Berger tries to stop Juneteenth event due to COVID-19

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — In response to a new homegrown Juneteeth celebration, Mayor David Berger is asking that organizers holding the replacement event follow the Ohio Department of Health’s standing pandemic orders that forbid large public gatherings.

The original second annual Juneteenth celebration scheduled for 2020 had been canceled by its organizers back in the spring.

In a written statement released Thursday, Berger named a number of large public events canceled by the city in recent months — such as the Star Spangled Spectacular and the Irish parade — and he asked that a second group of residents re-organizing a Juneteenth celebration on the historic day follow the same guidelines.

“While it is understood that Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, I sincerely ask the organizers and those planning on participating to instead follow and respect the health and safety orders against mass gatherings issued by the Ohio Department of Health and avoid large crowds,” Berger said in a written statement.

Juneteenth organizers, however, have signaled their intent to keep moving forward with the event despite losing interest from some of vendors.

In a Facebook video recorded and released Thursday night, Organizer Sakiyha Matthews said the public gathering and related protest is still scheduled for Friday, June 19, at 4 p.m. starting at Dr. Martin Luther King Center Park.

“We are still protesting our rights, our freedom. We are still fighting for our rights,” Matthews said. “It just happens to be on, what, our holiday.”

Matthews encouraged others to join the protest at the park while also emphasizing the need to take precautions against COVID-19, such as following social distancing guidelines and wearing facial coverings.

Since March, the State of Ohio has tracked 43,122 cases of COVID-19 throughout its 88 counties with the majority of cases found in major metropolitan areas. Of the total numbers, 7,104 Ohio patients ended up being hospitalized and 2,633 died.

In Allen County, 246 cases have been discovered, which have led to 66 hospitalizations and 36 deaths.

“We each must continue to act in ways that protect ourselves, our families and others and minimizing social contacts will reduce the potential of exposure and disease transmission until such time as a vaccine is perfected and broadly available,” Berger said in the statement.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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