More than 1,000 people marched through downtown Burlington on the Fourth of July to draw attention to the country's legacies of racism and oppression.
The Black-led event began at 4 p.m., just as many others in the city were sipping beers or barbecuing to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Protesters gathered outside Burlington City Hall, then walked up the Church Street Marketplace and through Pearl Street to Battery Park.
Organizers with The Black Perspective said they asked Church Street businesses to close early in solidarity. Leunig's Bistro & Café lined its shuttered outdoor seating area with Black Lives Matter flags, and Outdoor Gear Exchange posted fliers announcing its early closure so employees could attend the rally.
Other businesses and restaurants stayed open. The mass of mask-clad rally-goers squeezed past shoppers and outdoor diners along the Marketplace and chanted the names of Black men and women killed by police.
Some carried signs describing holiday celebrations as hypocritical. "Fuck your 4th of July," one read. "July 4th is a sham as long as systemic racism exists," read another.
The peaceful crowd assembled in Battery Park for more than two hours of speeches by people of color. Organizers invited people of color to sit near the front of the amphitheater, while white attendees spread out behind them.
Speakers discussed police brutality, parental rights for Black men, the burdens of Black womanhood and trans people, and inequities in judicial and economic arenas. One speaker offered a searing critique of entitled white women, known pejoratively as "Karens," while another called upon all white people to become more actively engaged in the pursuit of racial justice.
Marching in Burlington on Saturday
"This isn't something you come to to just post on Instagram later," photographer Anthony Marques told the crowd.
Ash Diggs applauded the City of Burlington for committing to reduce the number of police officers over time but said, "there is still so much work to do."
Diggs argued that the Fourth of July excludes Black people who were enslaved for nearly a century after the country's founding and who continue to be oppressed.
"As we gather here today, I reject America's holiday," he said. "I reject America's Independence Day, but I will appropriate the methods of the founding Americans and fight to destroy every system that oppresses us."
Diggs continued: "We need to destroy and rebuild nearly every system as we know it, and only then will we be the country we claim to be."