In June 1964, James Brock dumped acid into the water at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Fla. He was trying to disrupt swimmers who were protesting the hotel's whites-only policy. Npr
The Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida, had a whites-only pool that was invaded by black and white demonstrators on June 18, 1964. The hotel's owner splashed acid into the swimming pool in an attempt to scare them away.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed for trespassing on June 11, 1964, after being ordered to leave the segregated restaurant at the Monson Motor Lodge. Due in part to this (and other factors), a number of protesters, both black and white, jumped into the pool as part of a carefully orchestrated demonstration to end racial segregation at motel pools. White guests exclusively were allowed in the pool area of this motel. As guests of the whites who paid for the hotel rooms, the blacks were invited to use the pool. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., along with two friends, organized this swim. Jimmy Brock, the motel's manager, hoped to end the celebration by pouring a bottle of muriatic acid into the pool to make the swimmers nervous enough to leave. One swimmer drank some of the pool water to reassure his or her fellow swimmers that the acid concentration was so low that it posed no danger.
Muriatic acid, or pure hydrochloric acid, is used to disinfect masonry surfaces like swimming pools. Unfortunately, the word "acid" was what was taken in by the general public. However, the acid to water ratio was so low that it was somewhat safe, and a police officer rushed in to make arrests, suggesting that it may have been useful in intimidating the demonstrators. Many people of that era recall Brock more as the victim than as the perpetrator. One angry outburst left an unpleasant 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”.
The civil rights movement and white separatist extremists put pressure on Brock. Jimmy Brock, who lived in St. Augustine, Florida, passed away there in 2007. Despite five years of opposition, the motel and pool were torn down in March 2003, erasing a significant Civil Rights Movement landmark from the United States. That location is now occupied by the Hilton Hotel.