‘Civil rights isn’t over’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:16 AM, June 21, 2020

‘Civil rights isn’t over’

Americans mark Juneteenth coast to coast; UN sets up probe into racism

Thousands marched through US cities on Friday in Juneteenth observances marking the abolition of slavery more than a century and a half ago, an occasion freighted with special resonance this year amid America's reckoning with its legacy of racism.

Capping nearly four weeks of protests and national soul-searching aroused by the death of a Black man, George Floyd, under the knee of a white police officer, demonstrators took to the streets from Atlanta to Oakland, California, blending the Juneteenth holiday with calls for racial justice.

While the gatherings were largely festive in mood, in keeping with Juneteenth traditions, they were also animated by demands for reforms to end brutality and discrimination in US law enforcement.

Late on Friday a statue of Confederate general Albert Pike was torn down by demonstrators in the capital and set on fire, in an act labeled a "disgrace" by US President Trump.

Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19th, commemorates the US abolition of slavery under President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, belatedly announced by a Union army in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, after the Civil War ended.

Texas made it a holiday in 1980, and 45 more states and the District of Columbia have since followed suit.

Emotions were running high in Atlanta, where Rayshard Brooks, an African American, was fatally shot in the back by a white policeman in the parking lot of a restaurant June 12, reigniting outrage still simmering from Floyd's death on May 25 in Minneapolis. The Atlanta policeman was dismissed from the department and charged with murder, although his arrest came more quickly than that of the officer ultimately charged with murder in the Floyd case.

Marcher Antonio Jeremiah Parks, 27, of Atlanta said the civil rights movement had not yet fulfilled its promises.

"Civil rights isn't over," said Parks, who is Black and works at a homeless shelter. "We still feel the pain of slavery. It's not healed, and won't be until we're treated the same."

Earlier, the UN Human Rights Council on Friday condemned discriminatory and violent policing after the death of Floyd last month and ordered a report on "systemic racism" against people of African descent.

The 47-member-state forum unanimously adopted a resolution brought by African countries. The mandate also asks UN Rights chief Michelle Bachelet to examine government responses to peaceful protests, including alleged use of excessive force, and deliver findings in a year's time. The text was watered down during closed-door negotiations from an initial draft explicitly calling for a UN commission of inquiry on racism in the United States and elsewhere.

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