WASHINGTON (AP) – Crowning a week of protests and outrage over the police shooting of a black man in Wisconsin, thousands of civil rights activists highlighted the scourge of police violence against African-Americans on Friday as they commemorated the 1963 March. to Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Thousands of people gathered in front of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, a vision of racial equality that remains elusive to millions of Americans.
This year’s rally held special significance after yet another incident in which white police officers shot black men, this time 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The incident occurred on Sunday and sparked days of protests and violence.
“I want to give black people in the crowd space to say they are not well,” said the New York City ombudsman, who spoke to those present at the start of the program.
« We are like the anonymous grandmothers who went out on the street and said, ‘We are going to make you meet the expectations of what the country says it is,’ » Williams said. « Here we are. We’re not going anywhere. «
Activist Frank Nitty, who said he walked 750 miles (1,207 kilometers) in 24 days from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Washington for Friday’s march, spoke about persistence in the fight for justice.
« They are tired? Because I’m tired, ”Nitty said. “They believe that this is a negotiation, but I came here to demand changes. My grandson is not going to march for the same things that my grandfather marched for. This is a revolution ”.
A participant in the march, Jerome Butler, 33, echoed Nitty’s comments. « My hope is that my son does not have to go out in another 50 years to protest the same thing, » he said.
From the beginning, the march looked like it was going to be the largest political rally in Washington since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Many participants wore T-shirts bearing the image and words of the late Representative John Lewis, who, until his passing last month, was the last surviving speaker from the original march in Washington. That rally in the US capital became one of the most famous political rallies in US history and one of the largest congregations in the city, with more than 200,000 people demanding social justice.
Participants who arrived for the march on Friday night lined up lines that spanned several blocks, with organizers insisting on taking attendees’ temperatures as part of coronavirus protocols. Organizers reminded participants to practice social distancing and to wear face masks.
Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights icon, and Reverend Al Sharpton, whose rights organization National Action Network organized Saturday’s march, delivered keynote speeches at the event, demanding federal reforms to law enforcement, condemning racial violence and demand protections of the right to vote for the November elections.
« We didn’t come here for a show, » Sharpton said. « A demonstration without legislation will not lead to changes. »
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