Nearly 4,000 people marched for justice in Hartford on Friday. They're calling for change and racial equality.
Thousands of people crowded the front of the state capitol. They listened to speakers, cheered and held signs. Booths nearby pushed people to fill out the census and to register to vote.
"Just to make sure that everybody’s voices are heard because it's very important. If you want something changed, want something done, you have to be a part of it," said Kiara Samuels with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
"The census helps bring funding into the communities, into the schools, into local health care, and it's important to make change," said Michelle Jefferson with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
After two hours, the large crowd moved through Hartford, marching past the police department and to city hall. At the city hall, they rallied for another two hours. Those in attendance say it's not a moment, it's a movement. They say they're fighting for equality.
"I want to speak up for generations coming after me, and I want to stand with the generation before me. To fight for Black lives," said Victoria Wilks from New Britain.
"It's not about picking sides. It's not about politics. It's just about a human being's very existence and the fact that our justice system is not equal, and it needs to be equal," said Tamara Chuchro from East Hartford.
Many say Friday's Juneteenth gathering gives them hope that change is possible. After city hall, hundreds of people moved on to the mayor's residence. Mayor Luke Bronin spoke to the crowd and listened for more than an hour.
"I think the most important thing today was not my message to them. It was for me to hear their message," said Bronin.
The group Black America Undivided is pushing for several changes including completely defunding the police over the next few years, demanding an end to mass incarceration and demanding a community review board.
Bronin says he doesn't believe abolishing the police is the way to a stronger, safer, healthier community.
"There are absolutely reforms that need to be made to ensure real police accountability with civilian oversight, to ensure that our use of force policies are really emphasizing de-escalation, to make sure that the community has a voice in those reforms," said Bronin.