Dunn trial stirs up strong emotions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Michael Dunn trial has stirred up strong emotions. Many say it isn't just about what happened at a local gas station on November 23, 2012. Those emotions go back decades.

Lives and perspectives were forever changed on the First Coast on August 27, 1960. During anti-segregation protests a group of black men were confronted by an angry mob of white men with ax handles. Protesters were beaten bloody and the city was in national headlines.

The day became known as Ax handle Saturday. Race relations in Jacksonville were in question and now they are again.

Questions of injustice lie below the surface of the Michael Dunn murder trial.

"I think the black community now sees this as just par for the course," said Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. "That once again a young black man gets murdered a white man pulls the trigger and it's going to be the same old story."

McKissick remembers sitting at home and hearing on the news a 17 year old was shot and killed at a local gas station on that November night.

"My first thought was wow another young black life, black male snuffed out," said McKissick.

More details surfaced in the days to come. Michael Dunn was arrested and charged in the murder of Jordan Davis, a Wolfson High School student.

Dunn has said he feared for his life and claimed Davis had a weapon. The deadly encounter began with a disagreement over loud music.

"Because you've allowed culture to define us, you just automatically feel like this is a thug," said McKissick.

In a letter from Dunn sent to First Coast News Anchor Heather Crawford he wrote:

"This case has never been about loud music. This case is about a local thug threatening to kill me because I dared to ask him to turn the music down." Dunn goes on to say "I am not a murderer. I am a survivor."

Other controversial letters written by Dunn from jail went viral across the country.

Including this one, "It is spooky how racist everyone is up here, and how biased towards blacks the courts are. The jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs."

"The racial part I think came in because so much has been piled on in this state," said McKissick. "From the Trayvon Martin case to Marissa Alexander that has been mishandled. That's in my opinion."

McKissick says he's hopeful that this time justice is served not just for Davis's family, but for the community as a whole, restoring belief in the justice system.

Photos from Ax Handle Saturday were provided by Rodney Hurst. The former Jacksonville city councilman was president of the Jacksonville Branch NAACP Youth Council at the time, and witnesses the brutal beatings on that August day in 1960. He wrote an award winning book about the experience called "It Was Never About a Hot Dog and A Coke


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