A crowd of people in Milwaukee enjoying some Juneteenth festivities booed and heckled U.S. Senator Ron Johnson as he spoke to reporters at the celebration on Saturday.
Johnson was a leading voice in the objection of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday in a bipartisan bill a year ago. On Thursday, Juneteenth nonetheless became the first national holiday declared since President Ronald Reagan made Martin Luther King Jr. Day official.
Johnson argued that America did not need another paid day off for federal workers, and he wanted more debate on the subject.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Johnson believed it would give federal workers a paid day off “that the rest of Americans have to pay for.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Johnson reiterated his concerns about the cost of the holiday, saying: “It still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery.”
He added that he was dropping his objection and that “there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”
That isn’t to say he does not support the day itself. The Journal reported Johnson saying, “Resolutions recognizing the significance of, and celebrating, Juneteenth have unanimously passed with my support in Congress every year I’ve been a U.S. senator.”
At the celebration in Milwaukee on Saturday, Johnson stopped by a celebration of Juneteenth and, as reported by CBS 58, spoke to members of media. “Most people are getting really tired of the division,” he said. “I think people are looking to really heal this nation and certainly that’s what I want to do. We can’t continue down this path. So again, I think this is a day to celebrate.”
While speaking, however, a crowd behind him began to boo and heckle the senator.
CBS 58 reported that Johnson also stopped by some Juneteenth celebrations in Kenosha on Saturday.
Newsweek reached out to Johnson’s office for comment.
On the 19th of June every year moving forward, federal government employees will get a paid day off, non-essential federal government offices will be closed, and stock market trading could be suspended.
Rep. Tom Tiffany, another GOP lawmaker from Wisconsin, voted against the resolution this week, saying in a statement on Thursday the measure would “fuel separatism by creating a race-based ‘Independence Day'” and calling the effort politicized.