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Biden, Trump administration acknowledge grim moment in Jacksonville history

File photo of Joe Biden
File photo of Joe Biden

Former vice president and current Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden shared his thoughts on Ax Handle Saturday in a statement posted to his website Thursday and a cabinet member of President Donald Trump’s administration proclaimed James Weldon Johnson Park part of the Department of the Interior’s African American Civil Rights Network due to the events of August 27, 1960.

The Jacksonville NAACP’s Youth Council commemorated the 60th anniversary of the civil rights demonstration and infamous attack in a ceremony Thursday afternoon in James Weldon Johnson Park, where the attacks took place in 1960.

Here is Biden’s full statement:

Sixty years ago today, a group of young leaders from the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP staged a sit-in at segregated lunch counters in Jacksonville, Florida, where they were met by an angry white mob wielding ax handles and baseball bats. This tragic event, now known as Ax Handle Saturday, leaves a lasting mark on Jacksonville, as both a testament to the progress that has been made and a reminder that we must always stand up for what’s right.

Today, we continue their fight against injustice and for equality – for Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many more. These tragic murders, and brutal acts of excessive violence against individuals like Jacob Blake, have stirred Americans to speak out and demand change. We’re in a battle for the soul of our nation and the American people deserve leaders who will meet this moment, speak truth to power, and above all else – act. As your president, I promise to do just that.

News4Jax did not find that President Donald Trump publicly acknowledged the Ax Handle Saturday anniversary on Thursday, although it was raised as a concern when the Republican National Convention was planned to take place in Jacksonville this week and culminate on the anniversary.

Trump’s administration did acknowledge the events with the proclamation, although some facts in it were disputed by the organizers of Thursday’s commemoration.

All week, News4Jax has been highlighting stories from those who vividly remember Ax Handle Saturday, and we spoke with experts, who put into perspective how that day shaped the history of the River City. To can find a collection of those stories, click here.