A very small group, six or eight, demonstrators have spent much of the past two days “marching” from Heming Park in Jacksonville enroute to the public market at Constitution Plaza in St Augustine. Caught candidly on camera by passersby, there is clearly negligible impact on traffic or pedestrians other than occasional obstructions from hand-carried protest signs.
Thursday, marchers stopped at a Walmart parking lot in Jacksonville’s Southside to camp for the evening. Some of the demonstrators broke off after crossing the Main Street Bridge, and before. Others went home for the night. Some returned Friday, some began their march Friday morning.
Plans for Friday night’s encampment on property owned by Kings Head British Pub, were disrupted when the restaurant began to get negative reaction from the public over their offer to allow the demonstrators to stay there overnight. The first news of the change of plans came in fiery alerts to various media, from Michael S. Todd of Jacksonville and Robert S. Rutter, Jr, of Neptune Beach. Rutter directed one post to WJXT television reporter Destiny McKeiver, scolding her for not being with them to report on what he called a “world historic event”. She told him that she was off duty and gave him the number to call the station.
Todd, who is listed as a director of #takeemdownjax Occupy Jacksonville Inc., and Rutter, owner and operator of Bob’s Limo, found their comments followed by several sympathizers, some of which only added fuel to a fire of inaccurate allegations.
According to Rutter, “after one-month of planning to eat and camp there”, they were asked to “keep moving”.
The dangerous part of what he wrote was the explanation he gave, allegedly imparted to him by the owner, saying, “KKK bombarded Kings Head English Pub in St Augustine FL with death and firebombing the establishment.”
Wesley Durrance wrote, “Some St Augustine white supremacist “confederates” threatened to burn down the pub that was going to let us camp out overnight on its property.”
But when Historic City News checked further, we found at least two responses directly from the restaurant that contradicted these claims. “This is total bollocks,” one post began. “No one has made any direct threats.” “No actual threats have been made threatening the burning of the pub or towards any member of staff.”
The group “Take em’ Down Jacksonville”, has associated themselves with several other group names like “Occupy Jacksonville”, “The New Florida Majority”, “The Northside Coalition” and others, but the faces are all the same. Adding more provocative names does not appear to have added to the number of people they claim to represent.
Touted as the historic “March for Change” that began May 17th at 7:00 a.m. in Jacksonville, organizers, including Ronald Rawls, Jr., of Gainesville who is currently the pastor of St Paul AME Church in St Augustine, likened the march to be in the spirit of Selma and Martin Luther King, which appears to be – at best – a stretch. Dr. King would have never condoned Rawls affiliation with the New Black Panther Party or their tactics. And, the Selma Alabama march was to protest a legitimate injustice rooted in segregation of communities by race and ethnicity, part of the successful Civil Rights Movement taking place before Rawls was born. Fifty-years later, Rawls appears to regularly stand on the shoulders of great men; attempting to glorify his scantly supported and racially divisive activities, which have been wholly un-successful.
This march against the confederate monuments is a protest of what Rawls calls “institutional racism”. His supporters have been largely Caucasian, and largely not from St Augustine. Not unlike the comments posted to public social media websites from public figures like David Williamson, the co-pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in St Augustine, quite a few of Rawls’ followers reflect a phenomenon often referred to as “white guilt”; feeling some duty to make reparations for the actions of bygone generations, who are no longer alive, finding some logic in enriching the lives of current generations who are suffering no injury.
“I will be walking with you Saturday, Ron Rawls. I will be recognizing the pain and division that these monuments and the events they represent have caused my black brothers and sisters. I will be recognizing my own complicity in that cause and benefits I have received at the expense of my black brothers and sisters, particularly as a southern white man,” David Williamson wrote. “I will listen, seek first to understand before being understood and hope to be an instrument of peace in the process. I am thankful for your leadership and hold you and our city in my prayers.”