By a Biometrica staffer
On Saturday, June 19, celebrations were underway across the country to commemorate Juneteenth, the date that marks the unofficial end of slavery. Events over the weekend ranged from festivals and celebrations, to rallies and memorials. But it also became yet another example of how common episodes of gun violence are becoming in the United States, with at least a few Juneteenth celebrations marred by shootings, in addition to other unrelated incidents of gun violence, too.
In Clover, South Carolina, multiple shootings at a Juneteenth celebration occurred just before 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 20, near the intersection of Oakridge Road and Bellaire Circle, WCNC reported. Two of the three victims were transported to a hospital in Gaston County by their own vehicles and another was transported to Atrium Health Center in Charlotte by helicopter, the article added. Several cars were also shot at during the incident. The York County Sheriff’s Office described the suspects’s car as a dark-colored four-door Chevrolet Malibu with a Georgia license plate.
On Saturday evening, a 22-year-old was killed and five others were injured at a shooting in Oakland, California, near the city’s Juneteenth celebration. It wasn’t immediately clear if the violence was connected with the event, according to the police, ABC News reported. The unidentified 22-year-old male was pronounced dead at a hospital. The other five victims — four males aged 16 to 27, and a woman in her 20s — were hospitalized in stable condition, according to the Oakland Police Department.
The Oakland shooting took place shortly before 6:30 p.m., roughly a mile north of the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, where hundreds of people had gathered throughout the day to observe Juneteenth. “Tonight a joyous occasion at our Lake Merritt was marred by a senseless act of gun violence,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said, according to ABC News.
In Aurora, Colorado, five people were shot in a shopping mall parking lot. When officers arrived on the scene, they found a large crowd and an adult male amongst them, suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. Officers began CPR on the victim until he was taken to the hospital, but he died a short while later, CBS Denver reported. There are conflicting reports of whether this was connected to Juneteenth, with some witnesses telling investigators that there was a related celebration in an unnamed unit of the shopping mall. Others, however, said the celebration was not connected to the newly declared federal holiday. There were allegedly up to 114 rounds fired in this incident, ABC News says.
There were also some unconnected acts of gun violence that took place over the weekend. Early on Saturday, a mass shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, left two people dead and four injured. The incident took place at around 2:00 a.m. in a parking lot. It appears to have started off as an argument between unidentified individuals as a group of partygoers began to leave a concert from a nearby venue, police said. During the argument, multiple people began shooting and a total of six victims were struck, CNN reported. In Philadelphia, a violence-filled weekend left more than a dozen hurt and three dead. Philadelphia police investigated at least five shooting incidents across the city on Sunday, 6ABC reported.
It has not even been two weeks since law enforcement officers told CNN in interviews that they were worried because this year’s surge in gun violence appears to have started well before the habitual summer spike in crimes. Americans have woken up on quite a few Mondays, of late, to news of a violence-ridden weekend.
Despite the various shootings, the very first year that Juneteenth was celebrated in the U.S. as a federal holiday appeared to be joyous. Of the events that took place over the weekend, a Juneteenth celebration in Cape May, New Jersey doubled as the opening day of the new Harriet Tubman Museum.
What is Juneteenth? Back in 1863 during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that the over three million enslaved people living in the Confederate states were free. But it would be two years before news that they were free would reach the last men and women yet to be freed.
The origins of Juneteenth go back to June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that enslaved people were now free. The former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, feasting, song, and dance, history says. One year later, on June 19, the first official Juneteenth celebrations took place in Texas. The holiday has gone on to be a cause for celebration and remembrance, as well as a call to action, NPR says in its photo report on how Americans celebrated Juneteenth over the weekend.
On Thursday, June 17, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that makes Juneteenth a national holiday, called the Juneteenth National Independence Day. It becomes the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was made official in 1983.