Juneteenth in the District has long been a day of reflection, rallies and celebration. But after weeks of nonstop protests near the White House and throughout the nation’s capital, the holiday this year is also a day of defiance.

Invigorated by weeks of protests that began after the police killing of George Floyd, more than 20 rallies, marches and events were scheduled for Friday in the District.

Here are some developments:

• Protesters on Friday night pulled down the statue of Confederate General Albert Pike near Judiciary Square.

• The long-standing monument to Washington Redskins founding owner George Preston Marshall, the last NFL owner to integrate his roster, was dismantled and removed from the grounds of RFK Stadium. The action followed years of lobbying by local residents who objected to memorializing an owner who opposed desegregation.

• D.C. police on Thursday announced possible street closures and restrictions for almost all of downtown Washington starting Friday and continuing into the weekend, marking the third consecutive weekend that downtown D.C. streets could be closed amid demonstrations over police violence.

June 20, 2020 at 12:29 AM EDT

Juneteenth celebrations marked by marches, protests and added significance

Demonstrators spread across Washington on Friday to celebrate the death of slavery 155 years ago and continue the national street crusade against the racial oppression that pervades the country today.

On foot, by car and bicycle they came to march, pray, dance and vent in the third week of almost daily demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

Students, teachers, military veterans and sports stars came to protest poor education and health care for African Americans, as well as police brutality and institutional racism.

They brought umbrellas to block the rain, megaphones to be heard, and horns to make music.

By late evening, the marches and speeches of the day near Lafayette Square had given way to music and laughter along U Street, making the protests feel more like a street festival.

Around 10 p.m. a small group of protesters scaled the statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike near Judiciary Square. They had come prepared with ropes and chains in hopes of toppling the statue, which has long been the site of protests. After more than an hour they succeeded, and then set the statue on fire. Police were nearby but did not intervene.

Friday’s rallies marked the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth — June 19, 1865 — the day a military decree was announced in Galveston, Tex., informing thousands of enslaved people in the Confederate state that they were free.

African Americans have embraced the date for generations as the symbolic end of almost 250 years of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth “really is in some ways the second Independence Day in this country,” Lonnie G. Bunch III, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, said as crowds assembled Friday morning.

“For many people, Juneteenth raises the fundamental question of the power and impact of freedom, and the fragility of freedom,” said Bunch, the first African American to serve as Smithsonian secretary. Read the full story here.

By Justin Wm. Moyer, Petula Dvorak and Michael Ruane
June 20, 2020 at 12:05 AM EDT

Protesters topple Albert Pike statue

Protesters were jubilant late Friday after they toppled the statue of Confederate General Albert Pike near Judiciary Square.

“Black Lives matter,” they cheered as the only confederate statue in the District fell to the ground. "Let it burn,” someone said. And the group set it on fire. D.C. police looked on but did not intervene during the efforts of the group, which lasted about an hour.

It began after 10 p.m., when four protesters scaled the statue. They had come prepared with rope and chains, tying them around the statue and beginning to tug and pull.

Dozens of others cheered the effort, though many said they did not know who the statue represented.

Once it came down, President Trump responded to the scene in a tweet, saying “the D.C. Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country!”

The statue of Pike was erected in 1901. He was a transplanted Yankee who supported the Confederacy and was made a brigadier general in its army. Pike rewrote the lyrics to “Dixie” so they were more likely to inspire Confederate soldiers. “Southrons, hear your country call you!” Pike’s version begins. “Up, lest worse than death befall you!”

Later, in Washington, Pike was involved in the Freemasons and served as Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction. Pike’s critics contend that he also was instrumental in forming the Ku Klux Klan. Masons insist evidence does not support that, but he was against integrating Masonic lodges.

On Friday night, the protesters tried again and again to pull down the statue. A couple dozen people spent more than 2 minutes tugging in unison on a rope.

“One two, one two,” they said. But the statue did not appear to budge. “Throw it over the head,” someone said, suggesting others tie the rope around the head of the statue. “Tie it around the armpit,” another person said.

“I don’t think is coming down,” one man quietly said to his friend. But as 11 p.m. closed in, the group continued its effort.

John Henry Williams, 23, said he didn’t know who Albert Pike was before today, but learning that he was a confederate general was enough for him.

Williams, an organizer with the Sunrise Movement — an environmental group — had seen a tweet advertising the march and joined, not knowing what was planned. But once the marchers began trying to bring down the statue, he stood on the side with a megaphone, helping to lead the group in chants.

“I’m fighting for a future I can believe in and want to live in,” Williams said. “We always kick the can down the road for someone else to get arrested, for someone else to do something, and we eventually have to shoulder the burden.”

FInally, at around 11:15, the statue came down.

This was our mission,” a leader said. “Now let’s march together.” And they went into the street.

By Perry Stein, Clarence Williams and John Kelly
June 19, 2020 at 10:25 PM EDT

A call to ‘defund police’ from one group of marchers

A group of about 200 protesters started at Black Lives Plaza and marched through windy streets that cut through the Mall after nightfall.

The leaders of the protest held an oversized patio umbrella with the shell facing forward like a shield. “Defund Police!” it read.

As the group marched through the commercial streets of downtown, a few spray-painted the D.C. flag and other symbols on boarded-up windows. Some carried drums and used the beats as a backdrop to the chants of, “No justice, no peace.” Some of their chants included expletives aimed at the police. “You’re gonna lose your badge,” another said.

By Perry Stein
June 19, 2020 at 10:03 PM EDT

Fiery bullhorn sermon at gathering near White House

The Rev. Devin Turner, pastor of the Revolution Church, delivered a fiery sermon about 7:30 p.m. through a bullhorn to several hundred people near the temporary fencing on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the White House.

As a handful of uniformed Secret Service officers watched, including two with assault rifles, Turner called out “evil white people” who had distorted the Bible, ignored its teachings or used it as a prop, as President Trump did after federal law enforcement forcibly swept the streets near St. John’s Episcopal Church more than two weeks ago. He reminded the crowd that, “Jesus was a Jewish immigrant who hid in Africa from a white rich oppressor” — like “this guy,” he said, pointing to the White House.

Turner specifically called out clergy who rail against abortion but turn a blind eye to the maltreatment and violence done to African Americans. “We need to let some of those pastors know that black lives matter in the womb and outside the womb,” Turner, 37, of Northeast, said. “We don’t see any of these white pastors — these megachurch white pastors — saying anything about the injustices we face every day.”

Not long ago, he said, a group of white and black clergy got together to pray, and several white pastors apologized to their black counterparts about having been silent for too long on racism. “I said, ‘That’s a good step, bro,’ “ Turner recounted.

