Longview Mayor Andy Mack said Sunday that, as far as he is “aware,” a white supremacy conference did not take place in the city this weekend.
An organization called the Aryan Freedom Network was advertising that it was planning a “White Unity Conference” on Saturday in Longview. According to the organization, the event was going to be held on private property and was going to be a private event.
Mack said Sunday he is not aware of any such event actually taking place Saturday. Additionally, city and county officials said Thursday that no permits had been filed to have the event on public property.
Longview Police Department spokesman Officer Brandon Thornton also said Sunday that as far as LPD is aware, nothing occurred – at least not on public property.
“We don’t know if something occurred on private property, but as far as we are aware, nothing occurred,” he said.
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt also said he was not aware of the rally actually occurring. He said about five to 10 individuals – “all from out of town” – came to the Gregg County Courthouse on Saturday. Those individuals were affiliated with opposing organizations, such as Black Lives Matter.
As a precaution, downtown Longview streets were blocked Saturday around the Gregg County Courthouse.
Sheriff’s office spokesman Josh Tubb said Saturday law enforcement decided to block off the courthouse area today after the announcement of “a possible rally” several months ago. Tubb noted law enforcement had no “credible information” to confirm whether the so-called White Unity Conference would occur or where it out be.
Stoudt said the individuals who came from out of town walked around the courthouse a few times, then set up a tent where they collected canned goods.
According to a Facebook post from one of those individuals, they collected and delivered “three full buggies” of food, drinks and hygiene items that they donated to House of Hope. Photos in the Facebook post show a table set up with signage that said, “Black Lives Matter” and “Klan-Free 903.”
Stoudt and Mack each said all of the individuals who came were from out of town. They named such locations as Dallas, Austin and Waco.
“I applaud the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office in the proactive way in which they managed this situation,” Stoudt said.
Organizers with This Is Us, a Longview organization that is working to eradicate racial and social injustice, explained in a Friday Facebook post why it was choosing not to organize a local protest to the potential white supremacy rally.
“Although we were not unanimous in our decision, we decided that trying to organize a peaceful, unified demonstration on the day of the conference would potentially put us in danger of physical harm,” organizers wrote in the Facebook post. “We don’t wish that on any members of our community.”
The organization participated in a Unite Rally held in August instead. The Unite Rally, which was organized by One Love Longview co-founder Amanda Veasy, brought together individuals from a variety of a backgrounds for a day of unity.