Who is Ben Frazier, the Jacksonville activist arrested before a DeSantis press conference? Here’s WMNF’s 2020 interview with him

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Northside Coaliton of Jacksonville's Ben Frazier
Ben Frazier (l.) talks about Axe Handle Saturday with WMNF's Seán Kinane (June 2020.

On Tuesday (January 4, 2022), a Jacksonville activist was arrested before a Ron DeSantis press conference. Who is Ben Frazier? Here we re-publish WMNF’s June 2020 interview with Frazier about the sixtieth anniversary of “Axe Handle Saturday,” a violent riot by white supremacists that Frazier witnessed.

Listen to or watch the interview below.

The sixtieth anniversary of what’s called Axe Handle Saturday is in August.

A White mob in Jacksonville, Florida, beat up Black civil rights activists in August 1960 in what was called Axe Handle Saturday. The sixtieth anniversary this year coincides with when the Republican National Convention will be in Jacksonville. WMNF spoke with a Jacksonville activist who participated with his mother in civil rights demonstrations as a child and remembers Axe Handle Saturday.

Ben Frazier is founder and president of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville.

“She went on down to the marches anyway. But the good part is she took me with her. I remember early on marching with her outside a local cafeteria called Morrison’s Cafeteria where black people could work but they couldn’t eat and I held her hand and I watched as a flatbed truck went by that was filled with Ku Klux Klansmen in full regalia.

“And I remember looking at my mom and saying I was afraid and scared. And she said, ‘Well Benny don’t worry they’re not going to do anything to you.’ But I noticed one thing. She didn’t come home and tell my daddy about that incident because he’d have been upset. But we stood there and carried signs.

“And around that same time in Hemmings Park, the center of the city in Jacksonville, Hemmings Park, they had some folks sitting in at the white lunch counters trying to get a hot dog and a Coke. And right in the middle of everything on one hot August 27th day, actually 60 years to August 27, 2020, we had the white Ku Klux Klansmen passing out axe handles and that event would become known as Axe Handle Saturday.

“The sheriff’s department was complicit. The mayor’s office was complicit. And they just watched Black people get beat and had to run around frightened and were terrorized by this white mob. Twenty-two people injured. It would change Jacksonville forever. That was the tenor. That was the tone of the times back then.”

Listen to the whole show here.

Watch the full interview:

Listen to the 8:30 a.m. WMNF News headlines for 22 June 2020:

Listen to the 7:30 a.m. WMNF News headlines for 22 June 2020:

Listen to the 6:30 a.m. WMNF News headlines for 22 June 2020:

Here’s more on Jacksonville in the Civil Rights Era.

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