top of page

[VIDEO] June 25, 1964 | Racial Disorder at St. Augustine, Fla.

June 25, 1964 - In St. Augustine, Fla., today, state troopers clashed with segregationists in a wild melee on the beach.

The troopers waded into the surf and arrested about a dozen whites who had tried to break up a “swim-in” by civil rights demonstrators.

For the first time, the troopers were under orders to arrest any whites who attempted to bar Negroes from the public beach.

A big crowd of segregationists listened with apparent disbelief and anger as a police captain called through a bullhorn: “Let ‘em go swimming. Stand back and let ‘em in the water.”

There was a growl of disapproval when the captain continued: “Anyone blocking ‘em will be arrested.”

Down the ramp marched some 70 Negroes and two white men. The tide was out. Someone had planted two Confederate flags at the base of the ramp.

The beach was broad enough for the police to line up a dozen squad cars on either side. As the Negroes walked slowly toward the water, 100 policemen closed in to seal them from the white crowd.

But the racists — the same crowd of whites that had successfully blocked the Negroes yesterday and again this morning, were already knee-deep in the water.

“Come on in, you black bastards,” yelled one of the mob.

The Negroes tried to outflank their white adversaries.

They walked a little way up the beach and then entered the water. About 30 were knee-deep in the surf when the white mob, led by a tall blond woman in a white bathing suit, charged into the water.

The Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, a Negro clergyman from Birmingham, Ala., was knocked off his feet.

Then the police waded in. They wrestled the white racists away from the Negroes, using clubs on whites who resisted. The Negroes had made no attempt to defend themselves.

A white youth, blood streaming from his head, was led to a squad car. The mob, reportedly infiltrated by members of the Ku Klux Klan, now turned its ire against the state police.

A deputy sheriff was heard protesting that the state police should have arrested the Negroes.

“Those finks!” cried a woman in disgust. “They didn’t beat the n*****s at all!”

The arrested whites, as well as four or five young Negroes who were also detained, were taken to a National Guard armory at the edge of the city.

“Get those n*****s out of here,” screamed one of the arrested whites when he saw that the armory was not segregated.

Two women, including the blonde leader of the charge, were among those held for disorderly conduct.

Support this project at


bottom of page