespassing. Both acknowledged the warning and they began a social media campaign, text messaging, phone calls, e-mail, telling all of their Flagler friends to come rally with the protestors, and the pair set about making signs for pickets who were on the way.
Gold spoke with Dr. Daniel Stewart, Vice President of Student Services at Flagler College, who walked over to observe what was taking place. He told Historic City News that, as far as he knew, none of the students had been excused from classes to participate in the demonstration. He also said that there is no school policy that prohibits students from participating in lawful assemblies, including protests, nor would they be punished for expressing themselves to the extent that they were not breaking any laws. We were told by a few participants that one or more Flagler faculty members were at the scene, providing encouragement to the students; however, we were not able to identify them, if those statements were true.
Soon after lunch, more people known to local law enforcement and reporters as members of the Jacksonville Black Lives Matter and Antifa organizations, started showing up and a fluid crowd with a core of 15-20 was sustained between 40-50 protestors at any time. At one point, six uniformed police officers were in attendance, however, the crowd never became violent and police made no arrests.
At 4:00 p.m., closing time for the Bunnery, the owner came out onto the street, escorted by Patrolman Gary Johnson. Cross addressed the two students who were at the heart of the demonstration, offering a sincere apology and listening to their remarks. Although Olson, who had been out in front of the business all day, offered her thanks and acceptance of the apology, Malone continued to pepper Cross with complaints and demands for future steps to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.