Rallies in Twin Cities mark Juneteenth, call for police changes, slavery reparations

In the wake of George Floyd's death, Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating when slaves in Texas first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, took on a stronger meaning on Friday.

Around the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and the nation, celebrations were held to honor the special day. In St. Paul, a rally was held at the capitol steps as lawmakers considered a legislative package bringing reforms to policing, criminal justice, and other changes brought on by the death of George Floyd.

People at the rally called on lawmakers to "do their job" while calling for further reforms, political advocacy, and reparations to be paid for the descendants of slaves.

"The new protest is to march your butt to the polls and remove some of these worms out of office," said speaker John Thompson. "And when I say worms, I’m talking these white, old, Republican men in the Senate."

At 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, the intersection that’s now both a monument to George Floyd and symbol of long-overdue changes in policing and equality, people felt the weight of the day.

"Just the importance of black people’s voices being heard and a celebration of their freedom," said Mary Francois.

Among the people at the Juneteenth celebration in Minneapolis was Dwayne Rushing, who had brought his sons from Chicago. He says it felt fitting to combine Juneteenth with Father's Day.

"So they understand as well that this could happen to anybody," he said.

Rushing said Juneteenth has always been a storm but now it’s a hurricane. Their T-shirts explained what it means: an idea of never being entirely freed.

"Free-ish," he said, "because although we were free, we still feel like we were not that free, right. And so the idea there is now that we’re bringing light to Juneteenth and we made it a hurricane."