On the 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday, President Donald Trump will accept the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.
It was August 27, 1960, when 16-year-old Rodney Hurst and 33 other Black teenagers led a peaceful sit-in at a “whites only” lunch counter in a Jacksonville department store, miles from where Trump will accept the nomination for president. Hurst and the other teenagers were protesting segregated dining in department stores; it was ok for them to shop in the store, but when it came time to eat, they were seated separately.
In response to the protest, about 200 angry white men descended on the store, armed with bats and ax handles, to violently attack the demonstrators, NBC News reports.
Hurst escaped unharmed physically, while many of the other demonstrators were beaten. The emotional scars remain all these years later for Hurst, now 76, who still lives in Jacksonville and has remained an activist.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that Saturday,” Hurst said to NBC News. “It was real and surreal. We had heard something was going to happen, but we didn’t know what. But we protested anyway.”
And now, Hurst, and many of Jacksonville’s other Black residents, understandably do not want Trump speaking in Jacksonville on the anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday. They liken it to when Trump was controversially scheduled to speak on Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the ending of slavery. Trump ended up rescheduling the event in Tulsa for June 20 after receiving a lot of pushback.
Jacksonville residents would prefer Trump, known for making divisive and incendiary comments, not become synonymous with the anniversary of the violent attack.
“He’s part and parcel to the problem. I really don’t care if he comes or not to Jacksonville. Trump will be inextricably linked now to Ax Handle Saturday. He’s a racist president who deals with public events inside during a pandemic. … Not a good legacy,” Hurst said of Trump.
Hurst will be part of a competing event to the RNC that will commemorate Ax Handle Saturday and is held every decade. The event will be outside, attendees will wear masks, and social distancing is encouraged, according to Hurst.