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Thousands march in the District for racial justice

Thousands of people gathered Friday around the Lincoln Memorial to speak out against racism and police brutality and to demand justice, marking the 57th anniversary of the first March on Washington where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

King’s oldest son, Martin Luther King III, and family members of men and women who died in the custody of police officers were among those who joined the demonstration in the nation’s capital.

“Together we are taking a stand and we’re taking a giant step forward…we’re taking a step forward on America’s righteous, but rocky journey toward justice,” Mr. King said to the crowd. “Demilitarizing the police, dismantling mass incarceration and declaring determinately as we can that Black lives matter.”

“And now we must march to the ballot box and the mail boxes to defend the freedoms that earlier generations worked so hard to win,” he urged. “We stand together today in the symbolic shadow of history, but we are making history together right now. We’re marching with the largest and most active, most multigenerational, most multiracial movement for civil rights since the 1960s.”

Mr. King commented on how Blacks and other minorities today are battling four major challenges: COVID-19, unemployment, police brutality and voting rights.

Participants of the march, called “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” congregated in D.C. amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, wearing masks and some donning gloves, to honor the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd among others, which sparked protests and riots across the nation.

Some attendees who gathered around the National Mall for the demonstration in the late summer heat held signs with images of George Floyd or slogans such as “White silence is violence” and “Stop police brutality.”

Before the march, family members of George Floyd stood at the podium to speak, wearing t-shirts that read “I can’t breathe, justice for George” and were decorated with a red heartbeat rhythm striking through a timestamp of 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of their loved one.

As Philonise Floyd, George’s brother, tried to speak, the crowd repeatedly chanted “I can’t breathe” and “George Floyd.”

“I wish George was here to see this,” Mr. Floyd said to the crowd, choking up at the podium and pushing aside his glasses to wipe his tears, mumbling “It’s hard, man” between sniffles. “My brother, George, he’s looking down right now. He’s thankful for everything that everybody is doing right. Y’all showing a lot of empathy and passion. If it weren’t for y’all, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”

“Our leaders need to follow us while we are marching to enact laws to protect us,” Mr. Floyd said.

George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died after police arrested him outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25. Video footage of that day shows white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Bridgett Floyd, George’s sister, asked marchers around the Lincoln Memorial to reflect on how history would remember them, whether it’s for their complacency or for their compassion.

“My brother cannot be a voice today. We have to be that voice. We have to be the change. And we have to be his legacy,” she said.

The father of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin Sunday, also attended the march and accused America of being guilty of systemic racism.

“There are two systems in the United States. There’s a white system and a Black system,” Jacob Blake Sr. said. “The Black system ain’t doing so well, but we’re going to stand up,” he said. “We’re tired. I’m tired of looking at cameras and seeing these young Black and brown people suffer.”

Featured march speakers urged attendees to go out and vote to have their voices heard, wrapping up a week of Republican National Convention events hosted in the District and the official nomination of President Trump for a second term.

As safety precautions, march attendees were required to register before the event, pass a temperature check, wear a face mask and to maintain distance between themselves. The march began at the Lincoln Memorial and concluded at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, in commemoration of the civil rights leader and movement.

An estimated 50,000 people attended the march, according to media reports, citing an event permit issued by the National Park Service.

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Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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