Activists prepare to storm DC in Independence Day weekend protests
Protesters plan to storm Washington, D.C., over Independence Day weekend with protests and demonstrations.
Activists in the most high profile of these events plan to protest the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park. The memorial, which leaders of the local collective the Freedom Neighborhood claimed they would topple last week, has become a subject of national interest, with many people making a case both for and against the statue.
Glenn Foster, the leader of the Freedom Neighborhood, has promoted multiple protests against the memorial set for the days surrounding the July 4 weekend. In some of his material, he celebrated the fact that on Tuesday the Boston Arts Commission voted to remove an identical copy of the statue, which depicts President Abraham Lincoln freeing the slave Archer Alexander, from public display.
“The job is almost finished! Let’s get it D.C.!” Foster wrote in reference to his efforts to remove the memorial.
The movement has received support from D.C. public officials. Shadow Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton on Thursday introduced legislation to have the statue removed from the park and placed in a museum. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said last week that she would be open to having a “reasonable conversation” about the statue’s future.
At the same time, the U.S. Park Police has kept up a fence surrounding the statue, which they say will remain in place until further notice. As of this writing, the fence is covered with many protest signs, as the fence surrounding the White House is, some explaining not only the racism present in the statue but, more broadly, the issue of systemic racism throughout the country.
“Our justice starts with tearing down the symbols of our oppression and demanding that we will wait no longer for the government to give us our freedom,” one of the signs reads.
Foster had an event planned for Thursday afternoon, but announced to his followers several hours before its start that it had been canceled “due to logistical issues on behalf of our enemy” — namely, the police.
The Freedom Neighborhood plans to hold a big event in front of the statue on Friday, but it will be met with resistance. The local historian Nathan Richardson, who, dressed as the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, defended the statue last week, said he plans to show up again on Friday. Richardson said he will recite excerpts from Douglass’s landmark 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” in an effort to explain the country’s complicated history with slavery and racism.
A series of other local historians and fans of Douglass, who famously dedicated the statue in the presence of President Ulysses S. Grant, also plan to stand in front of the statue and promote a “family-friendly community dialogue” about the memorial.
Several residents nearby Lincoln Park also plan to stand watch in the park to show their support for the statue. One resident told the Washington Examiner that they “need all the help we can get” to keep the statue from being toppled.
D.C. tour guide Don Folden has been visiting the park semi-regularly and since an incident last Friday where he led two reporters, one from One America News and the other from the Washington Examiner, away from protesters attempting to shove them. Folden plans to hold his own counter-rally after July 4 and said that he is prepared to “fight alone to save this statue.”
While the drama unfolds in front of the Emancipation Memorial, many other protesters plan to swarm the city during the day on July 4, according to a series of activist social media accounts. The plan, as it stands, is to wear all black and loudly protest racial injustice in front of the Capitol Building.
Christian Tabash, who on Wednesday led an anti-Israel march on the Capitol, said that the reason for the turnout on July 4 is to make a point about the illegitimacy of the American founding.
“What is Independence Day to black folks? What was Independence Day to honestly anyone but the white economic elite on that day?” Tabash asked, recalling July 4, 1776. “Poor folks and women couldn’t even vote. It’s a hoax.”