A flag combining the American Stars and Stripes and the Confederate Stars and Bars that flew in Rosewood, Florida, this weekend was outrageous on several levels beyond the obvious one.
It had been placed in the general area of an infamous race massacre that took place a century ago. And it was outside the driveway of a clam-farm worker awaiting sentencing for a racist attack on a Black neighbor.
David Emanuel was convicted July 26 on six counts of federal hate crime charges for screaming the N-word and attempting to run down Florida International University psychology professor emeritus Marvin Dunn and five companions in September 2022.
Dunn, 83, is the only Black landowner in Rosewood, having acquired a five-acre property across from Emanuel’s home back in 2008 and turned it into a park to “celebrate Rosewood heritage.”
Dunn had not encountered Emanuel, 62, until the bright fall morning when he and his son, Doug, met with four other men to discuss ways to observe the 100th anniversary of the Rosewood Massacre—when rampaging white mobs officially killed at least six Black people, but possibly many more.
“He drives up in this big white truck with huge wheels and lets his window down and he yells to me, ‘What’s going on out here?,’” Dunn told The Daily Beast.
“And I responded, ‘Sir, this is my property.’’’ He said, ‘If that’s your property, why don’t you park on your side of the road?’ I said, ‘This is a public road. We’ll park where we wish to.’ That threw him into a rage. He stepped on the gas, wheeled his truck around, and began yelling these racial epithets.”
Emanuel turned back into the driveway and “a few minutes later comes out in that truck at full speed and then does a hard turn and heads directly for us,” Dunn said. “Had we not got out of the road, we could have been killed.”
One of the men with Dunn called the police, who arrested Emanuel on state assault charges. Dunn later contacted the FBI, and Emanuel was hit with the federal hate crime charges. As the cases have moved through the courts, Dunn has continued using the park as “place of reconciliation and peace.”
On Sunday, he brought 30 teachers to the property as part of a program to educate them about the Rosewood and Ocoee massacres, which the new Florida Department of Education says should be taught as “violence against and by African Americans.”
“We stood there and I told them true stories,” Dunn told The Daily Beast. “So they can come back and then teach the truth about what happened in Rosewood and Ocoee, having stood on the ground where it happened.”
A reminder of the present came when he saw flags on either side of the entrance to Emanuel’s driveway. One that read “DeSantisland” was not surprising.
“That’s a very popular flag in that part of the state right now,” he told The Daily Beast.
But the hybrid U.S. and Confederate flag was unexpected.
“I was shocked, frankly,” Dunn said. “It seemed to me that someone who just got convicted of six counts of hate crime would be absolutely crazy to put a flag like that out in front of their property.”
He added, “Just being so brazen is to do something like that puzzled me. And then I realized who I’m dealing with. This man is a racist. He wants the world to know that he is still a racist.”
Dunn asked the teachers not to cross the road to take pictures of the flag.
“I didn’t want to start some sort of circus,” he said.
He told them they would make do with his wife taking a single shot of him standing by the flag with an upraised fist, which he later posted on social media.
As shocking as the hybrid flag was, Dunn said it did not dampen the hope that had filled him on July 26, when a jury convicted Emanuel in Gainesville federal court.
“In fact, it made me more hopeful because the man is really an outlier in Rosewood,” he said. “Most of those people up there—they’re not gushing with friendship, but they’re not bothering me.”
He reported that some of his white neighbors tend to the garden in his park when he is back home in Miami.
Dunn allowed that he had not been at all certain how the federal case would go when he walked into the courtroom as a witness and saw the composition of the jury: 11 whites and one Asian.
“Not a Black face. I walked in, I stopped in my tracks,” he said. “You have to talk to these people, and you’re trying to communicate a terrible experience—how do you let them know how much it hurt you? That was my challenge in talking to these people. How do I tell them how much this wounded me so much that this man should go to prison for it.”
He did best to give the jurors the sense of what he had felt.
“Racial trauma is particularly painful,” he later noted. “You don’t just get over it. So I wanted the jury to appreciate that it wasn’t just a passing comment that you just sort of get over. You can’t do anything about your race, [even] if you wanted to. You can’t do anything about your sex [even] if you wanted to. So someone insults you based on your age or your race or your sex, it hurts.”
As he testified, he could tell he had the jurors’ attention.
“They were listening to me,” he recalled. “They were looking at me, and I was looking at them. And you could see people sort of nodding when you tell them about that hurt.”
He had difficulty repeating the epithets that Emanuel had spewed.
“My lawyer told me to tell them exactly what was said to me, to tell the jury, no matter how hard it is, to repeat those words, the jury needs to know what was said to you,” Dunn recalled.
As a witness, Dunn could not attend the rest of the trial and waited in a hotel nearby. He rushed back when word came the jury had reached a verdict but it was the end of the day and the courthouse was locked down when he got there. He watched the jury depart, but could not tell what the verdict had been.
Finally, an FBI agent who had been working on the case came down to escort him into the courthouse.
“We went to the elevator and [the FBI agent] could not contain herself,” Dunn recalled. “She couldn’t keep it in: ‘They got him on all six counts! They got him on all six counts! I’m not supposed to tell you. We’re supposed to find out upstairs, but they got him! Pretend you don’t know.’”
“I feel better about the future of our country as well. There are good people in our country who will do the right thing no matter what color a person is.”
— Marvin Dunn
He left with his doubts transformed to hope.
“I think that the sense that we are so far apart doesn’t really describe our country today,” he later said. “I don’t believe that we are as divided as, as it would appear. And I think the results of this trial is testimony to that. I love it.”
He continued on with the kind of optimism that is seldom heard these days.
“I feel better about my country,” he said. “I feel better about the future of our country as well. There are good people in our country who will do the right thing no matter what color a person is.”
He then said, “I just want to add that I think that there’s hope everywhere in America.”
Emanuel could not be reached for comment. His lawyer from the federal case declined to comment. Court records show he is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 17 and faces a maximum of 10 years on each of the six counts.
Emanuel’s lawyer from the state case also did not respond. The state attorney in Levy County, where Emanuel faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, would only say he has a hearing on Aug. 18 and the trial date has not yet been set.
Meanwhile, whatever kind of flag has been posted outside Emanuel’s driveway, the hope of the lone Black landowner in Rosewood is reconfirmed by his neighbors..
“They keep the roots down,” Dunn said. “They water the plants. They take care of the property.”