But he also told them it wasn’t enough. “You’ve got to take your white privilege, take your resources, and take your congregation and tell them to give a damn about the downtrodden. Tell them to care about the poor. Tell them not to care about tax breaks for rich people, white people, who only want to get richer and richer.”

By Fredrick Kunkle
June 19, 2020 at 8:49 PM EDT

Bringing the community together with drums

Steps away from the main stage of the Moechella concert on 14th and U streets, a smaller crowd circled around a group of six young men playing a drum line. One by one, people jumped into the circle to dance and booty-shake as the crowd cheered.

Tyrique Gregory, 20, of Southeast Washington, helped start the group, DrumlineElite, about two years ago to give an outlet to drum line students coming out of high school who aren’t able to go to college. They’ve spent several days playing in front of the White House and wanted to be a part of the Juneteenth celebration as well.

“Drums just bring people together,” Gregory said. And that’s what today was all about: “Just bringing the community together as one instead of killing each other,” he said.

By Samantha Schmidt
June 19, 2020 at 8:20 PM EDT

As evening falls, Downtown is more street festival than street protest

As evening fell in downtown Washington, Black Lives Matter Plaza seemed as much a street festival as a street protest. Groups of protesters shouting “George Floyd” and “Black Lives Matter” rolled through occasionally. Other times, crowds would chat in the street, admire posters stuck on fences in front of the White House, listen to music blasted from PA systems or eat barbecue on the grill at St. John’s Episcopal Church — the scene of the presidential photo op just days ago.

People were dancing in the street, chalking and spray-painting messages in the pavement. No police were visible anywhere. People of all ages and races strolled around, listening to music, eating at barbecue tents and an ice cream kiosk and buying T-shirts from the many vendors still on hand. Most were wearing masks to protect themselves and others from the still-raging coronavirus pandemic.

Street medics were on hand to dispense free hand sanitizer, masks or ibuprofen to anyone in need. In Lafayette Park, people sat on metal benches, removing their masks to eat something, drink something or smoke something. People snapped photos of a statue of Andrew Jackson — behind a layer of fence where passerby had stuck signs reading “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.”

The protest was still happening — it was just happening casually, unfolding in its own time and on its own terms, and with very little engagement from Secret Service officers or other authorities.

The crowd remained several thousand strong, widely spread out. Several hundred gathered at the low barrier along Pennsylvania Avenue across from the White House, calling for defunding of the police. Three Secret Service officers , two with semiautomatic rifles slung over their shoulders, stood across the way. Tension ratcheted up slightly when the second heavily armed officer appeared.

Garic Young, 21, a West Virginia University student, took the megaphone and jeered the officers, asking why they had appeared carrying weapons before a peaceful crowd. He talked about the deep injustice ingrained into the US justice system, reminding people that many, pressed into chain gangs and other forced labor, perpetuated the system of slavery. Then he led crowd with call and response chants.

“People need to know what’s going on,” he said in an interview later. ““I want people to think critically about the entire general system that adds to the oppression of minorities.”

But the serious nature of that discussion happened only intermittently. At the corner of 14th and U Streets, two friends lifted a plastic tub full of a translucent yellow liquid up to the light to better examine its contents.

“They said orange juice was in here, but...” one woman said, trailing off.

“Listen,” her friend interrupted, brandishing her own container. “Everyone here is drunk.”

The two, who declined to give their names, were among countless demonstrators who by early evening had fully embraced the concert vibe that had overtaken U Street on the warm, muggy evening.

Plumes of marijuana smoke wafted through the air. People with coolers sold homemade concoctions to demonstrators by the bottle. A man passed out tiny bottles of Makers Mark from a messenger bag.

“Turn this party up,” he called.

The concert at U Street was entering its second hour around 8 p.m. when a reveler in the crowd began to shoot off fireworks into the air.

Several in the crowd cheered. Others pressed past groups of people drinking frozen margaritas and mixed drinks in pouches to get away from the falling debris. From the stage erected on a flatbed truck at the center of the intersection, a performer pleaded with the man to consider the safety of others.

“Come on, big dog. Why you doing that in the crowd?” he said. “I understand it’s Independence Day, but take that to the back, dog. Take that somewhere else.”

By Justin Wm. Moyer, Fredrick Kunkle, Paul M. Duggan and Marissa Lang
June 19, 2020 at 8:19 PM EDT

Car caravan celebrates black lives and Father’s Day

A dozen or so cars wound through Ward 8 neighborhoods, including Condon Terrace and Congress Heights, blaring their horns in a Juneteenth caravan designed both to speak out for black life and to launch Father’s Day weekend.

Daisia Robinson, 25, sat atop a white convertible that led the procession, draped in a Black Lives Matter flag as she shouted through a bullhorn, “Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in our community,” near the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X avenues. Father’s Day balloons swirled and car windows displayed messages such as “My hands are up, don’t shoot!” or challenges to Southeast residents to “put the guns down, pick the kids up!”

Offers of inspiration, love and hope for black men, women and families was the purpose of the parade, said Lashonia Thompson-El, one of the organizers and a founding member of a group of formerly incarcerated women known as "The Wire.“

"Black men have been victimized more than any men in American history, probably more than any men in the world,” Thompson-El said. “The victimization of black men is basically destroying black families. We need them to be strong and healthy and productive and they can’t be when they are struggling with PTSD, over-policing and mass incarceration.”

Block by block, the caravan was answered by refrains of cheers, thumbs up and smiles.

By Clarence Williams
June 19, 2020 at 7:29 PM EDT

‘I came to be around my brothers and sisters’

Lafayette Square briefly fell quiet Friday afternoon, except for the distant sound of music that played through nearby Black Lives Matter Plaza.

A group of about a dozen people circled a fenced-off statue of President Andrew Jackson. Strangers had decorated the metal barrier with mournful posters, messages calling for justice and photos of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — a tribute to the last several days of protest.

Mickael Williams, 30, and Judy, 28, who declined to give her last name, read a poster with the words: “BLACK TRANS LIVES MATTER.” “We’re free-ish,” said Judy, a doctor from Silver Spring, Md. “We’re still being slaughtered and we’re being hunted to this day.”

Judy and Mickael Williams, also a doctor, spent the afternoon protesting but also came to celebrate. “I came to be around my brothers and sisters, to celebrate being black,” Williams said, adding that the last few weeks of national protests and the pandemic haven’t offered many opportunities to be joyful. “It’s good to see that we’re supported by not just black people,” said Judy, referring to the diverse crowds that marched through the city. “I hope this isn’t it. I hope this just doesn’t end.”

