Demonstrations marking Juneteenth held in Los Angeles

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Demonstrations commemorating Juneteenth were held across Los Angeles Friday.

June 19 marks the moment in 1865 when word reached Texas that slaves were free after the end of the Civil War, over two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth is also called Freedom Day and Liberation Day.

This year’s celebrations come in the midst of a global outcry against police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of the in-custody death of George Floyd and other recent killings involving police.

In Little Tokyo, dozens of demonstrators on roller skates came together to celebrate by making a loop around downtown beginning and ending in front of the Japanese American National Museum.

Frances McGee, an organizer for “Rise and Skate,” said that for her, Juneteenth is “a celebration of breaking out of oppression, finding joy in celebration in who you are as a person and celebrating humanity.”

A rally was also held at Grand Park and in front of L.A. City Hall. Many held signs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A smaller group gathered in Manhattan Beach for a picnic at Bruce’s Beach, which began as a beach for the Black community in the early 20th century, when they were forced from other areas. But its Black owners, Charles and Willa Bruce, were forced from that spot, too, by the 1920s. 

“It was taken from them through imminent domain, and this was built a park,” said Kaven Ward, who helped organize Friday’s event. “It’s beautiful, but think about the generational wealth that could have come from that family having this property. Think about the diversity Manhattan Beach could have had, had there been African Americans in this community.”

Though not a federal holiday, more than 460 companies, including Nike, Twitter and Lyft, have committed to observing Juneteenth, with many offering a paid day off.

“I think it’s just getting a lot of recognition because of the current climate in this country, but it is something that has been around a very long time and my own family were free slaves that went to Texas after the Civil War,” said a demonstrator who only wanted to be identified as Whitney.

Demonstrators were also set to march from Pan Pacific Park in the Fairfax District to West Hollywood Friday afternoon, where a Black-owned marketplace was set up.

In Santa Monica, participants marched from Virginia Park, down Pico Boulevard until reaching the steps of City Hall.

In Baldwin Hills, demonstrators gathered for a “Juneteenth Freedom Hike” at Kenneth Hahn Park.

And in Leimert Park hundreds gathered for a day-long family-friendly event commemorating the historic day.

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