Longshoremen halt work at Oakland port to join racial equality rally on Juneteenth

Thousands of protesters march towards downtown Oakland during a Juneteenth rally at the Port of Oakland on June 19, 2020. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Thousands of protesters march towards downtown Oakland during a Juneteenth rally at the Port of Oakland on June 19, 2020. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

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Cranes and berths came to a standstill as longshoremen in ports throughout California stopped work Friday, joining thousands of Californians who marched, rallied and drove in car caravans to commemorate Juneteenth and demand racial equality.

Thousands joined workers at the Port of Oakland for a rally where some held signs that read “Stop Police Terror” and “Black Lives Matter.” Political activist and former Black Panthers Party member Angela Davis addressed the crowd.

Davis thanked the longshoremen for shutting down on “the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.”

Longshoremen also stopped work in 28 other West Coast ports to mark Juneteenth, which is considered the oldest known celebration commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until the Civil War ended two years later. June 19, 1865, was the day Union soldiers told enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that the war was over and they were free.

In Oakland, the thousands who attended the rally at the port then marched to downtown Oakland, where Davis and Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old Black man who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, addressed the crowd.

Earlier this week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said five ropes found hanging from trees in a city park were nooses and racially charged symbols of terror. An Oakland man said he put the ropes up months ago to use as exercise equipment.

A day later, Oakland police opened an investigation after a caller reported finding an effigy hanging from a tree at a city park.

In San Francisco, people riding in a car caravan joined families rallying outside City Hall to demand officials remove police officers from public schools and redirect funds from the police budget to the Black community, especially to schools.

Mayor London Breed has already promised funds would be reallocated from the police department to the African American community.

“As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, at a time when there is a renewed call — an awe-inspiring DEMAND — for justice, and for change, we must recommit ourselves to the work we have to do,” Breed, who is Black, said in a statement. “Our charge is to create a more equitable society for all of us, because all lives can’t matter unless BLACK lives matter!”

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said the state Capitol will be lit Friday night in red, black and green to represent the African diaspora and its enslavement in the New World.

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