Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19, marks the day enslaved African Americans in Texas learned of their emancipation in 1865. This year, it also marks the 23rd straight day of nationwide protests against the injustices Black people still face.
Outraged Americans in dozens of cities Friday are commemorating the day and calling for an end to racism and police brutality by taking to the streets from Los Angeles to Kansas City, Birmingham to Washington, D.C., and beyond.
Rev. Kirsten John Foy, whose organization The Arc of Justice is leading a coalition of Juneteenth marches and caravans in dozens of cities known as the Drive to Justice, said it was imperative to reclaim the narrative about the protests as Fox News and the president play up reports of destruction.
â€œThe real violence was not the burning down of buildings,â€ Foy told HuffPost. â€œThe real looting happened long before the uprisings in Minneapolis and other places around the country. The real lootings are systemic. The real looting wiped out trillions of dollars of wealth in the Black community. The real looting happens when innocent Black men are gunned down by police officers with no cause or justification.â€
Foyâ€™s partners in planning include Gwen Carr, whose son Eric Garner was killed by police in 2014, activist Tamika Mallory, as well as the service employees union SEIU/32BJ and the Indigenous Peopleâ€™s Movement.
In addition to calling for the demilitarization and defunding of police, organizers at Fridayâ€™s events are passing out information on how to complete the census, register to vote and sign up for an absentee ballot. Foy, who once helped elect New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, says heâ€™s the exact type of mayor who should be held accountable for reneging on his promises to the Black community and for letting the officer who choked Garner to death remain on the force for years.Â
Garnerâ€™s mother is scheduled to speak to Juneteenth protesters in Washington, D.C., alongside the loved ones of two other Black men killed by New York City police, Drive to Justice organizers told HuffPost.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among those scheduled to speak in New York City.
The weeks of protest follow the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. Video of the incident, which shows an officer kneeling on Floydâ€™s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd gasps for air and says he canâ€™t breathe, set off mass unrest. The protests have called on Americans to open their eyes to the disproportionate number of Black Americans killed by police.Â
Thereâ€™s no question for Foy whether the protests are working.
â€œLook at Minneapolis, which dissolved their police department altogether,â€ he said of the city council vowing to take that step with a veto-proof majority. Look at New York, he continued, where the mayor just responded to pressure by disbanding the 600-person plainclothes anti-crime unit. â€œAnyone that says that protests have not had a tangible effect on policy are not looking at America today,â€ Foy said.
HuffPost has tracked dozens of changesÂ taking place around the country in the wake of the protests, ranging from school districts cutting ties with police to networks canceling cop shows.
Thereâ€™s also newfound support for making Juneteenth a national holiday. While the day has long been overlooked in school curriculums despite being widely celebrated in the Black community,Â a new HuffPost/YouGov survey found that 60% of Americans support making it a national holiday.Â
This story will be updated throughout the day.
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