But the park wasn’t quiet for long; around 6:30 p.m., a group paraded toward the White House, banging drums and clanking metal bells. “Black lives matter!” they shouted. The group of about 50 quickly swelled to about 300. “We got slaves in the prison right now,” a black organizer shouted into a megaphone. “That’s why we’re here. We want change!”

By Lauren Lumpkin
June 19, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT

Organized labor joins the protests

Earlier this month, a group of masked young men stormed the headquarters of the AFL-CIO on what is now Black Lives Matter Plaza and lit a fire in the lobby after a protest at Lafayette Square.

Today, a group of labor activists — some affiliated with that very union — marched down the Plaza, shouting, “Black lives matter.” The group, which included ironworkers and painters, marched through Lafayette Square, headed over to McPherson Square and returned to 16th and H, where they were greeted with cheers by other protesters.

Todd Allen, a white ironworker from Delaware who carried a banner for Ironworkers Local No. 5, said he was here to represent his union and his “colorful rainbow” of a family.

“What happened to George Floyd could have happened to any of them,” he said. “Systematic racism is such a part of our country that in order to change it we have to confront it.”

Allen said he didn’t object to the fact that the first floor of the AFL-CIO had been destroyed just days ago. The way he saw it, sometimes you have to destroy the old to make way for the new.

“The world won’t change with a whisper,” he said.

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 19, 2020 at 6:59 PM EDT

Girls celebrate in front of Howard Theatre

Kamoni and Kaylee Harrison, 8 and 5 years old, sat on top of a car and raised their fists in the air.

“I am proud to be black,” Kamoni shouted.

“Wait, I’m black, too!” Kaylee shouted at her sister.

The girls have visited Black Lives Matter Plaza every other day for the last week. They look at the protesters and their mom, Teresa Ball, tries to explain the significance of posters taped to the fences.

“Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. were the first two people I learned about in school,” Kamoni said. “That’s a good thing.”

By Emily Davies
June 19, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT

Graduate earns kudos on march

When 9-year-old Anmerin Cole spotted a woman wearing a graduation grown and cap, he ran up to her.

“My son is so proud of you. Can he take a picture with you?” Anmerin’s mother asked.

The graduate, Jasmine Williams, said yes. The 28-year-old said she just received her master's degree in forensic psychology and wanted to combine her personal big moment with the big protests unfolding across the country. She also wanted to show people that black people can be forensic psychologists.

And that resonated with Anmerin, who is black and lives in Maryland.

“She graduated and I wanted to graduate too,” said Anmerin, who just completed third grade.

As Williams stood in Black Lives Matter Plaza and took photos, protesters wished her congratulations. A young girl gave her a rose.

“Take your walk queen,” a woman said.

“This was a tumultuous time, and amidst it, I graduated,” Williams said. “This is a big moment.”

By Perry Stein
June 19, 2020 at 6:45 PM EDT

Demonstrators march to the beat of a drum line, music

Protesters turned downtown D.C. into a jubilant celebration of black lives as the rain stopped and the sun reemerged on Friday afternoon.

Following a truck with live music, hundreds of people boogied and moved through downtown, ending up on U Street NW. Drivers in stopped cars honked their horns and cranked up their music, and store owners and local residents stood on front porches cheering and raising glasses of wine to marchers.

“The spirits here are just so good,” said Amber Shephard, 29, who normally spends Juneteenth with her family. “It feels so good to all be together. I definitely want to do this again next year.”

Of the many hours Shephard has spent in downtown D.C., her favorite moment was Friday, when a go-go band played Luther Vandross’s “Never Too Much” on Black Lives Matter Plaza. She couldn’t help but dance.

As the celebration continued down U Street, Kari Worthy, 14, emerged from her mother’s salon, Shapes Beauty Bar, to watch.

“It’s sad that it’s still happening but it’s good that people are doing stuff to try to minimize the problem,” Worthy said of police violence. She had learned about Juneteenth only Friday morning, when the first round of protesters marched on U Street. “I think this is pretty cool,” she said, staring at the crowd.

Paul Tinsley, a 22-year-old nail technician at the salon, chimed in. “Look at this D.C. culture, this go-go culture,” he said, filming the protesters as they danced. “I just love this city.”

At 6 p.m., a drum line had joined the protest.

Six young men in masks who call themselves “Drumline Elite” hoisted clear-sided drums up over their shoulders, stepped into the middle of the throng outside Lafayette Square and began to play.

The sound bounced off the sides of shuttered office buildings and through a crowd of hundreds as they poured out of the park and began to march north.

Chloe McCrae, 26, of Southeast Washington bobbed and jogged in time with the rolling beat.

As she passed a volunteer handing out surgical masks, she reached out for one to tuck inside the cloth mask she had been wearing all day. She needed the reinforcement, she said, noting the sweat on her brow and the makeup bleeding into the fabric.

She was one of hundreds following the lead of a flatbed truck, amplifying the music of the go-go musicians on board. It rolled past armored military vehicles blockading the downtown protest zone and soldiers in green fatigues.

As the truck rolled up 14th Street NW, onlookers seated at tables outside restaurants and residents walking their dogs whooped and clapped. One woman lifted her head from a bowl of salad to raise her fist in support. A man eating pizza danced, bouncing a slice to the music.

“I think a lot of people feel like we need to be here today, because it’s Juneteenth, and we need to show up for freedom,” McCrae said. “We all bleed the same. We all hurt the same and love the same. Why do people look at [black people] like we’re different, like we’re a threat?”

By Emily Davies and Marissa Lang
June 19, 2020 at 6:36 PM EDT

Protesters clash with driver at 16th and V Street

A group of about five protesters stood holding a banner at the intersection of 16th and V Street NW when a man driving a silver SUV turned west onto V, in the direction of a group of dozens more protesters gathering in front of the D.C. police station down the block, witnesses said.

The group of pedestrians tried to block the SUV from driving down the street, telling him there was a large group of people there.

“We did this to help him, just to let him know ‘don’t go that way,’ ” Eleonore Cunaud, a 25-year-old D.C. resident and French national, recounted.

Her boyfriend, who asked not to be named, held up his bike to block the driver. But the man kept driving, knocking him onto the ground. His shins were scraped and bloodied.

The driver then reversed, hitting two other protesters behind the car. It didn’t appear anyone was seriously injured.

The driver then got out of the car and yelled at the protesters, shouting “f--- you, I’m trying to go home,” Cunaud said.

D.C. police interviewed the driver and some witnesses, but Cunaud and her boyfriend declined to file a report.

“Let him go home, he’s stressed,” the man with the bike told an officer.

