Peaceful gathering held in downtown Tyler one year after protest turned violent

Local News

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A year after a protest in Tyler turned violent, organizers gathered again to pick up where they left off.

On June 27, 2020, two protests gathered in downtown Tyler to show support and opposition for demonstrations that were happening in Portland. Not long after that, the rally that was once peaceful turned into a violent outbreak that many still remember a year later.

Video shows protester Paul Benson at the rally. In a moment that went viral in Texas, a tense argument between sides turned into a physical altercation.

“I didn’t mean to be the poster child for this event,” Benson said.

This video from the protest last year has been edited to take out certain language.

It was last year’s events that sparked the idea for this year. The event Sunday had live music, keynote speakers and peaceful protesters.

Last year, East Texas rancher Hank Gilbert, who was the Democratic challenger for Rep. Louie Gohmert’s seat in November, organized one of the rallies, in his words to, “stand up against this unconstitutional occupation of American cities.”

One group expressed support for Portland and was protesting the deployment of unidentified federal agents while another was a “Back the Blue” event supporting the federal officers who were placed in Portland as a precaution.

“I came to see what Hank Gilbert had to say, but instead when I got to this square, there were a hundred people with long guns, intent on making sure we never got to say anything,” Benson said.

Organizers of the events said they were shocked by the violence that unfolded, but were not going to be intimidated.

“It affected me so much I didn’t want to go to other events,” Nancy Nichols, with the State Democratic Executive Committee said. “I stayed home. I stayed away. And then I realized, no, that’s giving in. That’s like the bully at the playground. And that’s the reason for the event today.”

At noon today, demonstrators gathered to sing, speak and protest police violence related to the murder of George Floyd.

The event concluded with a petition for community members to vote in the upcoming elections.

“We had a petition, and we’ll be taking that to the county judge,” Nichols said.

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