The Juneteenth holiday in the USA has come at a very special time. The holiday, that commemorates the abolition of slavery in the country, has coincided with the nationwide protests that were sparked because of the killing of a black citizen at the hands of Minneapolis police.
On June 19th 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas with the intention of taking control of the state and freeing all people that were enslaved. Since then, the day has been observed as a holiday in the country. While it isn’t a Federal Holiday, 47 out of 50 states mark it as a state holiday. Moreover, Juneteenth is also considered the independence day for the black community in the country, instead of the national American independence day that is observed on the 4th Of July.
However, this year, as the country protests against the death of George Floyd, the festival was celebrated not just with traditional cookouts and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation (the Civil-War era document that declared all people in the Confederate territory as free citizens), but with nationwide protests, marches, car caravan protests, and sit-ins.
Even despite warnings of a second wave of the Coronavirus infection in the country, citizens gathered in large groups to celebrate and protest.
The state of Atlanta witnessed a large religious gathering that was attended by thousands. There were also protests against the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a local black man that was killed while he was out for a run. Ahmaud was shot by a father-son duo while a third man cornered him and videotaped the whole incident.
In New York City, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Brooklyn Museum for a peaceful protest, holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter”. The mayor of New York City, Bill De Blasio also announced that starting next year, Juneteenth will be observed as an official city and school holiday.
Another example of a peaceful protest was put forth by two dozen black men in Nashville, Tennessee. The protestors, mostly wearing suits, stood arm in arm in front of the city’s criminal court, surrounding the statue of Justice Adolpho Birch, who was the first African American chief justice in Tennessee.
In Oakland, the local longshoremen’s union arranged a strike at several ports across the West Coast. The strike was also attended by thousands of local residents that came in the form of car caravans and cyclists. There were also many that attended the protest rally on foot.
Many corporate entities like Twitter and Target joined in on the Juneteenth celebrations by giving their employees a day off, emphasizing their support of the currently ongoing protests against racial injustice in the country and around the globe.
On the other hand, there were others like Elon Musk-led Tesla that allowed employees to take a day off but did not agree to pay them for it.
Senate Democrats like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have also introduced legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. However, it is expected that the legislation will face fierce retaliation from the Republican party that currently controls most of the American Senate.