Brawls Mar Juneteenth

Robert A. Baker and Pam Lundborg, Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York), June 17, 2007

Syracuse’s Juneteenth celebration was shut down by police three hours early Saturday night after fights broke out among youths.

As fights erupted at the Clinton Square festival, hundreds of youths surged through the square and surrounding streets. Deputy Police Chief Frank Fowler made the decision to close the event at 8:10 p.m.

Two people were stabbed, one at the edge of the square and another near East Washington and South Warren streets, Fowler said. The wounds were not life threatening, Fowler said.

The festival marks June 19, 1865, the day the last American slaves heard news they were free. Over the years, the festival and parade have become a celebration of African-American culture.

Police arrested 14 people, including one juvenile, Fowler said. A suspect in one of the stabbings was among those arrested, Fowler said. There was no gunfire, the deputy chief said.

Names of the injured and arrested were not immediately available. The investigation is continuing, Fowler said.

Most of the day was great, said organizers, who placed the blame on youths attending the event.

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“We have got to educate the young people of the historical importance of Juneteenth,” Wright said. “This is a most holy occasion. Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom.”

“This is not going to stop Juneteenth,” Duane Owens, organizer and Juneteenth board member, said. “We’re going to do this again next year. It’s going to be bigger and better.”

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The festival Saturday featured gospel music, traditional dances and rich foods. Vendors sold traditional African products, such as beaded jewelry, shea butter and art. Hanover Square was converted into a children’s play land with games, a bounce tent and dance performances. The stage at Clinton Square held a series of performers in R&B, freestyle rap, poetry and gospel.

“The kids get such a kick out of this,” said Theresa Dyer, 40, of Syracuse, who attended the festival with her two sisters and their children. “They don’t want to go at the end of the day.”

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