Another rally apparently in support of Black Lives Matter and removal of the Confederate monument and the oak trees on the Putnam County Courthouse lawn is set for Aug. 8. Tevel Adams and DarNesha Leonard are again organizing this rally with support from Palatka Mayor Terrell Hill. Adams posted on Facebook this weekend: “Fighting the good fight. Getting into good trouble. No justice, no peace.” The two college-age students seek removal of the monument to the Confederate dead and removal of all oak trees including the 170-year-old Maltby Oak. The courthouse property belongs to Putnam County and county commissioners have held one public hearing and plan another in order to hear what county residents want.
In St. Augustine the obelisk that commemorates some 40 men who died fighting for the Confederacy was the backdrop for demonstrations Sunday. According to observers, this was a more vocal demonstration with more people for keeping the obelisk than removing it. The protests have been going on for some four weeks and have become more intense after Mayor Tracy Upchurch rallied two other commissioners to vote to remove the obelisk. Less than two years ago under a different mayor the commission voted 5-0 to keep the obelisk but to add plaques explaining the context of the monument which for most of the men named is the only place their names are physically remembered.
Coronavirus cases continued increasing over the weekend. St. Johns County is nearing 3,000 reported cases since counting began in March. On Friday 91 cases were reported, 73 on Saturday and 64 on Sunday. Total is at 2,929 cases. In Putnam County, the Florida Department of Health reports 1,169 cases with 23 reported Friday, 43 Saturday plus one transfer and 20 on Sunday plus one transfer to another county. In Flagler County 801 cases are reported with 30 reported Friday, 24 on Saturday and 21 on Sunday.
Longtime Palatka physician Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad has died in California where he and his wife just moved. Dr. Ahmad, who began practicing in Palatka in 1973, had been fighting cancer. A recent drive-by farewell at his home saw former patients, Rotarians and public service workers coming by to say good-bye. Not only his memory will linger on. He first suggested the annual Putnam Health Fair and fellow Rotarians followed through. Each year the free event draws hundreds and each year at least a couple of lives are saved because of tests and information provided.
In St. Johns County four sites have begun the path for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. County officials have given the okay to begin the process that next involves a state review for eligibility. On the list are the capture site of Indian leader Osceola, the county-owned Allen Nease Ho use on State Road A!A, the Alpine Groves Park on State Road 13 and the Old Spanish Chimney and Well near St. Augustine Beach where the workers who built the Castillo de San Marcos were housed. It’s across the road from where the coquina to build the fort was quarried.
If you’re in Palatka, remember the railroad crossing on Reid Street AKA U.S. 17 is closed for CSX to do repairs. Traffic is being diverted onto St. Johns Avenue where a four-way stop is now in place at 14 th Street and St. Johns. Not everyone is aware of it, so be careful. Other people are using Crill Avenue which is also State Road 20. Work is scheduled to continue until Aug. 1.
Putnam County commissioners are beginning to spend the $3.2 million in coronavirus aid received so far from the federal government and they’ll do it by helping local businesses. On Friday they agreed to create a grant process so that 1,000 local businesses can get $3,000 each. Details are still in the process of being firmed up. The county is expecting to get almost $13 million in all.
Here’s an attaboy to pass on. St. Johns County deputies from the jail and Community Affairs Unit have been lending a hand to Catholic Charities by helping out with food distribution. Although normally volunteers and even inmates assist, coronavirus has restricted them from volunteering. Deputies have stepped up to help load the vans so food can be delivered to families in need.