CHICAGO (WLS) -- Fourth of July celebrations are underway in Chicago, but things are noticeably different considering the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and recent national unrest.
In Washington Park, many exchanged cookouts for community activism amid calls for people of color to boycott Independence Day.
"We need more than topped Confederate statues," said Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. "We need more than people taking their Confederate flags down or putting Black Lives Matter on their websites."
The Quality of Life march stepped off Saturday from in front of Chicago Police Department headquarters at 35th and Michigan.
Marchers say the Black experience in America hasn't improved much over the centuries, and neither has access to quality housing, education and jobs.
"It's a mockery of our values to say that this is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, because it's not because there are still people who aren't free," said marcher Loreen Targos.
Similar rallies took place in over a dozen other U.S. cities as organizers demanded equity or else, borrowing the theme from an 1852 speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" by Frederick Douglass. The speech questions the real meaning of freedom.
"Instead of us celebrating, we're out here preserving space for equality for future generations," said marcher Troy Gaston.
The protests come as Chicago braces for more gun violence in South and West Side neighborhoods this weekend. Some activists say systemic racism and communities being starved of resources are to blame.
"This is what you get. It's like a combustible chamber. It's going to blow up sooner or later," said community activist Rev. Robin Hood.
On Saturday afternoon, several groups also called for a new holiday in the city known as DuSable Day, named after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. He was the first permanent settler in what would become Chicago.
Many Chicagoans swap cookouts for community activism this 4th of July
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