Thousands of protesters led by the Rev. Al Sharpton plan to descend on the Capitol this Saturday to send lawmakers a message about police brutality.
Furious over the lack of indictments in the police killings of two unarmed black men, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, civil rights activists are preparing a new march on Washington that will shut down a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue and nearby streets.
“This is the time to come together and lift our collective voices, and say to Congress, we need to see more action from them around police brutality,” she said.
The Sharpton civil rights group is calling for congressional hearings into the deaths in New York and Ferguson, Mo., hoping they’ll lead to legislation regarding police misconduct.
While the Justice Department is investigating the deaths of both men, organizers want Congress to enact legislation giving the DOJ more latitude when it comes to police killings.
“The Congress needs to not only do hearings, they need to deal with the jurisdictional threshold of how you make a federal case,” Sharpton said Sunday during an appearance with Garner’s widow on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
On Capitol Hill, leaders of both parties, including House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersInternet group rolls out new political fundraising tool GOP talking security for ObamaCare protests: report Republican lawmakers face rising anger at town halls MORE (R-Wash.), have called for hearings into the Garner and Brown killings. And Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerFormer House leader Bob Michel, a person and politician for the ages Former House GOP leader Bob Michel dies at 93 Keystone pipeline builder signs lobbyist MORE (R-Ohio) signaled last week that he was open to such hearings, saying Americans “deserve more answers” about the deaths.
It’s unclear exactly how many people will join the National March Against Police Violence, given that it was only announced Wednesday.
But organizers say it will be led by the families of Garner, Brown and Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black Florida teen who was fatally shot in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. It will also feature the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer last month at a park.
Charter buses will transport people to D.C. from as far as northern Florida, Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia and Detroit. Others plan to fly into the nation’s capital.
Protesters plan to gather at Freedom Plaza near the White House at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and are in the process of securing city permits to march the mile-long stretch along Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill.
As of Monday, it had not been decided if a program featuring speakers would follow the march.
The march follows days of mostly peaceful protests in cities across the country, after a grand jury’s decision last week not to charge a white police officer in the chokehold death of Garner in Staten Island. The July 17 incident was captured on video and broadcast worldwide.
The New York decision came just a week after a separate grand jury declined to indict another white police officer in the shooting death of 18-year-old Brown in Missouri.
Nonviolent protesters angered by the decisions have shut down freeways and city streets in New York; Washington, D.C.; Miami and other major cities. Some have temporarily occupied train stations and retail stores at the height of the holiday shopping season.
In some instances, protests have turned violent. In Oakland, Calif., protesters vandalized police cars and shut down a freeway. As things escalated, they threw rocks, bottles and small explosives at police officers, who then deployed tear gas, CNN reported.
Saturday’s march isn’t likely to match the 200,000 to 300,000 people who descended on the National Mall in 1963 for the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
But African-American civil rights leaders say there are parallels between the two marches, though they’re more than half a century apart.
“It’s fitting and appropriate. People have to vent their frustration and discontent, and do it in a peaceful, orderly nonviolent fashion,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the last surviving speaker from the 1963 rally, told The Hill in an interview.
“We need to teach people the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence,” he said, “and try to pattern it after what we did during the ‘60s.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it’s everyone’s responsibility — Democrats, Republicans and human rights leaders — to get involved in the fight to ensure that the criminal justice system is working well for everyone.
“I don’t think it [this issue] is going to disappear, because this stuff is happening so frequently,” Cleaver said. “But we are compelled as national leaders to be involved in this — this is Republicans and Democrats. Everybody’s going to have to get involved, or this is going to tear us asunder, as a nation.”
Mike Lillis contributed.