By Samantha Schmidt
June 19, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT

New way to celebrate Juneteenth for Baltimore sisters

Marching in a group of hundreds of protesters on 15th Street NW, stopping traffic on the way to Meridian Hill Park, were two sisters who had traveled from Baltimore for their first D.C. protest since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

Every year, Jordyn Borel, a 27-year-old lab tech, would celebrate Juneteenth with her extended family over brisket, rib-eyes and lots of barbecue. “They go crazy,” she said. But this was the first time she had ever celebrated Juneteenth “on such a large scale.”

“It’s something we’ve celebrated at my house my entire life, but to see the world recognize what it means to us, it’s an inspiring moment,” Jordyn said.

Jordyn and her sister, Kennedy Borel, an 18-year-old graduating high school senior, wore matching shirts made by their father, showing the words “Unapologetically Melanated."

It was moving for Kennedy to see so many people acknowledging and honoring a day that has always been so important to her. But, she said, “it’s weird to me that someone had to die for people to celebrate it.”

By Samantha Schmidt
June 19, 2020 at 6:15 PM EDT

Climate activists adopt BLM tactics

More than 100 climate activists marched late Friday afternoon from Adams Morgan to meet the larger group of protesters at the White House.

The coalition of groups, Shutdown DC, was behind a number of climate protests in the fall that deliberately shut down busy D.C. intersections during rush hour, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Liz Butler, an organizer with Friends of the Earth, said that wasn’t in the plans today. Instead, she said, the group would be adopting the tactics of Black Lives Matter groups organizing the demonstrations.

“Today the goal is to be in solidarity, to show there is no climate justice without racial justice,” she said.

The mostly white protesters rotated through the familiar chants.

“Say her name! Breonna Taylor!”

“No justice, no peace!”

“Defund the police!”

D.C. police on bicycles blocked crossing streets for the protesters on their route. And even as protesters called to defund the police and chanted expletives at the agency, officers and protesters seemed to be cooperating with one another.

“Hey, what route are you taking?” an officer asked one of the men leading the protesters.

“South,” the man said.

“Thanks,” the officer said.

By Perry Stein
June 19, 2020 at 6:09 PM EDT

D.C. police can’t resist the go-go music

As protesters left Black Lives Matter Plaza, a dance party flooded down I Street NW and turned on 17th Street NW. Crowds of people shimmied and bounced together as a truck carrying a live go-go band blasted music.

Along the way, D.C. police officers and military officials standing in front of a tank began to tap their feet and eventually sway from side to side. Protesters stopped to film the officers, giving them fist bumps and posing for selfies.

By Emily Davies
June 19, 2020 at 6:06 PM EDT

Rain-drenched protesters, chants, free T-shirts

Rain-drenched protesters, including dozens who had been marching since noon, arrived at Freedom Plaza around 4:30 p.m.

Angum Check, 22, mounted a flight of steps and called through a megaphone: “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

The congregation echoed the line back.

“It is our duty to protect our freedom. It is our duty to win!” Check shouted before thanking the crowd for joining the march.

The crowd dispersed and some of its members left in search of other demonstrations. Others lingered in the street. A group of about three dozen mostly black demonstrators huddled on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 13 Street NW, where organizers passed out free T-shirts with the words “In Defense of Black Lives” printed on the front.

Briana Cortesiano, 27, grabbed one of the mustard-colored shirts and studied the words on the back: “Defund police,” “Invest in communities,” “Trump must resign.”

Cortesiano said she wanted to be “a part of history” and marked her first time observing Friday’s holiday by protesting.

“I’ve known about Juneteenth, but this is my first time celebrating,” the actress said. “This is how I wanted to spend it.”

Kemi Ajayi, a 23-year-old public school teacher, had a similar thought when she decided to join thousands of others protesting throughout the city.

“I’m here because black lives matter,” Ajayi said, adding that she dedicated her life to the cause while studying sociology in college. “It’s inspired me to become a teacher and inspire the next generation to have a better future than I had.”

By Lauren Lumpkin
June 19, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT

Fraternity registers voters at BLM Plaza

With music blaring and protesters dancing in the background, Taji Harris, 24, registered people to vote.

“We are here trying to instill confidence in our community, especially in our young community, that voting is part of the revolution,” said Harris, who was at the protest with his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.

Harris had never registered people to vote at a protest before, but he said he wanted to encourage civic activism to honor Juneteenth.

Over two hours, he had registered 15 voters. “I wish I had more people, but I think it’s a testament to who is here because most of them say they are already registered,” he said.

Harris was preparing for a long night of registration, which he facilitates through contactless QR codes.

He and his fraternity brothers also had 160 pounds of chicken left to grill.

“As long as people are here with their cellphones and as long as they are hungry, I will be here to register and feed them,” he said, adjusting his purple mask that rested over his surgical mask.

“It’s going to be a long night,” Harris said.

By Emily Davies
June 19, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT

Protesters greet residents of senior care facility

As they returned toward Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, protesters marched in front of a senior care facility on 15th Street NW, where Lillie Baker, 87, danced and clapped and threw her hands in the air.

Earlier in the day, she had spent her Juneteenth watching protesters from her balcony at the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments. But she decided she wanted to be closer, to cheer for the young people marching by.

“They are letting people know they’re not going to take it,” she said. “I’m glad to see it. I wish I was younger, I would be out there myself!”

“The young people are taking over,” she added.

Next to her, another resident, Tanya Parker, a 73-year old native Washingtonian, let go of her walker to film the protesters. This is a Juneteenth unlike any other she’s seen, Parker said.

“It’s change, a good change,” Parker said. “Back in the ’60s, we couldn’t have did this. It’s a good change.”

By Samantha Schmidt
June 19, 2020 at 5:46 PM EDT

A wooden crucifix and a Woodstock of grievance

In a steady rain at Black Lives Matter Plaza, the earlier Juneteenth festival air vanished and the crowd swelled to a few thousand, backed up along the plaza and 16th Street NW from the park. Men and women on the stage with bullhorns led the crowd in chants of “defund the police,” “all power to the people” and other slogans. The mood shifted markedly, from celebratory to angry and aggrieved — though still peaceful.

It’s a kind of Woodstock of grievance — drenching rain that no one seems bothered by, people bobbing to loud music in their soaked clothes or stretched out on muddy, wet grass, people onstage in the downpour chanting out anti-police slogans.

Nearly naked, River Rubalcava, 37, posed on a crucifix he cobbled together from wood scraps that he found in trash bins. He used his grandfather’s tool chest — it didn’t have a hammer. He bought a marker at CVS, ripped his shirt apart and made a covering with BLM across the front.

Rubalcava drove here from San Antonio with his 7-month-old pup, Love, a full tank of gas, $60 and a plan.

