Students from Lincoln High School organized a peaceful protest at Tacoma's Wapato Park on Friday as Juneteenth celebrations took place across the country.
Theodore Rollins will be a senior next year at Lincoln High School. As one of the organizers of the "Stop Killing Us" march, he said he wants their message to be loud and clear.
“We’re doing this for the Sandra Blands, the Trayvon Martins, the Manuel Ellises and Said Joquins,” said Rollins.”We’ve been being passive. It’s not getting our voice heard. I feel like we need to come out here and let people know we’re black. It’s Juneteenth. We’re protesting for something we believe in.”
But some activists chose to celebrate Juneteeth with rest, rather than protest.
“Today, we’re not protesting, we’re not rallying,” said Candace Wesley of Ceasefire Tacoma. “We are celebrating Black people as a culture.”
Wesley and others organized a gathering in Tacoma’s Wright Park that offered free food, spoken word and a voter registration drive. But Wesley said it was important that those fighting injustice also took a moment to heal after weeks of fighting for justice.
“We need to take a moment to embrace who we are, to unify, and just love on each other,” Wesley said.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, who attended the march organized by the students, said there is really no wrong way to mark Juneteenth.
“It doesn’t matter how you celebrate it, but it has to be met with some form of education. You have to understand why this is important to African Americans,” she said.
Woodards has been handling the aftermath of the killing of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma police custody. Ellis’ family has called for the firing of the four officers who were involved. At the Juneteenth protest, Woodards said her office fought for an independent investigation and now, the wait for justice would begin.
“I’ve instructed them to do the independent investigation, then to share that information with my city manager, and then I trust and fully expect for my city manager to do exactly what she’s meant to do,” said Woodards.