SUGAR LAND, Texas — A night meant to remember and honor the Sugar Land 95 was interrupted by protesters at Fort Bend ISD's brand new James Reese Career and Technical Center in Sugar Land.
The sound of drums and protest echoed outside the building on hallowed ground where nearly 100 bodies of former slaves were found nearly two years ago.
"If these were the remains of Confederate soldiers, this disrespect would not be taking place," said community activist Deric Muhammad.
Fort Bend ISD hosted the solemn ceremony to remember the former slaves. Protesters made their way inside and raised their voices making sure the district know they do not support what's happening. They called on the district to complete DNA testing first on the bodies as police removed them from the room.
"There's no way there should be a reburial before DNA testing has been done to find out who the Sugar Land 95 are and whose they are," said Muhammad.
Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre says testing could take two to three years. The state is seeking funding to make that happen. The price tag could reach tens of thousands of dollars. The material needed for testing has already been recovered from all remains.
"We did not feel it would be proper to leave them out of the ground in a storage unit for that length of time," said Dupre.
Dupre says the ceremony was about healing and bringing the community together, honoring the Suger Land 95 and blessing the land where they were found.
"We all want the same thing," said Dupre. We want to honor them and pay them respects"
The protests and empty seats are signs there's still work to do. Wounds are still open and still raw. Nonetheless, the district plans to move forward and begin reburial in just a few days.