Clemency board's resolution exonerating 1960s civil rights activists
The state of Florida expressed regret Thursday to civil rights marchers who were beaten and jailed for protesting segregated beaches and lunch counters in St. Augustine in the 1960s. Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet, meeting as the Board of Executive Clemency, formally asked law enforcement agencies to expunge the protesters' arrest records. Here is the board's official resolution:
The Governor and Cabinet, sitting as the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, express their profound regret for Florida’s role in sanctioning the injustices perpetrated upon the courageous African American citizens of St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida, who, along with many others, were known as the “Freedom Fighters,” and who participated in the historic civil rights events that took place in that city during the years 1963 and 1964.
WHEREAS, the city of St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida, known as the “Nation’s Oldest City” became the center stage for Florida’s historical role in the great American human drama leading up to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and mirroring the struggle of African Americans nationwide seeking freedom and equality of opportunity; and
WHEREAS, a local movement led by Dr. Robert B. Haling picketing segregated local businesses resulted in the beatings and jailing of several residents of St. Augustine and St. Johns County; and
WHEREAS, nightriders shot into African American homes and teenagers were arrested and placed in reform schools for attempting to eat at local lunch counters; and
WHEREAS, it took action by Florida’s Governor and Cabinet to obtain their release after a nationwide display of public outcry over their incarcerations; and
WHEREAS, these courageous individuals who were arrested and/or incarcerated in St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida, during the years 1963 and 1964 for their role in support of Florida’s Civil Rights Movement still have arrest records on file today; and
WHEREAS, even though the laws permitting such injustices have been repealed, it is important that the Florida Board of Executive Clemency acknowledge the injustices meted out to the Freedom Fighters who bravely demonstrated time and again against the shameful practices which were dictated by segregationist policies of the day; and
WHEREAS, the Florida Legislature, in Senate Concurrent Resolution 2930 passed in 2008, expressed “profound regret” for the involuntary servitude of Africans and freemen by the state and apologized on behalf of the State of Florida for its role in slavery;
NOW, THEREFORE, Be It Resolved by the Governor and Cabinet sitting as the Florida Board of Executive Clemency do hereby recommend that the appropriate governmental entities immediately act to expunge any and all arrest and conviction records, for which the related charges or convictions were dismissed or reversed by court order or for which the subjects were released without prosecution, utilizing the administrative expunction process in the most expedient and efficient means available at law to absolve these individuals from any wrongdoing associated with the aforementioned events and to forever remove such records for any future review other than historical documentation and duly authorizing the transfer of such records to the Florida State Archives to be made available for historical review or reference and to forever serve as a living and viable testament to their courage, ideals, and bravery during these fateful months in 1963 and 1964 in a city named St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida.