Protesters Gather at Rotary Hill on Juneteenth; Facebook Live

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Protesters Gather on Juneteenth

A group of a couple hundred people gathered at Rotary Hill to protest police brutality and mass incarceration, particularly as they impact black people. Called “Keep the Movement Alive,” this protest coincides with the anniversary of the official end of slavery in the United States, known as Juneteenth.  There’s a table set up to help people register to vote and will have guest speakers, followed by a march.

Naperville Central High School 2020 graduates organized the event, including Indya Smith-Johnson, Sophia Davila, who both also organized similar protests earlier this month, and twins Payton and Zoe Day. Maryam, Abby, and Pam were also co-organizers.

This is the third straight week of protests, in Naperville and across the country, following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Organizers made it clear that the event was to be peaceful and required everyone to wear masks, while also encouraging participants to bring their signs and their energy.

“Every time we attempt to move forward, we seem to take a couple steps back,” said Davila. “We’re all apart of this country [and] frankly I don’t think anybody should be allowed to hate on diversity since this land was founded by immigrants.”

March in Downtown Naperville

After a few speeches at the base of the Millennium Carillon, the crowd left Rotary Hill to start marching, proceeding peacefully down Aurora Avenue MLK style (meaning along the sidewalk). They shouted phrases such as “no justice, no peace. No racist police,” “say his name – George Floyd,” and “silent cops are guilty too,” as they made their way through the downtown area.

After returning to Rotary Hill, participants took a knee during a moment of silence before some additional speakers, who spoke about having tough conversations around racism, supporting small businesses owned by black people, and the importance of voting.

Goal of the Event

Organizers hope the event accomplishes three things:  Educate people on police brutality, mass incarceration, and Juneteenth, encourage people to use their voice, and encourage people to vote.

“I’m ready to see action. I’m ready to see school boards and the municipalities knowledge the issues that we’re bringing up to them, that we have been bringing up to them,” said Smith-Johnson. “It is because of your voices, your continued fight across the country that we have the momentum,” she continued, talking about today’s participants.

More About Juneteenth

On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War was over and that those who had Juneteenthbeen enslaved were now free. President Abraham Lincoln had delivered his famous Emancipation Proclamation, more than two years prior, on January 1, 1863, a proclamation that there were to be no more slavery.

However, it wasn’t until after the surrender of General Lee in April 1865 and the arrival of forces in Texas a couple months later that the slaves would learn of this order and it could be strictly enforced.  The 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution officially abolished slavery, giving way to the 14th and 15th amendments, which guaranteed former slaves equal protection under the law and gave all black men the right to vote. For decades, June 19 became coined as “Juneteenth” and became a national holiday, especially honored in Texas.

Possible State Holiday

Governor J.B. Pritzker announced today that he’d like to make Juneteenth an official state holiday and asked that all American flags be lowered to half-staff.

“Although Juneteenth was a great step towards justice, we’re not finished yet.  Mass incarceration still exists,” said co-organizer Zoe Day, who’s hopeful events like this will help move society towards equality.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ and Kevin Machak report.