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Hundreds gather for Juneteenth celebration and rally outside St. Louis City Hall Friday

"It's a special time in the country and I think we're all feeling it is time for big changes and this is a day that can bring that to a focal point," said one dad

ST. LOUIS — They danced. They chanted. They waved African-American flags and held many signs high in the air. Signs that read "respect us", "expect us" and "black lives matter".

Hundreds of people packed parts of South Tucker Boulevard outside the  St. Louis City Hall for a Juneteenth celebration and rally for more than four hours on Friday.

"It is Juneteenth. It is our Independence Day," Ohun Ashe, a member of the group, Expect US said.

People of all races and ages united to celebrate the 155th Juneteenth and to commemorate the end of slavery in America.

The Edgells made it a family affair.

"It's a special time in the country and I think it's time for big changes and this is a day that can bring all that to a focal point," Randall Edgell said.

Lauren Milton took her three-year-old son to the Friday afternoon event.

"My son is half Black and I want him to learn about his culture and his heritage and that's really important to me," Milton said.

Members of the small, grass-roots group, Expect US organized the Juneteenth rally and celebration. The group formed after 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson nearly six years ago.

Amid their many chants, among other things, the concerned citizens called for an end to police brutality, racism and racial injustice.

"We are talking about reparation. We're talking about justice, equality and freedom for Black people," Ashe said.

Many left hopeful the peaceful, highly-diverse gathering marks a new beginning.

"It feels like we can actually really change things," said 17-year-old Isaac Edgell.

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