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Attorney General
Sean D. Reyes
Utah Office of the Attorney General
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Celebrating Juneteenth

June 19, 2020

Happy Juneteenth! This holiday celebrates the end of legalized slavery in our nation. Much political and public turmoil followed President Lincoln’s death. Despite serious threats to rights of former slaves, the Fourteenth Amendment and Civil Rights Acts were passed in the midst of that upheaval to enshrine equal protection for all Americans. 

Just as the original period of Reconstruction held out both uncertainty and hope, we must today unite and combine actions with the hope that our current struggles as a nation with bias and discrimination will result in meaningful and lasting change. 

Juneteenth 2020 takes on even greater significance than in years past because of America’s awakening to the injustice of George Floyd’s death. We are now in a time of extraordinary opportunity for change. Utah has already responded with statewide legislation to improve policing and more reform is coming. 

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes appreciates those who are peacefully but assertively making their voices heard. In a personal message, Attorney General Reyes said:

“We need all our communities represented in addressing this issue. I would love to hear people’s ideas and learn from personal stories, especially from our Black Communities and other communities of color.  I am sure we’ve had some similar experiences. Throughout my life I have also felt fearful, unheard, misunderstood, or even hated simply because of the color of my skin. 

“My position and title don’t immunize me from fear or hate. Only weeks ago, I received threats and painfully ugly messages aimed at me and my “mongrel children”, solely because of my race, from someone who intended to intimidate, humiliate, terrorize and de-humanize. Sadly, this is more common of an occurrence than we’d like to admit for people of color in our state and nation. 

“We cannot dehumanize our communities of color and stay true to what the 14th Amendment stands for, equality for all lives under the law.  I would like to hear as many voices as possible speak to police reform and larger issues of discrimination and what we can do about it together. 

“I love our law enforcement community and that’s one reason I’m so committed to helping us in law enforcement do our jobs even better and more humanely. I love our communities of color in Utah. That’s another reason I want to do everything we can with state and local leaders to make sure no one lives in fear of becoming the next Breonna Taylor and no one becomes the next George Floyd. 

“This week brought some good news:  Rep. Sandra Hollins’ bill (banning knee on the neck restraints and chokeholds) passed overwhelmingly. It is just one step, but a very important one.  In the spirit of Juneteenth, my office and I will keep working with Sandra and other great legislators on further critical reform bills for the next session.”

Read Rep. Sandra Hollins’ bill banning the use of chokeholds by law enforcement here.

Join in celebrating Juneteenth with activities and observances throughout Utah this weekend.