A group of around 30 residents gathered at the Austin County courthouse in Bellville the morning of June 20 for a peaceful demonstration about justice for all. The gathering was also in honor of the Juneteenth holiday on the day prior which celebrates when Texas slaves were informed they’d been freed at the end of the Civil War.
Organized by the same group who put on the peaceful protest in Sealy on June 9, Lenel Brandiberg and Reverend J.R. Johnson were joined by Bruce Margolis, another resident who created a Facebook group called “Friends Against Racism.”
Joining the crowd was Bellville city council member Wayne Browning and the Austin County Democratic Party chair Pat Burns, both of whom advocated for everyone eligible to vote to make their voices heard at the polls. Voter registration forms were available at the demonstration for anyone who still needed to register.
The gathering began in the main square outside the county courthouse with signs of encouragement drawing beeps and waves from passersby before a march down the street to Jim Bishop Pavilion at Chesley Park where the organizers spoke.
Originally, the march was planned with the Stephen F. Austin statue as the destination but with the heat rising in the middle of the day, the organizers opted for a shorter march down from the square where Brandiberg, Johnson and Margolis all shared the speaking spotlight.
Johnson spoke to the importance of the Juneteenth holiday on the square and mentioned in the park that Stephen F. Austin remained a proponent of slavery even after the Emancipation Proclamation.
“They call him the father of Texas but how can you honor someone that had people in bondage,” Johnson posed. “Even though he died in West Columbia, his brother had 274 slaves. They promoted slavery but thank God he blessed our ancestors to overcome that to be where we are today, walking together; black, white, brown, that’s how heaven is going to look. God doesn’t look at ethnicity, he looks at all of us as people.”
Margolis said he was pleased to see nearly all of the attendees wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and said that was one of the most important aspects of organizing this demonstration, to do so safely and peacefully. He also cited his previous activism history in marching alongside his parents and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 and had a counterpoint to any naysayers coming his way.
“People were saying, ‘Well you’re pushing the things you did in the ‘60s but see how well that worked out?’” Margolis said. “And I say if you look at this last week, it was a small step but even the executive order (President Donald) Trump (signed to reduce the police’s use of excessive force) was a small step that he would never have done if it weren’t for the awareness people just like us have been bringing to it.”
Margolis concluded by saying that despite the size of the crowd in the small town of Bellville on a Saturday morning, the group’s voice carried more weight and he saw the demonstration as another step in the right direction.
“It’s all about us coming together and uniting against hate, racism, bigotry, sexism; any of the negative things people believe in,” Margolis said. “We’re not against law enforcement, we’re against law enforcement who are the bad ones and we know things happen here.”
01: Members of the Austin County community participated in a peaceful demonstration Saturday morning in Bellville, advocating for justice for all. The attendees marched as a group from the main square to Jim Bishop Pavilion at Chesley Park chanting “No justice, no peace,” as they are pictured doing so.
02: Demonstrators decorated signs and gathered outside the Austin County courthouse Saturday morning to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday and protest racial injustices.
03: The peaceful demonstrators outside the Austin County courthouse Saturday morning received waves and beeps from plenty of drivers around the circle, including this gentleman and his dog.