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August 27, 2014

A Photo Series Captured a Motel Manager Pouring “Acid” Into Pool to Drive Black People Out, 1964

On June 11, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr was arrested for trespassing at the Monson Motor Lodge after being asked to leave from its segregated restaurant. This (and other things) helped spurn on a group of protesters, black and white, to jump into the pool as a strategically planned event to end segregation at motel pools. The pool at this motel was designated “white only.” Whites who paid for motel rooms invited blacks to join them in the motel pool as their guests. This swim-in was planned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and two associates.

The motel manager, Jimmy Brock, in an effort to break up the party, poured a bottle of muriatic acid into the pool, hoping the swimmers would become scared and leave. One swimmer, who knew that the ratio of acid to pool water was so great that the acid was no longer a threat, drank some of the pool water to calm the other swimmers’ fears.

Muriatic acid is undiluted hydrochloric acid and is used in the cleaning of masonry surfaces such as pools. But what people heard was the word “acid.” It did not scare the swimmers, though it seems like it was effective in making the protesters at least nervous — the amount of acid to the amount of water being so small it was mostly safe—and so a cop jumped in to arrest people.

Many people from that time remember Brock as more the victim in the incident. One moment of temper led to an unwanted legacy. “Jimmy kind of caught the brunt of it. He was a nice guy.” said Eddy Mussallem, a fellow hotelier and longtime friend. “They had to pick a motel, so they picked Jimmy’s motel. I always told him he did a foolish thing.” Brock found himself pressured by civil rights groups and militant whites fighting integration. On 2007, aged 85, Jimmy Brock died at his St. Augustine home.

The manager of the motel James Brock was photographed pouring muriatic acid into the pool to get the protesters out.

When a group of white and negro integrationist entered a segregated motel pool, manager James Brock poured acid into it, shouting "I'm cleaning the pool."

Motel manager James Brock poured muriatic acid into the pool at the Monson Motor Lodge to try to get a group of demonstrators out ot the segregated pool. Later the demonstrators were arrested while Martin Luther King watched from across the street.

First blacks to enter swimming pool at all white motel, June 18, 1964. Two rabbis had checked into the Monson Motor Lodge and the news media had been notified in advance that a "swim in" would occur at the pool on the afternoon of June 18, 1964. Two rabbi and five blacks were in the pool. Here an officer tries to hit one of the rabbis with his club. The demonstrators were arrested while Martin Luther King was across the street.

An off duty police officer jumped into the pool to fight with the rabbis during a "swim in" at the pool of the Monson Motor Lodge June 18, 1964.

Many people from that time remember Brock as more the victim in the incident.

Many of the demonstrators were arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct.

A demontrator is taken away from the swimming pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Fl June 18, 1964.

Motel manager James Brock (L) sits in his office at the Monson Motor Lodge and awaits the arrival of police after he locked the doors to his restaurant, barring Negro integrationalists (R) who saught service. Rev. Lavert Taylor, holding the book, led the group of 30 demonstrators, all of whom were arrested.

(via Rare Historical Photos)


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