The original idea behind Saturday night’s downtown event in Glen Rose billed as "a memorial to Black lives lost to police brutality" came from a 15-year-old high school student.
The girl, Kristeena Gregory, told the Glen Rose Reporter Sunday in a phone interview that she wanted to have the memorial "Because I got very angry because people thought it was OK to be a racist."
That was in reaction to the May 25 Minneapolis death of George Floyd, along with other police-involved deaths that have led to protests and sometimes violent conflicts with police nationwide.
Gregory said that after she posted on social media that she was planning a memorial and vigil to protest Black lives that had been lost to police brutality, she received criticism. It was then that she decided to cancel it because she didn’t want to "mess everything up" with a potential public confrontation.
"The main reason (for the cancellation) was because a bunch of arrogant people, set in their ways," said Gregory, who has lived in the community since her family moved here since October 2010.
ADULTS JOIN THE CAUSE
Another local resident, Dayja Palma, decided to take up the cause and organize the memorial along with a friend, Tracey Jones, with help from a couple of other adults.
Approximately 75 people attended the rally on the Somervell County courthouse square, which lasted about 90 minutes and was peaceful.
"I was honestly kind of surprised how good it turned out," Gregory said, explaining that the wording was tricky because she never intended to cause any trouble. "I wanted to do a protest, but the word is taboo, like you’re going to loot and destroy businesses."
Gregory said she was expecting some "hate and mouthiness" because of the negative social media comments. One in particular, she said, had indicated that there might be an organized effort to prevent the event from happening.
"He said that he will rally his friends to put a stop to the 15-year-old girl," said Gregory, who will be a sophomore this fall at Glen Rose High School.
There were no direct clashes with dissenters during the event. Gregory did, however, note that there were some "bikers being really obnoxious" just before it began.
A small group of people on the sidewalk across the street displayed a flag in support of Donald Trump. A man driving a noisy pickup truck circled the square displaying four flags — United States, Texas, Trump and Confederate.
Gregory added, "Honestly, I was expecting a fight to break out at one point or another."
Palma said she was initially apprehensive that there might be a confrontation.
"I think it went really well. It went better than I could have imagined," Palma said by phone Monday. "I thought there would be, too, after we got there. We just made sure not to engage. It really de-escalated."
Palma noted, "I don’t think that human rights should be a political issue," adding that some of the online comments "somehow made this into an anti-Trump rally."
Among the people who took the microphone to publicly speak to the crowd, Palma said, "not one single person mentioned Trump."
Palma said that as she was walking toward her vehicle after the event, one person was following her on foot and began to verbally harass her. But another unknown man intervened on her behalf before the situation could escalate. Sheriff’s Office deputies who were on duty for the event then came to where she was, and there was no physical altercation, Palma said.
Several invited speakers addressed the crowd at the memorial, and some unknown attendees did so as well. The first speaker was Brad Reedy, who is a Glen Rose resident and pastor at Stonewater Church in Cleburne.
"He set the tone," Palma said.
Reedy’s speech began, "I"m a husband, father, member of this amazing community, a pastor, but above all I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I stand here today not in support of any one movement. I don’t stand here to shout a slogan or stand on someone’s side. I don’t stand here today to stand on a political side. I’m here today to pray."
The pastor added, "I’m here today to pray for those who have lost their lives unjustly, no matter the color of their skin. There are black people who have died unjustly at the hands of rogue cops. All the cops I know are good cops. They would stand for justice with whomever it was, no matter the color of their skin. But there are rogue cops, who should not be allowed to wear the uniform."
Reedy noted that he and his wife adopted two children from the African nation of Uganda in 2011, and they are now age 13 and 10.
"I’ve heard people say in this community there is no racism. That is a naive statement," Reedy said. "I believe the people who say that mean well, but they are misinformed."
Among the other speakers were a Black man who said, "I’m here to tell you love drives out hate. Black lives matter, White lives matter, blue (law enforcement) lives matter, all lives matter."
A young Black man with dreadlocks who reportedly works at a Glen Rose business and addressed the crowd without using the microphone. He walked up from the side, unannounced — clearly not realizing that it was during time set aside for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence in memory of George Floyd.
"Ya’ll are doing the right thing," the man said to the gathering of mostly White people. "I’m looking at it and I’m seeing it, and it (the memorial) really does matter."
At the end of the memorial, attendees began chanting, "No justice, no peace," along with "Say his name, George Floyd," and "Say her name, Breonna Taylor."
Gregory made the point that few people, even now, know Taylor’s name.
Taylor was a 26-year-old Black EMT who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police officers on March 13 after they entered her apartment on a no-knock drug search warrant. No drugs were found, and the Louisville Metro Council has since banned the use of no-knock warrants, according to NBC News.
Lori Whitworth, who is Somervell County’s Democrat Party Chair for Precinct 3 and attended the memorial, said that Bob Miller — the county’s current Democrat Party Chair — obtained the necessary county permit to have the memorial on the courthouse square.
Whitworth stated in a text that she was proud of the community after seeing how it turned out.
"I think the memorial went very well," Whitworth said. "I am proud of our community. The event was a respectful and prayerful memorial for the many black people who have died solely because of the color of their skin.
"Those gathered expressed sorrow and outrage at these deaths and called for an end to the systems that perpetuate unjustified homicide. The crowd was respectful, applauded local law enforcement officials and the prayers for unity."
Another attendee, Glen Rose resident Monte Clark, was offering Christian pamphlets to others at the memorial. He said was not representing the right or left, conservative or liberal. He explained his presence by noting that the turmoil going on "just upsets me" and that such conflicts are being used "as a diversion to take our eyes off the truth."
Clark added, "There’s not but one side, and that’s God’s side. I’m just a Christian."