Black Lives Matter mural to precede Juneteenth march

PORT TOWNSEND — A Black Lives Matter mural will go up at the entrance to Pope Marine Park in downtown Port Townsend in time for Friday’s Juneteenth celebration and march.

Monday’s City Council meeting was taken over by discussion about the proposal broached by some 30 of the town’s residents in public comments. The council approved the idea of a temporary art installation.

On Wednesday, the Port Townsend Arts Commission met to work out the details of placing a temporary Black Lives Matter mural at the north end of Water Street between Madison and Monroe streets in front of Pope Marine Park, where the Juneteeth celebration will begin.

The mural will be funded by the city arts commission and will cost less than $500, City Manager John Mauro said.

The section of Water Street will be closed temporarily beginning at about 4 p.m. today to allow artists to paint.

The county chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement in Jefferson County is planning a Freedom March that will begin at 11 a.m. Friday at Pope Marine Park in Port Townsend. After hearing from BLM chapter organizer Sean Vinson and Paris Jade, the group is scheduled to begin marching at 11:45 a.m. to the intersection of Haines Place and Sims Way for a protest rally.

The City Council had been asked to allow a permanent public art installation on Water Street similar to those that have appeared on the streets of Seattle, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and other cities to honor the Black Lives Matter movement and Friday’s Juneteenth celebration.

Council members, while supportive of the idea, were concerned about the logistics of doing so in such a short period of time, especially since the area is in a historic district and changes would need to be considered by the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.

“I think there are some concerns about the permanent nature of paint, meaning it would have to go through our historic preservation policy in committee, which would clearly bog things down pretty quickly,” Mauro said.

“I think the nature of a temporary, or at least an interim solution, would probably get around that particular issue.”

As a former member of the city’s historic preservation committee, council member Pam Adams agreed with Mauro’s assessment.

“As far as permanency, I think it’s unrealistic to think we can have any permanent paint on Water Street or anywhere in the historic district,” Adams said.

“I’ve been on the historic committee, and I know how seriously they take keeping the historic district historic,” she continued. “But I certainly think we should, and would, commit to something permanent, somewhere.”

After a lengthy discussion, the council voted to allow for a temporary art installation for the celebration, deciding to discuss a more permanent installation later on.

Juneteenth is a celebration better known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day. It celebrates the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, in Texas, one of the last southern states to hold black slaves at the end of the Civil War.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed all those who had been enslaved in 1863, Texas was the most remote of the southern slave-holding states and had the fewest number of Union troops available to enforce it.

Juneteenth celebrations began primarily in the southern United States in 1866, but they are now recognized as a national holiday in 47 of the 50 states.

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Jefferson County reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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