Shomporko Desk: America marks Juneteenth as protests bring new attention Nashville – Protesters walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, chanted “We want justice now!” near St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, asked in Atlanta and put everything on hold of quietness at the Martin Luther King Jr. Dedication in Washington, as Americans marked Juneteenth with new desperation Friday in the midst of an across the nation push for racial equity.
The occasion, which honours the liberation of subjugated African Americans, is typically celebrated with marches and celebrations however turned into a day of dissent this year in the wake of shows set off by George Floyd’s killing on account of Minneapolis police.
In addition to traditional cookouts and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation — the Civil War-era order that declared all enslaved people free in Confederate territory — Americans of all backgrounds were marching, holding sit-ins or taking part in car caravan protests.
Thousands of people gathered at a religious rally in Atlanta. Hundreds marched from St. Louis’ Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case partially played out, a pivotal one that denied citizenship to African Americans but galvanized the anti-slavery movement. Protesters and revellers held signs and pushed baby strollers in Dallas, danced to a marching band in Chicago and registered people to vote in Detroit.
“Now we have the attention of the world, and we are not going to let this slide,” Charity Dean, director of Detroit’s Office of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity, said at an event that drew hundreds and called for an end to police brutality and racial inequality.
Events marking Juneteenth were planned in every major American city Friday, although some were being held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. At some events, including in Chicago and New York, participants packed together, though many wore masks. At others, masks were scarce.
In Nashville, Tennessee, about two dozen Black men, most wearing suits, stood arm in arm in front of the city’s criminal courts. Behind them was a statue of Adolpho Birch, the first African American to serve as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“If you were uncomfortable standing out here in a suit, imagine how you would feel with a knee to your neck,” said Phillip McGee, one of the demonstrators, referring to Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, and it became effective the following Jan. 1. But it wasn’t enforced in many places until after the Civil War ended in April 1865. Word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas.
Most states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth — a blend of the words June and 19th — as a state holiday or day of recognition, like Flag Day. But with protests over Floyd’s killing and a pandemic that’s disproportionately harmed Black communities, more Americans — especially white people — are becoming familiar with the holiday and commemorating it.
President Donald Trump issued a message for Juneteenth, which he said was “both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our Nation’s unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness.”
Trump had originally planned a rally Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but changed the date to Saturday amid an uproar about his appearance on a date of such significance. The city also is where white mobs attacked a prosperous black business district nearly a century ago, leaving as many as 300 people dead.
In New Orleans, where demonstrators were greeted with bowls of red beans and rice, speaker Malik Bartholomew offered a reminder.
“We celebrate Juneteenth in honour of the celebration of freedom, but guess what? We also have to celebrate the fight,” Bartholomew said.
Photo credit: John Bazemore/AP
News source: The Associated Press