Don’t Shoot Portland celebrated Juneteenth by making “Freedom Lemonade” in front of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on June 19, 2017. Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates when, two-and-a-half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became law, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 to inform Texans that the war was over and those enslaved were now free.
Holding the Juneteenth celebration at a federal courthouse appears to be a symbolic reference to DSP’s goal of filing a civil class action lawsuit in the federal courts against police harassment later this year.
“The thing is you’ve got to get people on the record to say something that’s actually happened,” said Teressa Raiford, founder of DSP. “We’re meeting with community and families at our bystander intervention training at our community safety planning meetings. We’re going to be getting people to fill these documents out and then also to document the issues that happen to them. We’re selling t-shirts, but our plan is basically to get an investigator to help us find the claims and file the claims and articulate that in a lawsuit.”
One anonymous attendee seemed to echo Raiford’s hint at the difficulty of putting people’s names and stories on the record.
“Those fascist officers that have shot innocent black people to death,” the attendee said. “It’s really scary right now, and giving your support to the people who need it is really important. It’s also really hard for people to come out, not knowing, with police. I’m always keeping my eyes out for the unexpected. It’s just bad.”
DSP is teaming up with the Latinx community organizers at Milenio.org in efforts reach out to community members to get information about potential harassment situations to compile on record and bring forth as evidence of a larger problem that the organizations are hoping the suit can address.
“Documenting in our community issues people are having with harassment by police officers—different issues, whether they’re in mental health, schools, hospital, at your job, or just out in public,” Raiford stated. “We’re trying to figure out how people are engaged in these issues.”
Film The Police representative Robert West came to the event for that very purpose, to film any interactions with the police just in case any unexpected and unnerving interactions with police were to occur. Fortunately, the event was tame and West didn’t foresee any problems occurring with officers at this Juneteenth’s “Freedom Lemonade” celebration.
Upon arrival, Raiford and several others started making lemonade. They poured ice and sugar into a large water jug then squeezed about a dozen lemons on top. Music played in the background as attendees watched the lemonade being made. There were signs addressing the verdict in the killing of Philando Castile, who was killed by a police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 6, 2016, and that addressed the killing of Charleena Lyles that had occurred one day before on June 18, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.
After a song sung by an attendee intended to bless the event, Raiford invited attendees to take a sip of the “Freedom Lemonade” that was 150 years in the making. The jug did not have a spout on the bottom and the liquid did not reach the top, making it difficult to diagnose how to easily get the lemonade out. Eventually one mother served some to her children by lifting and tilting the bucket. Raiford pointed out that a mother was being forced to lift this heavy jug to get “Freedom Lemonade” for her children and no one came to help her.
At this call out, several attendees came to help serve others their “Freedom Lemonade.” Raiford then explained a little bit about the point of the exercise.
“We got freedom right, it’s Juneteenth, the Emancipation Proclamation celebration and everybody that’s thirsty can make lemonade,” Raiford said. “We got all the lemons and everything you need to make lemonade and everybody focused in on that jug—everybody focused in on the jug that had all the ice and had all the lemons squished into it…six people can make lemonade at the same time, but there’s people tryin’ to figure out how to get the lemonade out of that little jug right there.”
Raiford then elaborated on the relationship of the exercise and freedom.
“We had to figure out what were people willing to do to get their freedom,” Raiford continued. “Some people stood back and said, ‘Nah, I’m gonna see if he get his freedom first,’ or, ‘I’m gonna see if it tastes good.’ Think about your reaction to getting access to freedom and what you were willing to do to get it.”
Raiford hopes that the ACLU information about individual’s civil liberties in this country will empower people to take advantage of the knowledge available to be more in control of their fates.
“That’s kind of what it’s like when you’ve got Freedom Lemonade: you’ve got your civil liberties, so we want you to use them and exercise them,” Raiford said.
The metaphor was concluded with a closing statement and a call and response with the audience.
“It’s ridiculous,” Raiford asserted. “The freedoms that we don’t have that we have that we don’t have even put ourselves in the position to take advantage of. Are we afraid of freedom? [crowd ‘No!’] Do we know what freedom is? [c: ‘Yes!’] Do we want that? [c: ‘Yes!’] Are we gonna resist anything that takes away our freedom and our civil liberties? [c: ‘Yes!’] When do we want our freedom? [c: ‘Now!’] When do we want our freedom? [c: ‘Now!’] Drink Freedom Lemonade and listen to some music.”