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Newtown Florist civil rights group plans gathering 5 p.m. June 1 'to move a step forward'
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People take to downtown Gainesville Sunday, May 31, 2020, on the second night of protests in Gainesville that blocked traffic and resulted in vandalism on the square. - photo by Scott Rogers

A gathering is planned 5 p.m. Monday, June 1, at the grassy area on the south side of the pedestrian bridge over Jesse Jewell Parkway.

The event is being organized by the Newtown Florist Club, a longtime civil rights group in Gainesville, following two nights of mostly peaceful but sometimes tense protests in reaction to the death of George Floyd and the issues of police brutality and systemic racism.

Rose Johnson
The Rev. Rose Johnson

Rose Johnson, Newtown’s executive director, said the gathering will be “a more meaningful discussion” of next steps following the protests.

“The marching has brought people together,” she said. “Now’s let’s get to work and talk about what we need to do, who will do it and how we will do it.”

Johnson said the gathering is not a protest but a “community organizing event.”

It will be an opportunity for young people to discuss their feelings on recent protests and the causes behind them as well as plan out what steps they may want to take next. 

“What we really need for them to do is to move a step forward, move a step further,” Johnson said. “Roll up their sleeves and put their passion to work. Because the pursuit of justice takes work, and it takes a commitment to hang in there over the long haul. There are thoughts and ideas these young people have that need to be developed and nurtured.”

Johnson said a variety of young people will be speaking on what the movement means to them and sharing ideas on what they would like to do next. Johnson and the other members of the Newtown Florist Club will be on hand to offer advice and support.

Above all, the goal of the gathering is to provide organization for the movement going forward.

“It is (young people) moving forward into a place where they can begin to share with the community some of the things that they’d like to do to carry on this movement that they have going on,” Johnson said.  

Others in the community are promoting the event as well, including the Hispanic Alliance, which posted this statement on social media: 

“We support our African American brothers in their pain and struggle and support dialogue with our local leaders. We saw a lot of our youth there Saturday at the peaceful protest. … Change will come with strategy and dialogue. This afternoon with Rev. Rose Johnson we will discuss these.”

Hall County’s demographic makeup according to the latest census figures is about 87% white, 8% black and 29% Latino. Latinos can be of any race, according to the census.

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