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Fort Lauderdale community commemorates Juneteenth with rally and march

By staff |
June 21, 2020
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Protesters in Fort Lauderdale gathered in Bubier Park to commemorate Juneteenth
Protesters in Fort Lauderdale gathered in Bubier Park to commemorate Juneteenth and then took to the streets to demand an end to police violence. (Carlos Naranjo)

Fort Lauderdale, FL - About 400 members of the surrounding communities gathered in downtown Fort Lauderdale to commemorate Juneteenth and demand an end to police violence. The event was sponsored by several local organizations, including SEIU Local 32BJ, Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward, Broward Dream Defenders, and the New Florida Majority. The event began at 3 p.m. at Bubier Park, where those in attendance listened to speeches, chanted, and even danced.

The atmosphere was both festive and somber, joyful yet ripe with anger. As the protesters marked the holiday meant to celebrate the ending of slavery in the United States, they also raised several demands to the city of Fort Lauderdale and the Broward County commission, including: reallocating millions from the Fort Lauderdale Police budget to local education and mental health services, demilitarizing the city’s police force, and holding the several killer cops within the county’s police forces accountable for their crimes.

The rally turned into a march throughout downtown Fort Lauderdale, with local SEIU union members (largely Haitian workers from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport) providing Caribbean-style music throughout, with drums and horns in the typical Haitian “Rara” fashion. The instruments and dancing gave the march a true celebratory atmosphere. Marchers chanted “Black lives matter,” and No justice, no peace,” and “I can’t breathe,” in tempo with the music.

Protesters stopped at several major intersections throughout the march to give speeches, and once in front the Broward County Jail the horns and drums brought those inside to their windows, waving at the protesters below and banging on their windows in beat with the horns and drums.

At one intersection outside of the county commission building, Haitian-American workers spoke out (at times in Creole) against the unsafe conditions and low pay they face as private sub-contractors at the airport, emphasizing the importance of a strong labor movement and strong unions.

Other Juneteenth rallies were also held throughout South Florida, including at the Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami and in Pompano Beach.