First two nights of June 19 celebrations canceled in Gloucester after online threat

GLOUCESTER COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — An online threat alluding to guns and violence has prompted the cancellation of a series of June 19 events.

Friday was supposed to kick off Gloucester County and Mathews County’s 3rd annual June 19 celebration until the venue hosting the 3-day event canceled it less than 48 hours ago .

Violent threats exploded across the country. The Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin last week warning people that minority communities, schools, places of worship and public transportation are prime targets.

“I can’t believe this is happening in Gloucester. You hear about it elsewhere,” said Brenda Dixon of the Gloucester NAACP.

An annual celebration of African-American freedom has been abruptly canceled in Gloucester County due to a threatening message from a Mathews County resident on social media.

“Someone responded that this event could end in guns and violence,” Dixon explained.

The since-deleted post has been investigated by the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the local Commonwealth Prosecutor’s Office. They eventually discovered that the user was not a threat and that no crime had taken place, but Dixon tells us that the venue that originally offered to host the 3-day June 19 celebration turned up. took of.

“It turned everything upside down. The Flat Iron staff had a meeting and they decided the responsibility was too big. At the last minute they canceled everything on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Dixon said.

The scheduled artists and speakers felt uncomfortable.

“It left us struggling to try to find a new venue. People were pretty shaken up. People were afraid. I call all the performers saying different location, they say we’re not going to come, we’re scared,” Dixon said.

Pastor ER Graham of First United Baptist Church is now hosting the June 19 Sunday church service in his parish which has held June 19 events for the past two years.

“We take these threats seriously, but we will not be stopped by these threats. The threat has intimidated some of our members and some will not show up,” Pastor Graham told 10 On Your Side.

Pastor Graham says the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office and State Police will provide additional security during the afternoon service, which will also have condensed performances that were originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

“As clergy and this is one of the discussions we had at our meeting, we have to protect our parishioners, we have to protect our members, but we have to be bold and preach the gospel and make sure that the gospel is being preached. We are at the crossroads. We need security, but we cannot be intimidated,” Pastor Graham explained.

Dixon says the threat won’t stop June 19 celebrations from happening now or in the future.

“We cannot be afraid. We can’t run. Juneteenth is going to happen every year,” Dixon concluded.

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