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MLK Decries St. Augustine Violence

June 5, 1964 - Dr. Martin Luther King said today that St. Augustine, Fla., was the most lawless community he had encountered.

He made the statement at a news conference after a brief renewal of violence and threats in the nation’s oldest city.

A retired Negro railroad workers told the police that shots had been fired into his car as he drove to his home after attending a civil rights rally at which Dr. King spoke.

Dr. King said his own life had been threatened here and that someone recently fired a bullet through a glass door of his rented beach cottage on Butler Beach, south of St. Augustine (pictured). He was not in the house at the time of the shooting.

Dr. King said he had appealed to the Federal Government to protect racial demonstrators. At the same time, he told white leaders that they could prevent a resumption of widespread demonstrations next week by making a “good faith” move toward ending discrimination.

There was no indication that the whites would make such a move. Embittered by months of racial activity, they contend that Dr. King and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference are in St. Augustine only to cause trouble and to stop the city’s 400th anniversary celebration next year.

Dr. King has picked St. Augustine as the focal point of the summer campaign, contending that the city refuses to end bigotry and hate 400 years after its founding.

He returned to the city last night after a speaking tour in California and told a cheering audience of 350 Negroes, “We are determined this city will not celebrate its quadricentennial as a segregated city. There will be no turning back. If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.”

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