Thousands celebrate Juneteenth as BLM protests progress across US

Peaceful protest at Grand army Plaza

Peaceful rallies, marches and celebrations commemorated Juneteenth across the United States on Friday. Thousands of Americans came together to remember the historic day as US still grapples against the systemic racism and inequality.

Juneteenth is the combination of “June” and “19th” – the symbolic day in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was read out by Union Army Major Gordon Granger. It read the abolishing of slavery on a plantation farm in Glaveston in Texas.

Juneteenth is the oldest celebration that marks an end of slavery in the U.S. But it is still not declared as a national holiday. The day has been celebrated by the Black Americans for over 150 years, and now many cities, states and universities have started to acknowledge the day which is otherwise often overlooked for the great importance it holds in history. The day is however, recognized by 47 states and Washington D.C.  

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday that starting next year Juneteenth would be an official holiday in NYC. He said, “We’ll work with all the unions to work through the plan, give this day the importance and recognition it deserves. Every city worker, every student will have an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of our history and the truth, and to think about the work that we have to do ahead.”

The day of Juneteenth on Friday was marked by anti-racism marches, peaceful rallies and bike rides across the country celebrating the significance of this day, the end of slavery. For many Black Americans the day holds higher significance than July 4 and is marked as their “true independence.”

The celebrations were against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests post death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man, in police custody that had sparked anger across US against racism and brutality of police enforcements against Black Americans.

In Minneapolis, the day was marked as celebration of Juneteenth and homage to George Floyd. Bike rallies, silent marches marked the day which ended at the site of Floyd’s death.

Atlanta witnessed protesters gathering at the Georgia Bar Association and demanding justice for Ahmaud Arbery, 25. Arbery was killed by a white father and son while he was out for a run.

Tulsa in Oklahoma, which was the site of massacre of Black Americans by a white mob in 1921 that destroyed the “Black Wall Street” community, celebrated Juneteenth with speech by Al Sharpton, a veteran activist. He said, “Juneteenth is both a celebration and a reminder, a commemoration. It reminds us that it took almost three years after the signing of the emancipation proclamation for people in Texas to even know that slavery was over.”

Official proclamations were released by governors of Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois and Kansas marking June 19 as “Juneteenth Freedom Day” or “Juneteenth Recognition Day.”

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