VAN ZANDT COUNTY–Tensions were high during a special called meeting of the Canton City Council, Oct. 14, as citizens from Canton and Van Zandt County gathered in the city hall’s meeting room to discuss the event dubbed “Slvtzgiving.”
The event is scheduled to be held Nov. 6-7, on the grounds of First Monday and in the Civic Center. The timing of the event, just off the heels of the 2020 General Election, is one of numerous reasons why citizens have and are protesting the event.
During the council meeting the Canton City Council allowed numerous people to speak during the meeting, most in opposition of the event.
Concerns swirled around the event being a fundraiser for the Black Lives Matter movement, security and safety concerns for residents and business owners and drug usage.
During the meeting, information was released that the council has never voted on the matter, rather it was a contracted event and it was never brought before the council.
Information obtained from the meeting stated that a person within the employ of the city, who usually negotiates contracts for use of city property, had approved the contract and certain aspects or specifics were left out when the contract was originally signed.
The original advertising released by the party promoting the electronic dance music featured a girl with a “tab” (usually associated with the drugs LSD or Ecstasy) on her tongue, with the event being named “Slvtsgiving.” Other information released in the flyer for the event stated that proceeds would benefit the Black Lives Matter movement and to help suicide awareness.
Canton City Attorney David Ritter informed the council they could not discriminate and choose what type of music festival could be held, as it would be a conflict with the First Amendment.
Councilmembers laid out possible breaches of contract including the dates and times the music festival would be held, the type of advertising that was being used and the percentages of proceeds to be used.
Local DPS Trooper Bradshaw stated that he was concerned with public safety. Veteran Tim Pennington stated he felt the event would “put residents in harms way.” Cole Sullivan stated that “this event has created a teeter totter of emotions throughout the city and county. This group is pushing change, but there is nothing here to change.”
Along with letting community members speak, the council also allowed Grayson Berry, the promoter and sponsor of the event, to speak and answer questions from the council.
Berry stated that his organization does not promote violence, that he will have extra security the day of the event, no drugs or weapons would be allowed and everyone entering the event would have to submit to a pat down. Berry stated that his group tries to instill a positive message and that “God’s work could be done differently. We are trying to instill a positive message and grow as a nation.”
Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett responded to Berry by stating that Berry’s advertising of the event speaks differently than what he was saying before the council.
“What you have advertised is not consistent with the contract agreement. What your group has put out in terms of promoting this event is not consistent with the community. There is no remedy that you can do, such as changing the advertising, that would rectify the concerns of the community and of this council. Your advertising and the handling of this event has not been handled well. The very name of your event is offensive. You were told two weeks ago by our City Manager Lonny Cluck that your advertising did not meet the contract, yet no changes were made.”
The council made no decision on whether the event will be held or cancelled, but will revisit the matter in the Oct. 20 council meeting.
At the time this article was written, the council meeting had not been held.