In honor of Friday’s Juneteenth holiday, the same organizers who put together the peaceful protest that was held at Sealy’s Abe and Irene Levine Park on June 9 announced they will be hosting a peaceful demonstration the morning of Saturday, June 20, in Bellville.
“We will be protesting, especially about the Stephen F. Austin statue because we don't think anyone that was a slave owner, anyone that promoted slavery should be honored in that way,” Reverend J.R. Johnson said of the event in addition to the Juneteenth celebration.
Juneteenth commemorates the official end to slavery on June 19, 1865, when Union Major-General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
“In the early days, Juneteenth celebrations included a prayer service, speakers with inspirational messages, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, rodeos and dances,” it says on the TSLAC website.
In 2020, local residents are organizing a celebration amid similar nationwide protests. The event, created by the Facebook group “Friends Against Racism,” said the program will begin at the Austin County courthouse at 1 East Main Street in Bellville at 10 a.m.
Johnson, one of the contacts listed in the event description alongside Lenel Brandiberg and Bruce Margolis, confirmed the events in a June 16 phone interview. He also said a march is planned for Saturday morning which will be leaving from the courthouse.
“It’s not just about blacks but for all people, all color of life; that's what is going to be done,” Johnson said.
A Facebook post from Margolis in the Friends Against Racism group Thursday night relayed CDC guidelines for demonstrators to follow to make the event as safe as possible regarding COVID-19. He said face masks are recommended but not required, demonstrators should practice social distancing and there will be hand sanitizer available. Also, he asked anyone who is feeling ill or anyone who knows they could have been exposed to the virus to not participate.
“The event is family friendly and a great learning experience for young people,” the Facebook event description said. “Learn what we can do to get out the truth about the history of Stephen F Austin and slavery in Austin County Texas. Learn steps each of us can take to bring about an end (to) systemic racism, bigotry, sexism and hate.”