Vigil planned tonight in Austin

Published 7:16 am Friday, September 11, 2009

An Austin man who has organized a number of immigration protests in Austin plans to hold a candlelight vigil Friday for fallen soldiers — an event he says will not be a rally of any kind.

Instead, Samuel Johnson, Austin resident and member of the National Socialist Movement, said he wants people to come out and show support for people who died protecting the country.

“We’re not trying to disrespect anyone,” he said. “We just want people to come pay respects to servicemen and women.”

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The vigil is planned for 7 p.m. at the downtown veterans memorial.

In recent months, Johnson has attracted attention for controversial rallies he staged at the same location.

In June, a protest brought out a number of people who opposed Johnson and his message, with the event becoming a back-and-forth debate.

A month later, a similar situation unfolded, with local law enforcement occasionally stepping in but making no arrests.

Johnson has also appeared before city council on the issue, pushing for much stricter enforcement against illegal immigrants.

“I’m just here to get people aware that illegal immigration in our city is a problem, and if you don’t stand up and do anything, then nothing will happen,” Johnson said at the July rally.

And though he maintains that the Sept. 11 vigil is not a protest, he did say it offers a “reminder” of what harm illegal immigration can have — a reference to terrorists who lived in the U.S. before the attacks eight years ago.