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Detroit march honors Juneteenth with prayer, song, calls to vote

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Protests continued for a 26th day in Detroit on Saturday, with a peaceful Juneteenth march from the Fox Theater to Hart Plaza. 

The Juneteenth weekend has held special significance nationwide, following weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man killed May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police. The unofficial holiday celebrates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, who were freed in Texas on June 19, 1865.  

Marchers kneel for eight minutes, 46 seconds in tribute to George Floyd at the Power to the People marker along Woodward Avenue on Saturday, June 20, 2020 during the Juneteenth holiday weekend.

The procession stretched for blocks down Woodward Avenue toward Detroit's riverfront, with many of the marchers bearing signs saying "Black Lives Matter," "Stop Police Brutality," "We Will Breathe," or other messages. The Detroit Police Department couldn't immediately estimate the size of the march. 

"I think it's important to show unity and to stand up (against) the injustice," said Rita Cargile, 32, of Detroit, who marched with a friend. 

Cargile said she believes the marches are part of a nationwide movement against injustice and inequality will result in positive change.

"The young people are energized," she said, surveying the diverse crowd that included people of all ages, many with children in tow. 

"It's not just black folks — it's white, brown, all kinds of people." 

At Hart Plaza, Wayne State University medical students handed out water and snacks, and stood ready to assist if marchers succumbed to the near-90-degree heat. All but a few marchers wore face masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"Some of us have exams coming up, but we wanted to make sure our community knows we're here for them," said Candace Acuff, a second-year medical student at WSU.

Voter registration booths were set up by the NAACP and the Detroit City Clerk's Office.

Gloria Mills staffed the NAACP voter registration booth along with Marcia Hannah, her sorority sister in the Detroit Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, an organization of predominantly Black college-educated women. 

"We're looking for a good (voter) turnout because of all of the things that are going on right now," Mills said. 

kbouffard@detroitnews.com