15 Jun 2007 Black Conservatives Denounce Juneteenth-Related Violence
With violent acts – including one death – plaguing several local Juneteenth observances across the nation, members of the black leadership network Project 21 are critical of celebration organizers who deflect blame for what happened.
Project 21 members, longstanding supporters of the Juneteenth holiday, say such behavior is inconsistent with the founding principles of Juneteenth and future observances of Juneteenth are threatened if the violence is not condemned in the strongest terms.
“It is unfortunate that violent acts overshadowed the Juneteenth events celebrating freedom and empowerment for black Americans,” said Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli. “Clearly, the cause of these acts should be addressed by the local community and by those who consider themselves national leaders to prevent future outbursts that could jeopardize other events.”
Borelli added: “With freedom comes responsibility. This is a message that too often seems to be ignored by black leaders.”
At least three Juneteenth observances this year were the scene of violent criminal acts. The worst violence was in Austin, Texas, where David Rivas Morales was killed when he tried to stop an angry mob from hurting the driver of a car. The car, in which Morales was a passenger, had struck a child (both the child and driver were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening). The incident happened a block away from a Juneteenth celebration. Witnesses said the gathering of hundreds of people at the Booker T. Washington apartment complex where Morales was killed is a common Juneteenth-related activity.
Elsewhere, members of a crowd leaving a Juneteenth celebration in Milwaukee, Wisconsin attacked two cars, beating the driver of one of the cars. Fox News reports that a local news helicopter reports that the people who attacked the car came directly from the nearby Juneteenth event.
In Syracuse, New York, police closed down yet another Juneteenth celebration after multiple fights and two stabbings.
In an interview with a local news channel, Syracuse organizer Duane Owens dismissed the violence as “not unusual” for a large crowd. In the wake of the Juneteenth violence there, a community meeting in Syracuse to address teen violence has been scheduled. Milwaukee organizer McArthur Weddle blamed the violence on “a group of individuals that decided they wanted to do something entirely different.”
Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the arrival of Union soldiers and news of the abolition of slavery in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. Education and self-improvement have been consistent themes at commemorative Juneteenth community gatherings and picnics held across America over the years.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.