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Mysterious ‘Effigies’ Found After Texas Juneteenth Venue Is Burned

Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photos Posted by Taquain Dedmon
Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photos Posted by Taquain Dedmon

A Texas community preparing for Juneteenth has been rattled by hanging “effigies” and a burnt rodeo arena that have been viewed as possible acts of racial intimidation.

Now, organizers of Dekalb’s annual Juneteenth event are trying to figure out how to move forward ahead of the national holiday meant to celebrate African American emancipation.

“We can’t tolerate this in this day and time right now,” Dekalb Juneteenth organizer Marvin Gray told The Daily Beast. “Something’s gotta be done about it.”

The Dekalb Fire Department was called to a rodeo arena in the early hours of Tuesday for a fire that took a “few hours” to put out and demolished a 50 year-old wooden concession stand, Fire Chief Robbie Barrett said.

Dekalb Mayor Lowell Walker said in an interview with The Daily Beast that, hours after the fire was put out, “two effigies” were found hanging under the arena’s announcer stand. He said he’s unsure of who discovered the effigies, but the public works director contacted him about it, and then Walker said he immediately called the FBI about a “possible hate crime.”

“We're an inclusive community,” Walker said. “I mean, [we] got knuckleheads out there. When they do stuff, we just got to catch them and punish them.”

From there, the Dekalb police chief reached out to the Texas Rangers and the fire chief contacted the state fire marshal’s office, Walker said.

Juneteenth Isn’t for Everyone (and It Shouldn’t Be)

“We’re diligently working on the investigation to try to discover who did this,” Walker told The Daily Beast. “And once we find them, if it is a hate crime, I’d like to see them prosecuted federally, to the fullest extent of the law.”

He added that a state fire marshal was planning to inspect the fire damage at the arena as early as Wednesday.

A representative with the Dekalb Police Department told The Daily Beast the officer on the case was “not allowed to give out more more” information regarding the investigation.

In photos of the arena posted on Facebook, effigies are seen hanging by thin ropes from the roof of a wooden stand. The figures had been fashioned to seemingly look like people, with heads and dark coloring. The ropes were tied around the makeshift heads. Another image shows a stand that had been destroyed by fire.

“Head on swivel and on high alert come this Juneteenth,” one Dekalb resident posted on Facebook. “This was a clear message to all #Blacks that live in the community.”

Gray, a lifelong Dekalb resident, said he was surprised by the incident, and the figures and fire are “really affecting the community.”

“It's really terrible. And the most important thing is to keep everybody calm right now,” he said. “It’s hard.”

The Juneteenth celebration, originally slated for June 17, is usually held at Dekalb City Park before it moves to the arena, Gray said. Posters of the event advertised a parade, food, and softball tournaments.

Forget the Fourth of July—It’s Time to Celebrate Juneteenth

Gray, who has been part of this year’s planning committee, said he had been going to the annual celebrations since he was a child.

However, the fire and effigies has changed the emotional trajectory of the upcoming event, he said.

“It’s affecting our Dekalb community really bad,” Gray said. “We’re going to move forward. …We just got to get everything situated.”

Nonetheless, he said he believed everything would work out for the celebration and overall for the community.

“[Juneteenth] is one of the biggest things in the year for us,” Gray said. “I have faith that justice will be done in this situation.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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