“I want him,” Rubalcava said, pointing to the White House, “to know that in the end, everyone has to stand before God.” He ministers to the homeless and homebound, he said, and is trying to start his own church — BFF, the Brethren Fundamental Fellowship.

By Paul M. Duggan and Petula Dvorak
June 19, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT

Protesters at Wilson Building demand that D.C.'s mayor defund the police department

Shortly after 4 p.m., a rain-drenched crowd of hundreds reached the Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW to demand that D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) defund the police.

“Who is this justice for?” Hilda Jordan shouted into a megaphone, standing on the steps of the Wilson Building as a fellow organizer held an umbrella over her head.

“We owe it to our dead martyrs to march, but we are out here changing this for us,” she said. “This is for you!”

She told the crowd that the District has the highest incarceration rate per capita, and that black people are disproportionately killed by police.

“We are underserved and overkilled by our police department,” she said. “We want this mayor to know that in this city, black lives matter.”

As the rain fell, the group continued marching up 14th Street.

“The rain ain’t going to stop us until we can literally sleep safe in our beds,” Jordan shouted.

By Samantha Schmidt
June 19, 2020 at 4:42 PM EDT

Don’t Mute DC kicks off Juneteenth with go-go in Shaw

Beneath the clenched fists emblazoned on banners hung across the Howard Theatre, the party was just getting started Friday.

Go-go bands Sugar Bear and EU began jamming on the back of a flat-bed truck as demonstrators and revelers gathered to dance. The signature percussive sound of go-go filled the street as cars honked to the beat and drivers leaned out their windows to capture the scene on their phones.

It was more party than protest in Shaw, where hand-drawn signs calling for criminal justice reform and declaring “we will not be silenced” were largely abandoned as the music picked up and cheers rose from the crowd. Pairs of strangers shuffled and shimmied together, pausing only momentarily to readjust their face-masks, worn to protect against the spread of the still-raging coronavirus.

Cali, 3, a small girl in a tutu and Disney princess-patterned face mask, picked up a green sign that had fallen to the ground and held it high above her head.

“Go-go is DC and DC is me,” the sign read. Her grandmother, Star Mixon, 42, a native of Northwest Washington, snapped a photo and laughed.

Though Mixon has lived in the D.C. area her whole life — and raised children and now grandchildren here — her family was never one to observe the Juneteenth holiday, she said. But this year, she said, felt different. More significant. More urgent.

After weeks of protests over the killing of George Floyd and ongoing issues of systemic racism, Mixon said she wanted her family to witness black joy and celebration along with the pain.

“I wanted the kids especially to see this place like this,” she said, gesturing to the historic Howard Theatre. “Let them see this unity and see how this is where [D.C. black culture] all started.”

Her daughter, Kenya Mixon, 16, nodded. “It’s cool seeing all this togetherness,” she said. But Kenya still viewed it as a protest. “Being here to celebrate on this day when we were supposedly freed is good, I guess,” she said. “But we’re not all that free yet.”

Down the road, D.C. Councilman Trayon White (D-Ward 8) posed for photos with constituents and admirers in a neon face mask bearing his name.

“I’m here to stand in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters who have been killed, who have been jailed, who have been raped, who have been set on by dogs in this struggle,” White said.

He said he supports protesters’ demands to divert funds from the D.C. police department and funnel the money into social services.

As the crowd bopped its way past 7th Street NW, the intersection where the effort dubbed #DontMuteDC began — a push-back against forces of gentrification — the group paused for a moment to dance in the street.

The music, pumping out of speakers perched on the backs of trucks, drowned out the go-go streaming onto the sidewalk from the front of Central Communications, the Metro PCS vendor at the center of the controversy that ultimately led to go-go being named the official music of D.C.

Owner Don Campbell stood outside his store, taking in the scene. He wished they could stay longer, he said, and gather right there in front of his shop. But the crowd continued on toward their ultimate destination: The White House.

By Marissa Lang
June 19, 2020 at 4:34 PM EDT

Protester says demonstrations are a moment of promise for herself and society

Grace Odrick, carrying a trombone in one hand and a sign in the other, was hurrying to catch up to the other horn players who had just matched north on 14th Street NW, playing Peter Tosh’s “Get Up, Stand Up.”

“This is a magnificent event,” Odrick, 57, said. “I like history. I thought it was important to celebrate my own African American history in spite of the rain, in spite of my weight — I’m overweight — and my leg is hurting.”

Her sign said, “No More Auction Block” — a message of refusal and promise.

“It means anything that is holding me back from being myself — changing from within and changing society, whatever it is: overeating; being shy; being a female musician,” said Odrick, a D.C. resident who described herself as a poet and advocate for people with mental illness.

By Fredrick Kunkle
June 19, 2020 at 4:30 PM EDT

In pouring rain, crowd remembers black lives lost in D.C.

A group of hundreds of protesters marched down 14th Street NW, their cardboard signs wilting in the pouring rain. One man painted Black Lives Matter on his umbrella. Businesses to their right and left had posted signs in their windows saying the same. A group of cyclists led the way, and cars honked as they marched toward the mayor’s office.

Jasmine Baker, 26, a public charter schoolteacher in the Anacostia neighborhood, stood near the front of the crowd, wearing purple pigtails, a mask with the words “I can’t breathe,” earrings in the shape of the African continent, and a hula hoop attached to her backpack.

Her drenched sign read: “My skin shouldn’t be a death sentence.”

Baker walked up to one of the protest organizers, Hilda Jordan, and urged her to say the names of those who have died at the hands of police in the District. “We’re going to take a moment to learn some new names that sadly aren’t that new to D.C. communities,” Jordan said into the megaphone as Baker told her the names to repeat to the crowd: D’Quan Young. Marqueese Alston. Jeff Price.

Baker said she has been coming to the protests every week since late May.

“Celebrating Juneteenth is celebrating all of us being free, but to me, that’s too late,” Baker said. “To me, this isn’t about Juneteenth, it’s just another day of protest."

By Samantha Schmidt
June 19, 2020 at 4:15 PM EDT

At Freedom Day at the Lincoln Memorial, speakers shine a light on injustices

As storm clouds rolled in over the Lincoln Memorial, hundreds of protesters in the Freedom Day March gathered on the marble steps to hear the testimony of some of its organizers.

“This is not about me,” said Malik Harris. “This is about us!”

Speakers sought to shine a light not just on what they called the racism of the American justice system, but the inequality racism has wrought among all sectors of society.

Sanjeev K. Sriram, a pediatrician in the District, said he was born in rural Virginia at a hospital founded at the behest of “black and brown people.” As a health-care practitioner, he thought his industry had failed those it purported to serve, instead enriching a small number of corporations.

“Our health-care system was not built for us,” he said. “They are failing at racial equality because they are too busy succeeding at profits, not people.”

