Politicians, advocates urge Gov. Pritzker to lower flags statewide on Juneteenth

State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford said the move would be a step toward addressing the inequities and injustices against the Black community.

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State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford speaks during a news  conference Tuesday, June 16, 2020, calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to lower flags in commemoration of Juneteenth. The news conference was held at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford wants Gov. J.B. Pritzker to lower flags in Illinois on Friday to mark Juneteenth.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A group of state and local politicians on Tuesday urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to lower the state’s flags to half-staff on Juneteenth in recognition of “the lives lost because of hate and racism.”

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration marking the end of slavery in the United States. Lowering flags June 19 would send a message of unity in Illinois amid the unrest after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which “created a moment in time where the world stood up against racism and hate,” state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, said at a news conference at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

Ford said the move would be a step toward addressing the inequities and injustices against the Black community.

“You have to recognize that there’s a problem, and we want the governor to be on record saying, ‘Look, I’m all-in to make sure that there’s justice for all in Illinois,’” Ford said.

Senate President Don Harmon said it’s the obligation of everyone in a community to try to end racism, but “If there is a greater obligation to fall upon anyone, it falls upon all of us who’ve benefited from privilege and who have enjoyed the inequities of the current system.”

“And so I come to stand with my colleagues in the General Assembly and all of our constituents here not to call for but to demand the end of racism and hatred in Illinois.”

Ford said Pritzker should by executive order create an office of equity and inclusion in Chicago, promoting racial and social justice.

“It’s very difficult right now for the Legislature to do anything because we’re not in session until November, so now we’re saying that the governor must be bold in his efforts and deliberate about his will to deal with the problems in the black community,” Ford said.

A statement Tuesday from Pritzker’s office said the governor “is committed to honoring both the celebration of Juneteenth and paying respect to those who lost their lives, by lowering the flag in honor in them.”

The statement continues, “The governor recognizes that, now more than ever, Juneteenth is a day that reminds us that the fight for justice and equity across the nation is not over, and while we will celebrate the end of slavery, we must also recognize the systemic racism that has time and time again reared its ugly head and honor the memory of those who have died simply because of the color of their skin.”

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