Gov. Bruce Rauner cancelled a Juneteenth celebration he was set to host at the DuSable Museum of African American History Monday after facing criticism from leaders in the African-American community.
"It is unfortunate that special interests politicized what was supposed to be a celebratory event," a Rauner spokesperson said in an e-mail. "Out of an abundance of caution and respect for the safety of visitors and the museum, we have regretfully cancelled the planned Juneteenth event at the DuSable Museum."
A representative for DuSable said the museum was not affiliated with the event, claiming the governor merely rented the space for an hour Monday afternoon to host a Juneteenth celebration. The holiday commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery.
Father Michael Pfleger, the outspoken pastor at St. Sabina’s church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, took to social media Friday to condemn Rauner's event at the museum.
Pfleger called the appearance "disrespectful" and urged readers to call DuSable to “tell them to stop this.”
“Can’t understand why the DuSable Museum will allow Gov. Rauner to speak there on Monday,” Pfleger wrote on Facebook.
“This man has abandoned and raped the community of resources,” he added.
The pastor's incendiary post received a considerable amount of pushback on social media, with some users siding with Rauner.
"Rauner should have never been allowed," Pfleger told NBC 5 Sunday following the cancellation. "A person whose policies are keeping whole communities in bondage should not be allowed anywhere in the community unless he's coming to say he's sorry and sign a budget."
Additionally, a coalition of 20 community activist groups, including Freedom First International, planned a protest of the event Monday "to send a clear message to the governor that a political narrative was not welcome on Juneteenth at the DuSable nor anywhere else in our community."
Following the governor's cancellation, the group will now hold a peace rally instead.
Pfleger has been a sharp critic of Rauner throughout the budget impasse. In March, Pfleger and other activists staged a demonstration outside the Thompson Center to protest the governor’s budget proposal, which included deep cuts for social service agencies.
"You don't balance the budgets on the backs of poor people and balance it on child care and violence prevention programs. That's not how you're going to balance the budget," Pfleger said.
In May of last year, Pfleger pointed to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s declared budget cuts as a future obstacle in curbing gun violence in the city.
"With all these state cuts taking place in this city, all the jobs that are not going to be there, the programs are not going to be there, I think it’s frightening what’s ahead of us right now in this city,” Pfleger told NBC 5.
Illinois' anti-violence program CeaseFire, which treats violence as a public health issue, was among the programs that were cut as part of an executive order Rauner issued last February.