As the City of St Augustine begins the destruction of a 141-year-old memorial to local war dead, some citizens are expressing their frustration as to how as few as three people in City Hall could take it on themselves to risk moving such a prominent authentic artifact to another location 20-miles out-of-town at the Trout River Fish Camp in Orangedale.
Over the past few months while an appointed mayor serves out the remaining term of Mayor Nancy Shaver, joined by commissioner Nancy Kline and vice mayor Leanna Freeman, residents and visitors to America’s oldest city have been watching a virtual three-ring circus going on in the Plaza de la Constitucion and led by an out-of-town ringmaster.
When word hit facebook and several community groups last night that the New York state moving contractor was making an unannounced visit this morning between 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m., dozens of protesters headed to the Plaza to object.
One of those protesters, 42-year-old James Owen Parham, met friends and compatriots at the site prepared to spend the day showing his support and expressing his objection to the $260,000 price-tag for attempting to move the cenotaph. Parham told local Historic City News reporters that one of his objections is the lack of oversight in the process. City manager John Regan, of his own volition, declared it “an emergency” to move the memorial sat peacefully in the same place for nearly 150-years. But, for example, by doing so, Regan was able to completely bypass the safeguards of competitive bidding.
Who benefits? Nobody. This is about egos, power, control, and the turpitude of one negro man who refers openly to others as “coon” if they do not align themselves with him. He bemoans the racist culture of St Augustine as he promotes himself a leader of the “cancel culture”, associates himself with the Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA hate groups, even bringing leaders and soldiers of the New Black Panther Party to march with him in the Plaza.
Even though Ronald Rawls fancies himself an AME minister, he is no minister of God. He loudly proclaims that he does not want to be peaceful. He does not believe in working through societal inequalities in the tradition of past civil rights leaders, like Martin Luther King. He shouts his violent threats and makes unilateral demands — not as negotiator of good will, but rather as a hostage-taker, holding the lives and property of his victims for ransom.
Since Rawls, who lives two counties away in Gainesville, regularly employs an electronic megaphone to make his already loud abusive rhetoric even louder, Parham came to the Plaza today armed with his own megaphone.
At about 4:00 p.m., police department members converged on the Plaza. It appears in videotaped copies of the events that followed, that four or five officers attempted to take away Parham’s megaphone. He held tight to the device; full well expecting that except that the officers might not have liked what he was saying, he did no wrong is using the same amplification device regularly used by Rawls in the Plaza, in marches to disrupt businesses on St George Street, and even in a protest directly in front of the St Augustine Police Department headquarters on King Street.
Parham was held by two sergeants and two or three patrolmen who employed pepper spray to subdue him, even after they had removed the megaphone from his hand. They manhandled a pair of handcuffs onto Parham and escorted him to an awaiting patrol car.
Parham, who is represented by local criminal defense attorney Anne Marie Gennusa, was charged with one misdemeanor violation and one city ordinance violation. He was required to post $700; including $500 for obstructing an officer without violence and $200 for violation of a city ordinance. Parham was released from the St Johns County Detention Facility just three hours later.