Organizer calls for more work toward equality, end of police brutality
Angel Patterson began Friday night’s Juneteenth celebration in Ottawa by saying she wanted to use it to bring the community together again to shed light on police brutality.
About 60 people attended the event, which hosted one of the the most diverse crowds of recent Ottawa rallies.
Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, the last enslaved people in Texas were freed.
Before a group march, Patterson stood on stage with several others, reading poetry from Francis Duggan, Countee Cullen and others. Patterson's companions on stage displayed a banner that said, "July 4th didn't set me free. Juneteenth represents freedom for Black people" and "Juneteenth: Celebrate freedom."
Attendees then marched south toward the downtown courthouse, carrying signs with phrases such as "Black Lives Matter" and "All lives don't matter until Black lives matter."
The signs also have been displayed at recent rallies and marches protesting police brutality against Black people. Protests spanned the globe after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody after Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck. Chauvin since has been charged with second-degree murder.
The crowd then circled north, marching around the block north of Marquette Academy's elementary school campus.
Friday's march celebrating Black lives and freedom was met mostly with honks of support from passing drivers, although a few passersby heckled the crowd.
Patterson said she expects the heckling, but it only motivates her to keep doing what they are doing.
“We had some riff-raff, but that’s OK,” Patterson said. “All that does when people are ignorant and say ignorant things, like shouting ‘all lives matter,’ all that does is just motivate me to do it more. And I’m going to keep doing it more.”
Patterson and the marchers expressed gratitude to the police as well – at one point, a chant broke out asking for cops to be more like Ottawa Police Chief Brent Roalson.
Roalson and several other Ottawa police officers assisted with traffic control as marchers made their way to the courthouse.
Ashten Circelli was among marchers. With June being Pride Month, she said said she believes it is important to show up and fight for equal rights.
“I always make sure to go to the Pride parades, but I felt an obligation to show up here,” Circelli said. “I have to show up to these because I’m all about my pride and my equal rights.”
Circelli echoed what Patterson said about bringing the communities together at the beginning of the celebration.
“I’m not going to go out and fight for just my equal rights, gay rights,” Circelli said. “I can’t go out and fight for that without going out and fighting for Black Lives Matter to get equal rights for everybody. I feel like that should be across the board for all of the gay community. If we’re going to fight for Pride and all of those rights, you have to be here for this movement, too. It’s all the same.”
Lillian Faux said she felt the sense of community as they marched through downtown Ottawa.
“I’ve been going to a few of these marches now, but this is the one where I’ve felt the most community,” Faux said.
Julie Cuevas agreed.
“This is an important experience for us,” Cuevas said. “We need to be more aware of the inequalities that plague our communities.”
Patterson said she is planning a larger event for the future, but a date hasn’t been set. More information will be released at a later date.