At the edge of the crowd, Scharon Ball, a 58-year-old woman from Maryland, took in the scene from one of the steps. She said she had watched the recent protests with interest, but this was the first time she had come out.

“It feels like it’s time to participate,” she said. “People are dying needlessly.”

Ball said that she didn’t expect substantive change from the current administration, but thought the recent demonstrations across the nation were helping Congress listen to what the American people were saying.

“Protest is American,” she said. “This is how we get our government to see.”

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 19, 2020 at 4:08 PM EDT

Rain dampens veterans’ turnout at Lafayette Square

At Lafayette Square, a planned “Veterans for Black Lives” march turned out to be no bigger than an infantry squad — just six men crossing Black Lives Matter Plaza and entering the park, chanting and waving placards. They are members of a group called Continue to Serve.

One of the organizers, Nick Walenga, 28, who left the Navy last August after nine years, said about 90 military veterans had planned to take part in the march and rally, but the threat of thunderstorms kept all but a half-dozen of them away.

“We’re veterans who stand for black lives and social justice,” Walenga, who lives in Upstate New York, said as rain began to fall. “When we took our oaths, we swore to protect the Constitution. The Constitution stands for justice for all. And we haven’t been able to achieve that since our founding.”

In the park, the six stood by a low barrier, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, chanting, “Black lives matter!”

Steady but moderate rain began washing the protesters and streets.

By Paul M. Duggan
June 19, 2020 at 3:54 PM EDT

At Malcolm X Park protest, chants of ‘Defund police’

At Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, shortly after 3 p.m. Friday, a group of 100 to 200 people sat in groups on the grass as the clouds began to darken overhead. Yards away, one person lay in a hammock, children scootered and a woman lay reading a book on a blanket. A man used drumsticks to bang on two buckets flipped upside down. Those sitting in the grass stood as protest organizers began speaking into megaphones.

“We are here on Juneteenth to fight for the freedom that we have long been robbed of!” Hilda Jordan, 22, shouted into a megaphone. “We are here on Juneteenth to demand justice for our lives now!”

The only way to achieve this justice, Jordan said, is by defunding the police, “because that is the only way to get these murderers off these streets.”

The group planned to march to the mayor’s office to demand that she propose a budget that prioritizes black lives at a time when black people are dying at disproportionate rates, both from the pandemic and at the hands of police. “All right, y’all — let’s get this started!” she shouted. The group planned to march down 15th Street NW and then turn onto U Street.

“We are taking back that street and demanding our freedom, y’all,” she said. The crowd swelled to hundreds as it marched, just as raindrops began to fall.

As the leaders shouted “Black lives matter!” the marchers shouted “Defund police!”

By Samantha Schmidt
June 19, 2020 at 3:44 PM EDT

An autographed Audi sends many messages

"Here’s a pen. Go ahead,” Jeremy Berheisel said, inviting two women to vandalize — or maybe decorate — his Audi A4.

It’s hard to tell the car was once black. Nearly every inch — wheels and interior, too — is covered in Black Lives Matter graffiti.

Berheisel, 41, is a presidential candidate. He’s official, among the 1,109 candidates who have filed for the 2020 election.

Berheisel has been campaigning in D.C. since the impeachment hearings, when a rapper friend of his signed the glove box in gold Sharpie and he began letting others sign it, too.

He said he’s a retired Army platoon sergeant who is tired of President Trump and tired of the racial division in America, which he recognized as a white man in the armed forces.

In the field, people were united, he said. But he saw blatant discrimination in promotions and personnel decisions. And he talks about these divisions with the people scrawling on his car.

“This brings us together, it brings ideas together,” he said, giving onlookers a tour of all the sentiments expressed on his car, many of them too profane to quote here.

Lilliana Cotton, 2, raised her chubby arms in triumph standing on the hood of the car while her parents took photos.

“We came all the way from North Carolina for this,” her father, Omar Graves, 37, said.

He said he’s been racially profiled while driving nine times in North Carolina. Only once was the interaction positive.

“I was going 50 in a 45,” Graves said. “I put my hands out the window and the police officer laughed,” he said. “He asked me what I was doing and told him: ‘I’m afraid you’re going to kill me.”

He said the officer kept laughing at his panic and didn’t give him a ticket.

“That was the good interaction,” he said.

He’s been at every protest he could get to since Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in 2012.

“The killing has to stop,” he said. “We’re not saying all police are bad. But there has to be transparency. There has to be reform.”

By Petula Dvorak
June 19, 2020 at 3:09 PM EDT

‘Thank God you have awoken': Protesters take a knee at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Protesters marched from the Mall to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, where protest organizer Morgan Barnhart encouraged them to take a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time George Floyd was under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

As the seconds counted down, Barnhart imagined what Floyd had gone through, narrating the experience for the crowd. Floyd had felt the pain of the concrete, she said. Floyd had called out for his mother, she said.

“If you feel hurt — if you are tired, if you are shaking — imagine how George Floyd felt,” she said. The crowd knelt for the allotted time. When the time was over, Barnhart asked the crowd to shake off the pain. The group stood and headed to the Lincoln Memorial.

“I don’t know why the world had to see a man die for eight minutes to wake up,” Barnhart said. “But thank God you have awoken.”

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 19, 2020 at 2:32 PM EDT

A black lawmaker, anxious for change, grapples with ‘defund the police’

In the year and a half since he joined the Montgomery County Council 18 months ago, Will Jawando has tried to increase police oversight and held town halls on police brutality. Since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he has attended seven protests and vigils — “an endless cycle of sadness, anger, numbness and determination.”

More and more people in his suburban Maryland county and across the country are calling for police reform. What that looks like, however, is still hotly contentious.

On the left, activists want to “defund the police” — that is, to divert funding away from police budgets to community programs that preempt the need for police intervention.

Others — including many local, state and federal lawmakers — say that approach is too extreme, instead calling for stronger regulations or more officer training. None of Jawando’s council colleagues have embraced the “defund” movement, and County Executive Marc Elrich (D) dismissed large cuts to the police budget as a “utopian vision.”

By Rebecca Tan
June 19, 2020 at 2:20 PM EDT

‘I just had to show up’: Crowds and families gather on Mall for ‘Freedom Day March’

Hundreds of people gathered on the Mall about 1 p.m. across from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture for a “Freedom Day March” to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

As the sun came out and the day grew hotter, Kevin Cramer, one of the event’s organizers, directed attendees to free bottled water while fielding questions from a German television reporter.

“Today is Juneteenth,” he said. “We’re supposed to be celebrating freedom. But we know black people in America are only conditionally free.”

