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Juneteenth march, demonstration planned for Friday on Covington square
Covington Peaceful Protest 2
Timothy Birt, 22, organized Wednesday's peaceful demonstration and asked that participants gather on the square for a showing of solidarity. - Mason Wittner | The Covington News

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information and quotes from the organizer.

COVINGTON, Ga. — The annual Juneteenth observance will be celebrated with a march and speeches in Covington.

Timothy Birt, who also organized a peaceful June 3 demonstration in Covington in response to police shootings of black people in the U.S., applied and was approved for a permit for a Friday, June 19, event. 

Marchers will begin at New Hope Baptist Church at 5:30 p.m., travel along downtown streets to the Courthouse Square and return to the church by 8:30 p.m., Police Chief Stacey Cotton said.

Birt, 22, of Covington, said he hoped the "community event" he is organizing will help spark a dialog and hopefully bring about agreement from the entire Newton County community on how to react to recent race-related events in the U.S.

"I want people to understand that if we come together and agree on what is right and what is wrong, then we can make a difference in the world we live in," Birt said.

He said he did not organize this second event as a reaction to the June 13 death of Rayshard Brooks — a black man an Atlanta police officer shot and killed as Brooks reportedly resisted arrest outside an Atlanta fast-food restaurant.

Birt said, "As a man of God, I allow God to lead my life so everything I do, I do pray to God before I do anything so that I make sure what I'm doing has a purpose."

"After the first event, I got a turnout that was greater than I thought that I would get and I was very thankful for it and grateful for it. It was nobody who could have brought out all those people but God."

He said speakers at the Friday event will tell about the importance of observing Juneteenth, which is an annual observance based on the last African-American slaves in Texas learning on June 19, 1865, they were legally freed two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

However, Birt said he also plans to "attack the systemic racism we're experiencing and counter it together" during the event by encouraging agreement on the morality of what America is experiencing now.

"I feel that we can be the model, not only for other counties surrounding us in Georgia but ... we can be a model for the nation to where they can look at us and say, 'Hey, they did this in Covington, Georgia.'"

Cotton said marchers were set to travel from the church at 2207 Brown St. along Brown and Clark streets to the Courthouse Square, where they will hear from speakers from about 6 to 7 p.m.

They will then return to the church by 8:30 p.m. via Monticello and Ivy streets, the chief said.

"We've worked with them on several routes," he said. "We feel like this is the least intrusive — trying to take everybody that we can into consideration that this might impact.

"We're not asking for complete street closures like we would on a big parade. Just block several blocks at a time."

"It would also depend on the size of the crowd, obviously," the chief said.