One hundred years after the Ku Klux Klan paraded through the streets of Longview, the City Council on Thursday unanimously took a stand against a possible white supremacy rally in the city.

In a resolution adopted Thursday night, the council denounced the event that the Aryan Freedom Network has said it is planning Sept. 25 in Longview. Mayor Andy Mack described the resolution’s passage as being merely “ceremonial,” as he repeatedly stated the event is “unverified” and “undocumented” and that it has “disrupted our community.”

More than a dozen residents spoke during the packed council meeting, with many saying that it is a step forward from the city’s past, which included the race riot of 1919 and the first KKK parade in the city in 1921. However, residents said there remains much work to be done.

“This resolution may be ‘ceremonial,’ but it means more than a lot of people may know,” said Chelsea Laury, who petitioned last year for the Confederate monument at the Gregg County Courthouse to be removed. “It means that Longview is progressing. It means that Longview is making an effort to distance itself from its past instead of hoping that the effects of it will magically go away. I hope Longview continues to move forward.”

The resolution served as Longview’s way of denouncing the use of the city’s name in conjunction with an event by a hate group. The event originally was scheduled in Paris, Texas, in October; however, after the city of Paris passed a similar resolution, the white supremacist organization began circulating new fliers with Longview listed as the location.

Before passing the resolution and before allowing public comment, Mack gave a more than 10-minute speech in which he recounted the struggles of the past week.

Mack criticized the community for having a “sky is falling mentality” in response to the potential event. He said he would have expected people “to have quickly and confidently let your constituents know that there is no validity to this alleged event because you had personally contacted our police chief and spoke with him about it.” Instead, Mack challenged that no one in the council chambers — except himself — had spoken with police Chief Mike Bishop about the rally.

Mack went on to say the community “took the opportunity to politicize” the event by making public statements, posting to social media and via local media outlets. He said these actions “only serve to raise more polarity, concern and fear in our community.”

In the past week, Mack said, some people have labeled him a racist. He said he is not.

“I am as much a minority as a lot of you in this room. I am half Lebanese, I am half Middle Eastern. I am not 100% Caucasian. I am not a white boy as I have been called so many times this week,” Mack said. “I do not see color. I see people.”

‘Don’t ever say you don’t see color’

After the council’s passage of the resolution, the community present had its chance to speak.

Longtime Longview ISD Trustee Ted Beard spoke about the importance of taking a stand as an elected official while also making a point to Mack.

“As I sat back here, the comment was made about not seeing color,” Beard said. “After almost spending 30 years in the military, two combat missions, not being able to see color you can’t distinguish certain items — be it either a target, enemy, friend, foe, or the ability to operate certain pieces of equipment.

“To be able to see color, then you’re able to understand the differences and respect the differences of individuals ... When you can see color, you can respect those of color and of different color. So as a point, don’t ever say you don’t see color.”

Beard went on to speak about the importance of taking a stand as an elected official, even if that stand may be unpopular. He recalled the Longview ISD school board being the only elected body within the city to pass a resolution last year denouncing George Floyd’s death and also taking a stand regarding the Confederate statue on the courthouse grounds.

Confederate monument

Laury said the Confederate statue continues to serve as a symbol of hate. She led a petition last year for the monument’s removal. Gregg County Commissioner Shannon Brown made a motion to remove the monument at an August meeting; however, his motion died for lack of a second. The monument remains on the courthouse lawn in downtown Longview.

“Longview is a beautiful city, but we can’t pretend that white supremacy does not exist here. The city has been a hot spot for bigotry for over 100 years and there’s proof of that,” Laury said. “The fact that people can so easily believe that white supremacists would come here is because some of them are here. There are hate symbols that are still here because there’s a refusal by people in power to do something about it.”

Longview resident Chris Frazier called on the city to have a conversation about the monument that, he said, represents hate.

“It may not be insensitive to you, but it’s insensitive to other people — to marginalized people, people of color,” Frazier said. ”I urge the City of Longview to do something about that because there is a large representation of people in Longview that are wanting you to make that change.”

Querida Duncalfe, speaking as a community member and on behalf of the organization This is Us United Supporters, also called upon the mayor, the City Council and Gregg County commissioners to remove all monuments on city and county property “that were erected to uphold and amplify white supremacy.”

Duncalfe applauded the council for its passage of the resolution, though she noted it was clear that not everyone was on the same page “regarding how necessary it was.”

”Thank you Councilwoman Snoddy and Councilwoman Ishihara. Your statements, in particular, in the paper meant something to me as a citizen, as a resident, as a mother of two boys who are in the public school system,” she said. “I hope the resolution that you have now passed has the same impact on Longview that it had on Paris.”

Council comments

During the passage of the resolution, Snoddy and Ishihara were the only two members of the council — besides Mack — to make statements about the resolution.

During his speech, Mack accused Snoddy of questioning his integrity regarding the issue. Mack’s statement to Snoddy was in reference to a public statement the councilwoman put on social media Friday — when news first broke about the potential event — and in reference to other statements made to the News-Journal.

Snoddy explained she was not questioning Mack’s “integrity” but rather was making a statement to take a stand on behalf of her community.

“Whether verified or unverified, when I hear the words ‘KKK’ or ‘white supremacy,’ there’s a certain thing that happens within me that I think I have to address,” she said. “I felt that I had a responsibility to the citizens of Longview, especially to those that look like me, to address the issue.”

As a Black woman, Snoddy explained, she, like many others, felt a fear at hearing such words.

“The fear happened. It was real. It occurred,” she said.

Ishihara said she was proud of the council for adopting the resolution. As someone who has lived in Longview for 15 years, Ishihara said she believes the best thing about the city is the people and “we do, in fact, love each other.” When some constituents ask or need something, Ishihara said, it’s important to respond to meet those needs as necessary.”

”Although ceremonial, I do hope that if necessary, this conversation would shine a light on any events that may take place. Hopefully they don’t take place, of course. But if they do, I hope this shines a light in that area,” Ishihara said. “I think we need to be very clear that hatred, racism and bigotry are not welcome in Longview.”

Other public comments

Other residents who spoke during public comment expressed a range of opinions.

Comments included those who believed, because of the federally protected rights to free speech and free assembly, that the white supremacist organization should be allowed to meet. Comments included criticism of the news media for its coverage of the potential event, saying such articles created fear in the community.

Wearing a NAACP T-shirt, Mandel Stoker agreed with Mack’s comments that the community reacted with a “sky is falling” mentality” to the event. Stoker said websites and fliers promoting the event could have been made by anyone with a computer.

Others simply thanked the council for its passage of the resolution.

Shalonda Adams, a Pine Tree principal who recently was a Unity Honors recipient, encouraged the community to continue to focus on positive things and to respond to all things “with love as the focus.”

Fellow Unity Honors recipient Carroll Greenwaldt said he believed the community’s overwhelming response to the potential event did not come “because we think we are falling apart ... quite the contrary.”

”We are proud of the progress we’ve made and we do not want the name of Longview inexorably linked to this sort of hate or this sort of evil,” Greenwaldt said. “Because of that, we rise and we rise in support of you and your action tonight.”

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