Thousands gather at March on Washington commemorations

An estimated thousands have gathered Friday near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” address, a vision of racial equality that remains elusive for millions of Americans.
People wearing shirts to honor George Floyd watch at the March on Washington.(AP)
People wearing shirts to honor George Floyd watch at the March on Washington.(AP)
Updated on Aug 28, 2020 11:32 PM IST
Copy Link
Washignton, United States | ByAssociated Press | Posted by Shivani Kumar

Capping a week of protests and outrage over the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin, civil rights advocates began highlighting the scourge of police and vigilante violence against Black Americans at a commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

An estimated thousands have gathered Friday near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” address, a vision of racial equality that remains elusive for millions of Americans.

And they are gathering on the heels of yet another shooting by a white police officer of a Black man — this time, 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last Sunday — sparking days of protests and violence that left two dead.

“I want to give space for Black people in the crowd to say they are not OK,” said Jumaane Williams, New York City’s public advocate, who addressed march attendees shortly after the program began.

“We are like the nameless grandmothers who got in the streets and said, ‘We will make you live up to what America says she is,’” Williams said. “We are here. We’re not going anywhere.”

Activist Frank Nitty, who said he walked 750 miles for 24 days from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Washington for Friday’s march, spoke to the audience about persistence in the fight for justice.

“Are y’all tired? Because I’m tired,” Nitty said. “They think this is a negotiation, but I came here to demand change. My grandson ain’t gonna march for the same things that my granddaddy marched for. This is a revolution.”

March attendee Jerome Butler, 33, of D.C., echoed Nitty’s sentiment.

“My hope is that my son doesn’t have to be out here in another 50 years protesting the same thing,” Butler said.

Early on, the march was shaping up to be the largest political gathering in Washington since the coronavirus pandemic began. Many attendees showed up wearing T-shirts bearing the image and words of the late Rep. John Lewis who, until his death last month, was the last living speaker at the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which went on to become one of the most famous political rallies in US history, and one of the largest gatherings at the nation’s capital with over 200,000 people advocating for social change.

Participants streaming in for the march late Friday morning stood in lines that stretched for several blocks, as organizers insisted on taking temperatures as part of coronavirus protocols. Organizers reminded attendees to practice social distancing and wear masks throughout the program.

Martin Luther King III, a son of the late civil rights icon and the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose civil rights organization, the National Action Network, planned Friday’s event, delivered keynote addresses that show the urgency for federal policing reforms, to decry racial violence, and to demand voting rights protections ahead of the November general election.

“We’ve come to bear witness, to remain awake, to remember from where we’ve come and to carefully consider where we’re going,” King said. “Whether you’re here in person or watching on (television networks), thank you for joining us for this March on Washington.”

“We’re taking a step forward on America’s rocky but righteous journey toward justice,” he added.

“We didn’t just come out here to have a show,” Sharpton said. “Demonstration without legislation will not lead to change.”

And to underscore the urgency, Sharpton assembled the families of an ever-expanding roll call of victims: Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner, among others.

Arbery and Martin both were killed by white men who pursued them with guns.

Following the commemorative rally, participants will march to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in West Potomac Park, next to the National Mall, and then disperse.

Turnout in Washington was expected to be lighter than initially intended due to city-imposed coronavirus pandemic restrictions that limit out-of-state visitors to the nation’s capital. To that end, the National Action Network organized a handful of satellite march events in South Carolina, Florida and Nevada, among others.

Robbie Williams, 67, traveled to the march from Covington, Kentucky, and said attending was her way of “speaking to my children and my people.”

“My message to my children is to stand up no matter what. And to the police: get some education and read your bibles,” Williams said, adding that she also wants Black communities to honestly confront internal violence and homophobia.

Representation of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the movement was addressed by several march speakers, including David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a Black LGBTQ civil rights organization.

“I stand here in the spirit of our brother Bayard Rustin,” he said, referring to the King adviser who helped organize the original march. “Without his brilliance and his commitment to our intersectional social justice, there would not have been a March on Washington.”

“If you care about Black people like I do, if you love Black people like I do, you’ve got to love and care about all of us,” Johns said.

While participants march in Washington, Sharpton has called for those in other states to march on their US senators’ offices and demand their support of federal policing reforms. Sharpton said protesters should also demand reinvigorated US voter protections, in Lewis’ memory.

In June, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which would ban police use of stranglehold maneuvers and end qualified immunity for officers, among other reforms. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after a white police officer in Minneapolis held a knee to the man’s neck for nearly eight minutes, sparking weeks of sustained protests and unrest from coast to coast.

In July, following Lewis’ death, Democratic senators reintroduced legislation that would restore a provision of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 gutted by the US Supreme Court in 2013. The law previously required states with a history of voter suppression to seek federal clearance before changing voting regulations.

Both measures are awaiting action in the Republican-controlled Senate.

In her remarks at the march, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, whose Texas district includes Floyd’s hometown of Houston, referenced a line from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” address that decries America for giving Black people “a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’”

“Today, we stop the insufficient funds and we put money in the bank,” Lee said, vowing to keep pushing for enactment of the federal legislation.

Later in the evening, the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 Black-led organizations that make up the broader Black Lives Matter movement, will hold its virtual Black National Convention.

The convention will coincide with the unveiling of a new Black political agenda intended to build on the success of this summer’s protests. The platform will deepen calls for defunding police departments in favor of investments to healthcare, education, housing and other social services in Black communities, organizers said.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • A forensic technician ties a used police line together to seal off a crime scene in Monterrey. 

    Man dies in jet-propelled truck crash at US air show

    Video taken at the Battle Creek Executive Airport by apparent air show attendees and posted on social media showed the truck losing control, bursting into flames and crashing, flipping over multiple times as horrified spectators looked on.

  • An ambulance and armed police are seen during the evacuation of people at the Fields shopping center in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 3, 2022 after Danish media reported a shooting. (Photo by Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)

    3 dead after shooting at shopping mall in Copenhagen; one arrested

    The Royal House said on its website late on Sunday that an event in southern Denmark to commemorate the end of the first three stages of the Tour de France cycling race, hosted by the Danish Crown Prince and with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in attendance, had been cancelled.

  • People rally in support of abortion rights Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    Texas clinics halt abortions after state high court ruling

    The Friday night ruling stopped a three-day-old order by a Houston judge who said clinics could resume abortions up to six weeks into pregnancy. The following day, the American Civil Liberties Union said it doubted that any abortions were now being provided in a state of nearly 30 million people.

  • Other places from which Google will not store location data include fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, and weight loss clinics.

    Google to delete user location history on US abortion clinic visits

    "If our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit," Jen Fitzpatrick, a senior vice president at Google, wrote in a blog post. "This change will take effect in the coming weeks."

  • Professor Ajay Agrawal, who was honoured with the Order of Canada in the 2022 list. (Credit: University of Toronto)

    Two Indo-Canadian academics honoured with Order of Canada

    Two Indo-Canadian academics, working on research to advance the betterment of mankind, have been honoured with one of the country's most prestigious awards, the Order of Canada. Their names were in the list published by the office of the governor-general of Canada Mary Simon. Both have been invested (as the bestowal of the awards is described) into the Order as a Member. They are professors Ajay Agrawal and Parminder Raina.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, July 04, 2022