Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News “Racism is a Pandemic” reads the sign carried by a masked participant in Port Townsend’s Juneteenth rally and march, which drew more than 1,000 people.

Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News “Racism is a Pandemic” reads the sign carried by a masked participant in Port Townsend’s Juneteenth rally and march, which drew more than 1,000 people.

Juneteenth celebration draws more than 1,000

Port Townsend rally peaceful

PORT TOWNSEND — More than 1,000 people marched through Port Townsend in a peaceful demonstration to mark Juneteenth.

Friday’s rally and march were planned by the Jefferson County chapter of Black Lives Matter and supported by the City of Port Townsend.

Juneteeth is a 155-year-old commemoration of Black freedom from slavery. The holiday specifically celebrates the day, June 19, 1865, in which Union soldiers came to Texas to enforce the will of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.

The holiday has been celebrated in the southern United States since 1866 and has become increasingly popular in other states.

Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News “Racism is a Pandemic” reads the sign carried by a masked participant in Port Townsend’s Juneteenth rally and march, which drew more than 1,000 people.

Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News “Racism is a Pandemic” reads the sign carried by a masked participant in Port Townsend’s Juneteenth rally and march, which drew more than 1,000 people.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) members and their supporters requested on Monday that the Port Townsend City Council designate a space for a mural on the north end of Water Street before Fridays’s celebration.

They won approval from the city for a temporary art installation, with a promise that discussions of a more permanent installation later on along with a discussion of other policy changes.

The colorful chalk mural drawn directly onto Water Street marked the starting point of the march through Port Townsend to the intersection of Haines Place and Sims Way.

Each letter in the mural was unique, some with stencil drawings of a fist that represents the BLM movement. One letter “A” contained the words “Say Their Names.” On the march route was a painting of George Floyd, whose Memorial Day death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer — who has since been fired and charged — sparked worldwide protests against racial injustice.

Friday’s events were kicked off with speeches. Sabrina Hill, a Port Townsend resident and member of the Makah Tribe said a blessing over the assembly, and the marchers — some with children — began to form on the street mural.

Participants wore face masks against the spread of COVID-19, with organizers urging them to take precautions.

Sean Vinson, founder of the Jefferson County chapter of Black Lives Matter, told of his experiences as a Black man living on the North Olympic Peninsula.

‘In this very town’

“In this very town we call home, I’ve had the N-word screamed directly in my face; I’ve been stopped and searched by police for ‘fitting the description’ of a person breaking into homes when I was simply walking home from work,” Vinson said.

Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News A crowd of more than 1,000 people walk down South Water Street in Port Townsend during the Juneteenth celebration.

Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News A crowd of more than 1,000 people walk down South Water Street in Port Townsend during the Juneteenth celebration.

“These are just a few of the very real experiences I have had with racism and I tell you these things so you can be aware that it happens in your communities every day.”

Vinson read a list of names of some of the Black men, women and children who have died at the hands of law enforcement officers or others due to racism since 2012.

He said that each time, those responsible often faced little to no consequences for their actions, until recently, because of protests or ” uprisings” and marches across the country since the killing of Floyd.

The now-former officer involved in Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin, is facing second-degree murder charges. Three other officers are facing second-degree aiding and abetting murder charges.

“Because of this uprising, Minneapolis is re-evaluating its police department, New York City is diverting funds for its police department to use in social services,” Vinson said.

”Because of this uprising, long-standing Confederate statues are being taken down across the country,” he continued.

Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News Two people look over the colorful designs in the word “Lives” in the mural on Water Street in Port Townsend before the march.

Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News Two people look over the colorful designs in the word “Lives” in the mural on Water Street in Port Townsend before the march.

”Because of this uprising, our own deputy mayor is looking at the police spending, qualified immunity, and racial injustices within our own government.”

Vison asked that all the people of color make their way to the front, while white allies — the majority of people in the march — walk by their sides and behind as symbolic shields.

Police block traffic

Port Townsend police officers blocked off traffic through Port Townsend and out to the intersection of Haines Place and Sims Way. One patrol car was ahead of the marchers to block off oncoming traffic where needed.

The State Patrol also aided, with about four patrol cars on Sims Way blocking traffic.

No organized opposition was in evidence.

________

Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]

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