60 Years Since Ax Handle Saturday; Paycheck Protection Plan; Save The News; Yellow House

Aug 27, 2020

Today marks the 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday, the day in 1960 when members of the Ku Klux Klan beat young demonstrators of the Civil Rights Movement with ax handles in James Weldon Johnson Park (formerly Hemming Park, and before that, Hemming Plaza).

Rodney Hurst was the 16-year old president of the NAACP Youth Council in 1960 and participated in the peaceful demonstration that ended in violence. Hurst led an anniversary observance at Johnson Park on Thursday afternoon.

“I remember that day, and I’m glad it’s being commemorated,” said Ken Jefferson, a former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officer and current crime and safety analyst for WJCT News partner News4Jax.

Jefferson also discussed the case of Jacob Blake, who was shot several times by police in Kenosha, Wis., over the weekend as his children watched from their car, and the ensuing protests, including those by professional sports figures.

He told us that in the 60s, “A lot of laws were passed by protesting — peaceful protesting. And it caught the attention of lawmakers.”

Blake, currently hospitalized, is at least temporarily paralyzed.

“You don’t bring a gun to a protest,” Jefferson said of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old arrested and charged with murder after allegedly shooting two people during the protests. Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha from Antioch, Ill., and allegedly brought an AR-15.

Jefferson says private citizens should not be vigilantes.

“It’s not your job, and you will be prosecuted,” said Jefferson.

Also this week, the NBA canceled games following a player walk-out in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The WNBA, MLB, and MLS have all postponed games in solidarity with the NBA.

“We all need to take a deep breath and think about where we came from and where we are,” Jefferson said about today’s protests. 

Paycheck Protection Plan

The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) offers forgivable loans to small businesses that are “maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.”

We spoke with Abel Harding, North Florida market president at IberiaBank, about the PPP.

“If we’ve learned anything through this process, it’s that tweaks and changes are inevitable,” Harding said.

His advice for small business owners who receive one of the loans is accurate record keeping. “Make sure you have clear accounting. This is something everyone can be working on now.”

RELATED: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

Save the News

The NewsGuild, a union representing thousands of journalists including many in the newsroom of WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union, is fighting to Save the News. The union is pushing for Congressional support of two bills that would include more newsrooms in the round of PPP loans.

Reporter David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union’s NewsGuild unit spoke with us about the public service local news provides and why we need to protect it.

“We’ve had some real cuts over the years,” said Bauerlein of staffing changes at The Florida Times-Union, which now has only 27 newsroom staffers, including management. This downsizing has been systematic throughout the industry.

“It would really help to have some kind of assistance like other businesses are receiving,” Bauerlein said.

Savethenews.org provides template letters to congressional representatives in support of Save The News.

Yellow House 

Local art gallery Yellow House is launching a new arts activism project called Sit In, Stand Up.

Posters that commemorate the sit-ins for civil rights 60 years ago and their strong connections to racial justice today, will appear throughout the city.

Hope McMath, the founder and director of Yellow House, joined to talk about the project.

“People will see the [art] pop up in unexpected ways,” McMath says.

The posters are designed by local graphic artists. 

Despite Yellow House’s closure due to the pandemic, McMath said, “We decided to plow through and continue to do the work…We hold up as a core belief community care.”

Yellow House, at 577 King St. in Jacksonville, is slated to reopen in September with limited occupancy.

Katherine Hobbs can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.