Emancipation Day Reminds Us What Freedom Is All About

emancipation proclamationIt's Emancipation Day in Washington, DC, in which our nation's capital is commemorating the day in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which abolished slavery in DC. The Emancipation Proclamation followed on January 1, 1863, which freed (most of) the slaves in the nation. DC was ahead of the rest of the country in outlawing slavery -- it also gave slave-owners, who stayed loyal to the Union, $300 per freed-slave, and offered $100 to slaves who wanted to colonize outside of the United States.

Emancipation Day was celebrated as a holiday each year from 1866 to 1901, then fell off the calendar until DC re-instituted it in 2005. Lincoln signed the Act on April 16, so the city's holiday falls on Friday, April 15 this year. It's why taxes aren't due 'til midnight on Monday, April 18. So on this day of recognition and tribute for the emancipation, what's with all the protests?


For starters, some Tea Partiers out in Washington state chose to use this day to protest "tax slavery." The Olympia Tea Party website recommends protesters use common sense (as in, no guns) and to not dress up in Civil War outfits (sound advice, guys). Oh and they say if someone infiltrates, poses as a Tea Party member, then gets in front of the media, pull out your sign that says, "Not a Tea-Partier" and point it directly at the culprit.

There are protests happening in DC, too, where it's an unpaid furlough holiday for DC employees, and a day off for DC school kids and teachers. Some District residents are using this day to evoke the theme of freeing DC, and to ask for more independence for the city. On Capitol Hill, three have been arrested, including one of the city's shadow senators, after the protest turned disorderly. The protesters are unhappy with the new federal budget deal that effectively cuts spending money for abortions for low-income women and places more restriction on the capital whose license plates read "Taxation Without Representation." DC Mayor Vincent Gray is getting in on the action, and is scheduled to attend a protest regarding the voting rights in Northeast.

I've got no problem with protesting for a cause you believe whether I believe in it or not. But it just seems to me that there should be more celebration and remembrance than conflict and protest on Emancipation Day. But who am I to say when and where someone is allowed to speak their mind -- no one in our country can stop free speech. Which is why America is pretty awesome. So protest on, Wayne, party on, Tea lovers, and celebrate Emancipation Day how ever you darn well want. Just file your taxes by Monday. Can't protest those really -- just ask Wesley Snipes.


Photo via chadh/Flickr

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