Multiple Juneteenth celebrations happening in Seattle
SEATTLE (AP) — Thousands of people marched Friday in Seattle’s Central District in one of several events around the city and region to celebrate Juneteenth, which is celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States.
People walked past significant African-American landmarks in the city Friday afternoon as part of the Juneteenth Freedom March, organized by the King County Equity Now Coalition.
DeCharlene Williams brought Juneteenth to Seattle from Texas about 37 years ago, her daughter Rita Green said at the event. Williams died in 2018, and since then, Green has committed to keeping Williams’ business from succumbing to gentrification in the Central District, The Seattle Times reported.
Andre Taylor, founder of Not This Time, a group that helped change state law in 2018 to hold police more accountable in deadly shootings, organized an event in Seattle’s Judkins Park that included relatives of people killed by police in recent years.
“My son had dreams and goals, he loved rapping part-time, but was a full-time forklift driver,” Stephanie Butts said about 19-year-old Damarius Butts, who Seattle police shot and killed in 2017.
Police have said he stole doughnuts, beer and other items from a 7-Eleven store and then brandished a weapon at a clerk. Police soon after chased him on foot into a building, where Officer Elizabeth Kennedy said he pulled a gun and she felt something hit her ballistic vest before she started firing at him.
Butts said that in the years since her son’s death, she has learned that police audio doesn’t match what police have said happened.
“Police somehow think it’s OK to kill and no punishment for it,” Butts told the crowd. “No officer has been charged here in 30 years? That is crazy as hell to me. I’m proud of the changes that have been made so far, and I pray more change is coming.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal were scheduled to speak later in the day.
The Northwest African American Museum in Seattle joined with five Black museums throughout the United States to create a virtual Juneteenth celebration.
“This year is like none other. These times are like none other. We know Juneteenth this year will be like none other,” LaNesha DeBardelaben, the museum’s executive director, told the newspaper.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the Union army brought word of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in Texas.
The celebrations come amid weeks of protests against police brutality and racial injustice that began in the wake of George Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Union workers and other supporters also marched Friday near the Port of Seattle as part of an eight-hour work stoppage coordinated by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union at more than two dozen West Coast ports to honor Juneteenth.