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The demonstration was one of many held in the Portland region for Juneteeth celebrating the freedom of Black Americans.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Protesters marched toward Oregon on the Interstate Bridge to celebrate Juneteenth on Friday, June 19. A divide was bridged, literally, during a Juneteenth march that crossed the Columbia River on the Interstate Bridge between Oregon and Washington, shutting down southbound I-5 traffic for hours.

Organizers for the rally on Friday, June 19, shared a message of love — and a reminder to vote.

"We can fight back without being violent," said rally planner Ozzie George, who grew up in Portland and now lives in Vancouver, Washington. "I'm not saying, 'Black people, love your oppressor.' I'm saying love each other."

George, 26, and several hundred others gathered at Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver around 4 p.m., before marching up an on-ramp and onto the Oregon-bound lanes. Protesters took a knee and held several moments of silence before returning to the park by 7 p.m. A small group of counter-protesters, including Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, also attended the event.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A crowd kneels on the Interstate Bridge on Friday, June 19. Transportation authorities ensured that no cars traveled through the band of demonstrators.

Ameenah and Ameerah McLean, sisters in Portland, made the trek across the water, holding signs reading "No justice, No peace" and "Black is Beautiful."

What change would they like to see in the world?

"I want to see less cops killing people," said Ameerah, 24.

"I want to see more POC people in power in both states," said Ameenah, 22, using an acronym for people of color.

Juneteenth is a long-standing holiday celebrating the freedom of enslaved people — and specifically those in Galveston, Texas — in 1865. Those enslaved people were located in the westernmost part of the confederacy and the last place where the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was enforced.

Ezekiel H. used a megaphone to tell the crowd about the fatal police shooting of his cousin, Kendra James, who was shot by officer Scott McCollister in 2003 after she allegedly tried to drive away during a traffic stop.

The incident sparked widespread protests after inconsistencies emerged in the officer's account of events. Still, the district attorney at the time, Mike Schrunk, convened a grand jury that cleared the case.

"We want people to know that Black Lives Matter," said Ezekiel. "We already went through slavery for hundreds of years... then we had to go through oppression. Why?" PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Ezekiel H. and others raise their fists during a protest on the Interstate Bridge between Oregon and Washington during Juneteenth on Friday, June 19.


Zane Sparling
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