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Sen. Ron Johnson Appearance At Milwaukee Juneteenth Celebration Leads To Booing, Yelling

Sen. Ron Johnson at Juneteenth
Chuck Quirmbach
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson visited booths at Milwaukee's Juneteenth celebration shortly after booing halted the Republican's news conference.

Aides to Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson halted a news conference at Milwaukee's Juneteenth celebrations Saturday, after hecklers criticized the Republican lawmaker's appearance at the festivities.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy surrendered. That was also about 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Confederate territory.

People gather for Milwaukee's 50th Juneteenth celebration.
Michelle Maternowski
People gather for Milwaukee's 50th Juneteenth celebration.

Last year, Johnson blocked efforts in the Senate to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday, contending federal workers did not need additional benefits. But Tuesday, he announced he "did not intend to object" to a vote this year on the matter as"it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter." The holiday declaration quickly passed the Senate and House, with Rep. Tom Tiffany the only member of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation in opposition.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth, or June 19, as a federal holiday.

Johnson originally announced a Saturday availability with news reporters near a GOP office a few blocks south of the Milwaukee's Juneteenth celebrations. But the gathering was then moved to a Republican Party booth on the 2700 block of N. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, in the midst of the Juneteenth gathering.

Shortly after beginning to speak, some in the crowd started booing Johnson.

Sound of booing during Sen. Ron Johnson's Juneteenth news conference.

The Senator noted, "So, we have people not particularly supportive here." The booing and yelling at Johnson increased, leading him to add, "This is not the way you heal a nation."

After it became nearly impossible for reporters and Johnson to hear each other, Johnson's aides halted the event and his security team and Milwaukee police led Johnson to a quieter part of the festivities, where he shook hands at some booths.

One of the protestors, Brandon Willborn, later questioned Johnson's sincerity about the holiday, telling WUWM: "So, do how you show up to something that you really don't support?"

Johnson said he's still deciding whether to run for re-election next year.

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