Longview

Longview seen from near the water tower at High Street and Marshall Avenue.

The recent announcement that an organization is planning a white supremacy rally for September in Longview has drawn considerable comments, questions and concerns. Here's what we know so far about plans for the rally. 

The situation surrounding the rally is changing rapidly. Keep an eye on our continuing coverage for more. 

'White unity conference'

According to the Aryan Freedom Network, the event is called a “white unity conference.”

The events page on the organization’s website, as well as posts circulating on social media, say the conference will happen Sept. 25 in Longview. An exact location is not provided. The Aryan Freedom Network says it will be “an indoor event” featuring “educational lectures, Aryan folk music and Racial Unity amongst different organizations and individuals from all across North America.”

Speakers from racist organizations

The group's website — which was designed to feature swastikas, Nazi propaganda, Confederate flags with skulls and pictures of Adolf Hitler — says the conference is a private event.

Its website says rules for the September event include no infighting, no cellphones and no reporters and says that no weapons are allowed.

Guest speakers listed include a man named Billy Roper who the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the "uncensored voice of violence neo-Nazism." According to the Anti-Defamation League, Roper leads the Shield Wall Network. The network is based in Arkansas and has a goal of creating a white ethno-state.

Eli James and people identified as "Sister Daisy," "Sister Mary" and "Brother Henry" of either Aryan Freedom Network or Shield Wall Network are also scheduled to speak, according to the website. 

Rally was planned for Paris, Texas

The event originally was planned for Oct. 9 in Paris; however, the Paris City Council passed a resolution Feb. 8 disapproving of the rally. The City Council unanimously approved the resolution in a 7-0 vote, according to minutes from the meeting.

The resolution stated the council condemned the use of the city name in promotional materials for the conference. The resolution also said the council disapproved of the conference itself and does not “condone hate groups or bigotry of any kind.”

All social media and Aryan Freedom Network posts now feature Longview as the location for the conference.

When being planned in Paris, the organizing group was listed as the “Church of the KKK,” an organization describing itself as having chapters in several cities in the South and southeastern part of the United States.

Counter protests, gatherings possible

A representative of Jewish Antifa told the News-Journal on Friday that the organization is planning an “armed” counter-protest Sept. 25 on the Gregg County Courthouse lawn next to the Confederate monument. Since then, the group has said they would take part in a unity rally with local groups against the white supremacy gathering.

Jewish Antifa is known in Hebrew as “Hayalim Almonim,” meaning “anonymous soldiers,” and seeks to uncover hate groups.

The anti-fascist organization is based in Israel with members in the U.S. and Europe, as well.

The individual who spoke to the News-Journal would identify himself only by a moniker he uses called “JewAnon.”

He said he has worked to provide information about the planned white supremacy event to local authorities.

JewAnon and the organization are calling for interdenominational prayer against hate with local faith communities.

“Prayer is stronger than guns,” JewAnon said.

Local officials responses

Longview police said Friday the department had heard of the possible event three days prior; however, Mayor Andy Mack and Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said Friday they were unaware of such a possible event.

Mack declined Friday to provide a further statement, saying he could not comment on something about which he was unaware. He also said that the validity of the event could not be verified and that he was considering it to be “hearsay” at the time.

On Saturday, Mack posted on his political page that Longview is a community that "loves each other" and that "none of us are going to stand by and let some outsiders (or insiders for that matter) come in here and destroy what we have worked so hard to build," although he did not specifically mention the rally in the post. 

City and county officials each said there have been no requests filed to use public property for such an event. In a statement, city spokesman Shawn Hara said the city of Longview recognizes the rights to free speech and assembly.

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Courtney Stern is a public safety reporter covering a wide range of topics. She grew up in Baltimore and later earned a journalism degree from the University of Miami. Stern moved to East Texas from Iowa with her husband and two dogs, Pebbles and Bam Bam.