Juneteenth: Thousands expected at events nationwide to mark historic date

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June 19 (UPI) -- A number of events are scheduled Friday to celebrate Juneteenth, a date marking the end of slavery in the United States that's taken on added significance this year in light of civil unrest that escalated after the police killing of George Floyd nearly a month ago.

Police in Washington, D.C., prepared for celebrations and protests to mark the occasion Friday. Officials expected thousands of protesters at a pair planned rallies and spontaneous marches in the national capital beginning Friday and lasting through the weekend.

The planned march routes will take protesters past White House, national monuments on the National Mall and through historically black neighborhoods in Washington.

Black Lives Matter DC has called for activists to march at major intersections and highways as part of the "Strike for Black Lives."

"We are calling for disruptive actions aimed at shutting down the city: Strikes, sick-outs, blockades, occupations, and spontaneous marches," the group stated on its website.

Washington police announced traffic restrictions that affect most of the district's downtown area starting Friday.

Hundreds of other Juneteenth celebrations are planned in at least 45 states, according to the Movement for Black Lives.

Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, the date when an order issued by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army informed all 250,000 slaves in Texas -- who were some of the last in the nation -- that they had been freed. The news led to mass celebrations among African Americans in the state and has since grown into a nationwide observance.

Thursday, researchers at the National Archives said they have located what's believed to be the original handwritten "Juneteenth" order issued by Granger from his base in Galveston, The Washington Post reported.

"This is something that we haven't tracked down before," said archivist Trevor Plante, who found the document.

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, 'all slaves are free,'" the order states.

"This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor."

"I think the timing is just amazing," said National Archives head David Ferriero.

President Donald Trump issued a statement Friday to mark the occasion.

"Juneteenth reminds us of both the unimaginable injustice of slavery and the incomparable joy that must have attended emancipation," he said. "It is both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our nation's unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness."

Protesters demand justice in police killing of George Floyd

Demonstrators hold a sign in Los Angeles on June 14 for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police in her home while she was sleeping. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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