Rev. H.K. Mathews, Pensacola’s civil rights era ambassador, joined the continuing peaceful protest of the “From Pensacola With Love” (FPWL) community activist group in downtown Pensacola this past Sunday December 21st at the MLK Memorial Plaza on Palafox Street. This time the protest at the MLK Plaza turned into a march south down the northbound side of Palafox toward the Pensacola News Journal’s (PNJ’s) new headquarters at Garden and Palafox. The protest leaders, Haley Morsiette, Katrina Ramos, and Keyontay Humphries took turns describing the mood concerning the “Black Lives Matter Movement” and that the purpose of the march to the PNJ was in protest of the newspaper’s editorial in support of reversing the decision of the Escambia County Commission to return the authorization of the Confederate Flag to fly at local government facilities.
Once again on a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 pm, the voices of approximately 200 racially diverse concerned citizens responded in unison to the protest chant leader and protest organizer, Clarisa Ferrar shouting, “Black Lives Matter, No Justice, No Peace, Hands Up Don’t Shoot and I Can’t Breathe,” in support of the protests against the killings of unarmed Black men by white law enforcement officers. There were even White youth protesters from Daphne, Alabama in attendance supporting the movement.
However, it was the march southward down the north bound side of Palafox Street toward traffic that brought back memories of scenes from the 1960’s and 1970’s civil rights unrest in Pensacola. With sizable white citizen participation, the protestors asked Rev. Matthews to walk with their leadership flanked by the local chapter of the Black Muslims in their professional suited attire. As the group reached the corner of Palafox and Garden Streets they began to reassemble in front of the PNJ offices with a clarification of why the newspaper’s support of the confederate flag deserves a community-wide response of reprisal and a revised focus of “All Lives Matter”.
Following an announcement to hold the next rally around the MLK Celebration Rev. H.K. Matthews was invited to say a few words. Matthews, who serves as the Chairman of the National Movement for Human and Civil Rights was flanked by his Florida Community Outreach Coordinator, Ellison Bennett, as he commented on the need to remain peaceful during the protests.
During his statements he reminded those assembled about the killing of Wendell Blackwell by Sheriff Deputy Doug Raines and his girlfriend, Deborah Jones, by unidentified killers. He added that, “We need not think that this is just a young folk’s movement because we old folks are still in it”. He said in a passionate voice, “My passion burns as deep as it has always burned.” He gave praise to a sign he saw in the crowd that read: White apathy causes too many Black lives to be lost! Matthews expanded the wording to include Black apathy as he recounted the strong commitment of Black and White protestors in Selma on “Bloody Sunday” marching for stronger civil rights laws to be enacted. He then began singing the old civil rights song, “Ain’t Gonna Let No Body Turn Me Round” adding Sheriff David Morgan’s name during a final stanza.
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