Cramer, a 24-year-old from Wilmington, Del., had been at protests at the White House following the death of George Floyd weeks ago when authorities deployed pepper spray. But Friday was a different scene, with protesters — including families with young children — waiting in the shade for the march to begin. Cramer credited the negative reaction to the violent response at the White House and the ongoing pandemic for the change.

“I thank god for coronavirus,” he said. “Coronavirus has allowed us to be awoke.”

Aminah Mellion, a 39-year-old public school employee from Springfield, Va., was at the march with her 6-year-old daughter Ella, who was holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign. The pair had left Ella’s dad and younger sibling home for their first trip out since quarantine began.

“It’s nice to get out of the house,” Ella said. “I’ve been stuck in the house a long time.”

Mellion said she thought it was important for Ella “to be part of this moment.”

“I just had to show up,” she said. “I couldn’t not be a part of it.”

At the edge of the crowd, Ken and Pat Moss, a married couple in their 60s from Silver Spring, held a protest sign featuring a portrait of Floyd that Pat had painted. The pair remembered marching on this same ground against the Vietnam War a generation ago.

“It’s important for white people to show up,” Pat said. “The work we did was unfinished. We didn’t even know how unfinished it was.”

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 19, 2020 at 2:03 PM EDT

Wizards and Mystics players lead march from Capital One Arena

Players from the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics began a march with a Friday morning rally outside Capital One Arena, where hundreds of mask-wearing supporters gathered, including two children in a toy wagon with a “BLM,” as in Black Lives Matter, sign on the side.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Mystics guard Natasha Cloud and the former coach of the Georgetown Hoyas who serves as vice president of player engagement for Monumental Sports, John Thompson III, spoke before leading the demonstration through the streets of Penn Quarter and culminating in another rally at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Beal’s remarks included recounting an encounter with a police officer about two years ago when he was pulled over on the Beltway.

“I’m literally on the side of the highway, my wife, me and one of my friends sitting on the median of the highway on the side, and he comes up to me and says, ‘What if I f--- up your Monday and put you on a headline and arrest you right now?’ ” Beal recounted. “I didn’t do anything, but because I was a black athlete driving a nice vehicle, that’s why he came over, and how am I supposed to respond to that?”

He added: “I would just be waking up on Monday morning with an ESPN headline, ‘Bradley Beal arrested because of interaction with the police.’ ”

By Gene Wang
June 19, 2020 at 1:39 PM EDT

Segregationist George Preston Marshall’s monument removed from RFK grounds

As morning broke in Washington on Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, the long-standing monument to Washington Redskins founding owner George Preston Marshall, the last NFL owner to integrate his roster, was dismantled and removed from the grounds of RFK Stadium.

The action followed years of lobbying by local residents who objected to memorializing an owner who opposed desegregation. It was taken down by Events DC, the city’s convention and sports authority that manages and is currently redeveloping the 190-acre RFK campus that served as the Redskins’ game-day home from 1961 to 1996.

In a statement, Events DC characterized the monument’s removal as “a small and overdue step on the road to lasting equality and justice.”

“This symbol of a person who didn’t believe all men and women were created equal and who actually worked against integration is counter to all that we as people, a city, and nation represent,” the statement read. “We believe that injustice and inequality of all forms is reprehensible, and we are firmly committed to confronting unequal treatment and working together toward healing our city and country.

By Liz Clarke and Rick Maese
June 19, 2020 at 1:39 PM EDT

Calls for funding, respect fuel crowd outside of U.S. Education Department

As the crowd converged outside the U.S. Education Department building, teachers took charge of the rally just like they lead their classrooms: with call-and-response chants, dances and snacks.

Before speeches began, performers transformed the crowd of strollers and young protesters into a dance party. As people shimmied and clapped, some whispered to each other “I hope this gets Betsy to resign,” referring to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The rally then turned serious as speakers, one by one, took the megaphone. Students and educators from D.C. Public Schools called for more school funding in Southeast Washington. They urged educators in the crowd — who were mostly white — to understand the unique hardships that can impact the performance of black students.

“Do not mislabel black students,” said Nandi Taylor, who organized the events, to the cheering crowd. “Help them.”

Teacher Ashley Kearney highlighted the double pandemic that black educators are facing, which she said kept many of them from rallying Friday.

“While we are worrying about being six feet apart, we also have to worry about our students being six feet under,” she said.

Demetri Sekou, an 18-year-old Easton High School graduate, promised he would be the change the country needs.

“Remember my name when they say ‘who,’ because I am going to change the world,” he said, calling for more black lawyers and black teachers and for all educators to tell black students that they are strong.

As people began to reapply sunscreen and discuss nap times, a young voice reinvigorated the crowd. It was Cavanaugh Bell, 7, who demanded respect for his smarts and showed that he was ready to carry the movement forward.

“I am 7 years old and in first grade and if you want to describe me … call me a public speaker and a social advocate,” he said.

The crowd roared.

“We are extraordinary. We are the changemakers and ground-shakers that this world needs to build a better,” he shouted into the megaphone that dwarfed his body.

After his speech, he strutted through the crowd like a celebrity, with teachers and kids alike asking to take pictures with him.

When Cavanaugh grows up, he said he wants to be a police officer. “I want to be a police officer so I can help my community,” he said. “And maybe start a nonprofit, too.”

By Emily Davies
June 19, 2020 at 1:19 PM EDT

'This feels good’: Hope and commerce near the White House

As people began pouring into the District on Friday for Juneteenth celebrations and protests, Black Lives Matter Plaza felt like JazzFest in New Orleans.

One vendor blasted “Popsicle Toes,” R&B was booming from another tent and halfway down the block, a go-go drummer wailed away at a dark red kit.

There were almost as many ice cream trucks as there were tow trucks parked outside a perimeter held by National Guard vehicles. Cyclists and walkers were nearly outnumbered by T-shirt vendors.

“We got your ‘I Can’t Breathe’ masks right here,” one vendor barked at a group of tourists who strolled by.

The designs were of the moment. Masks with “Black Lives Matter” and Kente cloth designs. A homage to the pig spray-painted in the Lafayette Square bathroom and profane slogans about the narcotics police unit were on point.

“They made them up pretty fast,” said Otha Rodney Thomas, 59, who has been a T-shirt vendor in D.C. for 15 years.

He had previously sold shirts with cherry blossoms and monuments, Stanley Cups and Trump slogans.

“We don’t sell those in the ‘hood though,” Thomas said, referring to the stand he usually mans by the Shrimp Boat takeout east of the Anacostia River.

This stand on Black Lives Matter Plaza on Friday?

“This feels good,” the Tulsa native said. “As an older man, a black gay man, this feels like it’s going to be be real change.”

