Despite an on-going legal battle with the city of Columbus, Juneteenth Ohio 2014 will go on as planned, though in a new location.   Following a long run at Franklin Park, festival organizer Mustafaa Shabazz says this year's festival will take place at Genoa Park at 303 W. Broad St. in downtown Columbus. The change of venue means other changes will have to be made.   “It will be a gated event,” Shabazz said. “Everyone will be searched in order to provide a safe and secure event. Junetenth Ohio has always been a family friendly event. We will plan the event in a way that everyone will enjoy three days of music, food and family fun. What we do know is that Franklin Park was the perfect place to celebrate Juneteenth Ohio. The open park attracted people planning their family reunions, picnics, renewing marriage vowels, naming ceremonies for the babies. The park was perfect in the celebratory sense that people became reacquainted to the area for the past 23 years.”   Columbus Police shut down Juneteenth 2013 after two days after an 11-year-old boy was shot. At the time of the incident Columbus police said they had concerns that there could be more trouble. Shabazz says the shut down had a substantial impact on the festival's revenue. The shortfall meant Shabazz could not pay a bill of $3,000 to the city. With his attorney, Byron Potts, Shabazz filed a $4 million suit against Columbus in December.   “The Lawsuit against the City Of Columbus will experience a lengthy process,” Shabazz said. “We knew this when the City Attorney responded that the Chief of Police denied Lt. (Bela) Bernhardt did anything wrong. That's the strategy of the city, delay until it goes away in the minds of the Columbus citizens. Meanwhile we wait for the courts to handle the matter, and the festival is on hold for 5 years and all the families who were benefiting from the event lose a valuable, resource. Our board thought this through and we decided to move forward with the planning of the 2014 event. Mind you, our resources were all depleted after having to pay the Columbus Division of Police.   “Thanks to American Electric Power (AEP), they sent us a $5,000.00 check, to assist us in the 2014 planning. We have paid the City Of Columbus Department Of Parks and Recreation their bill, and can now reserve the park without it being a problem for the community. Donations are desperately needed to pay for all the equipment, entertainers, volunteers and security who help make the event a great success. This year we will have a gate and there will be an admission fee. However, if you have a SNAP card, admission is free. This way we don't leave the poor families out of the celebration.”   In filing the suit, Potts said, by closing the event, the City of Columbus violated Shabazz’s constitutional rights to assembly and expression. He points out that, police did not shut down the Asian Festival or Red, White & Boom when they were disrupted by violence.   Shabazz said he did not know where the city currently stands on the suit.    “I do know the city attorney's strategy is to make it a lengthy process,” he said. “It's the old stall tactic used back in the day when our rights were denied or violated by some level of government. What we stand on is justice for all, to be treated equally and fairly. We are human beings and we demand to be treated as such. Lt. Bernhardt, he was the law, but he did not know the law. He violated the entire African American community's 1st and 14th amendment rights of freedom to assemble and the freedom of speech.”   On the night of June 15, 2013, four juveniles were arrested for fighting at the festival. Then the 11-year-old boy was shot in the leg prompting police to close the event around 7pm.   The boy survived the injury and Lovauntea J. Mickens, who was 15 at the time, pleaded guilty to the shooting. He is now serving four years in juvenile detention.    According to the Juneteenth Ohio web site “June 19th, 1865, is considered the date when the last slaves in America were freed. Although the rumors of freedom were widespread before this, actual emancipation did not come until General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and issued General Order No. 3, on June 19th, almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.”      “We are the third largest celebration in the nation,” Shabazz said. “The 24th annual Juneteenth Ohio Festival will be the best in the Midwest.” Go to to get involved or call 614-258-4633 "Celebrating the Spirit of African American Independence."

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