Thousands gather for DC march on anniversary of MLK ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

Thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C., on Friday to march against racial injustice and police brutality, an event that also commemorated the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

The 57th anniversary of the civil rights march comes amid a summer of nationwide protests and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after a Minneapolis police knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

It also coincides with protests erupting earlier this week in Kenosha, Wis., after an officer shot another Black man, Jacob Blake, multiple times in the back. Blake survived the shooting but is currently paralyzed from the waist down, according to family.

Friday’s event, titled “Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” was announced by civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton during his eulogy for Floyd in June. It is being hosted by Sharpton’s National Action Network.

Sharpton is expected to speak at the event, as are members of Floyd’s family. King’s son, Martin Luther King III, and King’s granddaughter spoke at midday. 

Speeches are being given at the Lincoln Memorial, a parallel to the original March on Washington. Attendees will then walk to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial roughly a half-mile away.

The program began at 11 a.m. and the march begins at 1 p.m., according to the website. Events are scheduled to conclude by 3 p.m.

This intergenerational inclusive day of action will demonstrate our advocacy for comprehensive police accountability reform, the Census, and mobilizing voters for the November elections,” the website reads.

The District of Columbia is currently requiring people coming from coronavirus high-risk states, including both Wisconsin and Minnesota, to quarantine for 14 days when visiting the city, the outlet noted.

Due to the pandemic, organizers said they are restricting access to buses from those states. Free COVID-19 testing will also be provided at the event.

Sharpton appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and said organizers are requiring attendees to wear face masks and undergo temperature checks.

They will require people to remain socially distant, including being 6 feet apart during the march.

“We’re going to show the country today what they didn’t see last night — a disciplined but responsible gathering. Otherwise, we would close it down,” Sharpton said, appearing to reference President Trump’s White House speech at the Republican National Convention that did not require social distancing or face coverings.

There will also be a virtual commemoration for those who cannot attend the march, featuring civil rights activist the Rev. William Barber. The online event will reportedly include advocates, politicians, artists and entertainers.

Another march is scheduled for right after the March on Washington to promote more radical ideals, according to Reuters.

Kerrigan Williams, a founder of Freedom Fighters DC, said the group believes “the march on Washington is too reformist and performative for our taste.”

After two weeks of both the Democratic and Republican national conventions, activists are also scheduling a “Black National Convention” on Friday night.

The three-hour convention over livestream has been in the works since last fall, according to Reuters.

Organizer Jessica Byrd told the outlet that it will feature about 100 Black activists and discussions about criminal justice and capitalism

“We feel like it’s going to be a Black political Homecoming weekend,” she said.

Tags Al Sharpton Black Lives Matter Civil rights movement D.C. Donald Trump George Floyd I Have a Dream speech Jacob Blake March on Washington Martin Luther King III Martin Luther King Jr. National Action Network Washington

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