Nearby at Lafayette Square, the backdrop for much of the recent unrest, the atmosphere was equally peaceful late Friday morning.

Tall barriers of chain-link now surround statuary in the park, but the seven-foot black fence erected during earlier protests is gone.

Bike riders, stroller pushers and squirrel feeders have returned to park, meandering about in a soft breeze before the expected crowds show up. Barbecue tents are lined along H Street NW, and R&B music from big speakers fills the air.

On the other side of the park, low barriers close off Pennsylvania Avenue to pedestrians in front of the executive mansion.

In a sign of normalcy in Lafayette Square, the only demonstrators in the park at the moment are a dozen people here to bring attention to independence in Turkestan and China’s oppression of Muslims.

By Petula Dvorak and Paul M. Duggan
June 19, 2020 at 11:53 AM EDT

Students and educators kick off Juneteenth with signs, bagels ahead of march to Education Department

Gracie Lathern, 10, wore cat ears studded with jewels that she said represented all of the civil rights activists who fought for black lives. She thought the headpiece, paired with her shirt that read “Girls are the Future,” made for the perfect outfit for her first protest.

“My mom told me about Juneteenth on Wednesday and I thought it was good, so I wanted to protest, too,” she said, twirling a sign that read “Racism is a pandemic.”

Gracie has been reading about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks during the months since her school, Turner Elementary in Southeast Washington, closed because of the pandemic.

“It has actually felt good to learn about what happened in the past, because I feel like we can fix it for real this time,” she said.

Gracie was one of dozens of students and educators who gathered at Freedom Plaza in the District on Friday morning, making signs and eating bagels before they marched to the Education Department. The rally grew out of a protest weeks ago, when two local teachers, Rosie Teverow and Nandi Taylor, met during a demonstration outside the Capitol. Days later, Teverow and Taylor founded Educators for Equity, an organization working to change the culture of schools and create a system that is more equitable, inclusive and devoid of police.

“This day is a way for us to emphasize, especially for our students of color and our black students, that they are seen and their history is heard,” Teverow said, adding that she is excited to reunite with some of her second-grade students at the protest, whom she has not seen in months because of the pandemic.

The group is calling for the removal of police from schools, abolishing for-profit student testing and divorcing school funding from local property taxes, among other issues.

Gracie will be giving a speech outside of the Education Department later Friday. But she wouldn’t disclose the content of her speech.

“You will have to wait and see,” she said, glancing at her classmate Barry Johnson, 10, who smiled.

By Emily Davies
June 19, 2020 at 11:47 AM EDT

Parents hope Juneteenth will teach kids to use their voices

Dekebra Crowe reminded her daughter about the significance of Juneteenth before they headed out Friday morning to protest.

“It is like if your teacher put you in detention during recess and it was only supposed to be five minutes, but then she forgot. How would you feel?” Crowe asked Brooklynn, 9.

“I would feel mad,” Brooklynn said, as she scribbled “love love love” on a piece of paper in front of her.

Brooklynn said she had felt upset for the past few weeks, as she watched video footage of black people attacked by police. “We just don’t deserve it,” she said quietly.

Crowe hopes that Friday’s Juneteenth demonstrations will restore her daughter’s hope in the world and give her the courage to fight back.

“I hope she learns how to use her voice and to tell her own story without someone else putting a narrative on her,” Crowe said.

As about 200 students and educators gathered Friday at Freedom Plaza, parents in the crowd encouraged their sons and daughters to look around and see that their voices can help push for change.

Jessica Urban, 35, came to the District from the suburbs of Chicago with her three young children, who are white. She told her kids that they were going to march for fairness.

“Kids understand fairness pretty well, especially if they have siblings,” she said. “So I told them that some people are treated differently because of the color of their skin, and that isn’t fair.”

Eleanor, 8, understood. “I am here because love and justice matter,” she said as she crunched on a granola bar.

C.C. Smith sat on a curb with her son, Jackson, 12. Smith turned to her son and said, “He is not becoming a hashtag; he will live.” Jackson, mask swinging from his ear, looked away.

“Jackson has a hard time understanding,” Smith said. “We don’t know at what age he becomes a threat, but we are not at the threat stage yet.”

Smith pulled her mask on and prepared to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Education Department with her son. “Today,” she said, “I hope he learns that his voice is needed.”

By Emily Davies
June 19, 2020 at 8:59 AM EDT

D.C. street closures possible today, into weekend as part of planned demonstrations

D.C. police Thursday announced possible street closures and restrictions for downtown Washington ahead of expected demonstrations Friday and into the weekend.

Several events are planned Friday tied to Juneteenth, the celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Police said other demonstrations are expected into the weekend — the third consecutive weekend that streets in the downtown area might see closures amid daily protests over police violence.

Police said intermittent closures are possible Friday, Saturday and Sunday as needed, although day-long closures weren’t expected.

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 19, 2020 at 8:52 AM EDT

Black communities across the country have been celebrating Juneteenth for years

Years before Nike, Google and the NFL declared Juneteenth an employee holiday, and President Trump made the day a flash point in a national political debate, the end of slavery was already being celebrated in Prince George’s County, Md., and black communities nationwide.

“It’s like, ‘finally,’ ” said Dennis Doster, who for the past five years has co-chaired the longest-running Juneteenth event in Prince George’s, a majority-black suburb just outside the District. “In the past few weeks, it’s been like everyone has been wanting to do something for Juneteenth.”

Last year, the annual celebration — which featured food trucks, live music, dance performances and discussions among historians — attracted more than 6,000 attendees in Watkins Park in Upper Marlboro. This year, because of restrictions on large gatherings due to the novel coronavirus, which has devastated Prince George’s, it will be virtual.

“It’s not only about celebrating the past, but looking at the future and charting the path forward,” said Doster, director of the black history program at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

By Rachel Chason
June 19, 2020 at 8:44 AM EDT

Perspective: White people learn about Juneteenth, celebrated by millions of black Americans every year

“A few years ago. Sadly.”

“I’m 66. I heard about it this week.”

“Just now. . . . I actually had to look it up on Wikipedia.”

“Three days ago.”

This is when white people across America — all adults, all educated — admitted that they learned about Juneteenth.

Meanwhile — for at least 150 June 19ths — millions of black Americans held parades, family reunions, picnics and celebrations. It’s a day of strawberry soda, red velvet cake, family, community and history. Harrowing history.

“It’s like Fourth of July for us. How have so many never known?” said Tashieka Russell, as she scrolled through a Twitter thread of white Americans talking about their introduction to Juneteenth. “We really live in two Americas.”

Like so many black Americans, Russell learned about the holiday and its history not from school, but from her family.

By Petula Dvorak