Thousands are expected to travel to the nation’s capital for the March on Washington amid ongoing protests against police killings of Black people.
WASHINGTON â Groups wereÂ convergingÂ on the nation’s capital FridayÂ to march for law enforcementÂ reform and voting rights as AmericaÂ reels fromÂ police killings of Black peopleÂ this year that fueled protests across the country.Â
TheÂ Get Your KneeÂ Off Our NecksÂ Commitment March on Washington, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network, or NAN, is marking theÂ 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his « I Have AÂ Dream »Â speech.Â
Sharpton firstÂ announced the march at the funeral of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black manÂ who died on Memorial Day when a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The march, Sharpton said,Â will lobby for lawmakers to pass federal legislation that he believes will help Black Americans gain equality.Â
He wants the U.S. Senate to take up theÂ George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,Â which would end certain police practices such as the use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds, and theÂ John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, whichÂ targetsÂ racial discrimination of voters. The U.S. House has passed both bills, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to bring them up for a vote.
âThe reason why GeorgeÂ Floyd laying there with that knee on his neck resonated with so many African-AmericansÂ is becauseÂ we have all had a knee on our neck,â Sharpton told USA TODAY. âWhat we are saying is that these two laws represent taking some of the knee off but the systemic racism is going to take more than two laws.â
The march comes as protests erupted across the country this weekÂ after graphic video surfaced on social media showing aÂ police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back several times as he was walking to a car in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The shooting left Blake, 29, paralyzed from the waist down, and it will be a « miracle » if he can ever walk again,Â Blake’s family attorney Ben Crump said Tuesday.Â Â
Two people were shot and killed and a third person was injuredÂ Tuesday night when protests in Kenosha turned violent.Â
AboutÂ 50,000 people are expected to attend the March on Washington onÂ Friday, according to a public gathering permit issued to NAN by the National Park Service.Â
Protesters gather in Washington, D.C., at the Lincoln Memorial on June 4, 2020, for a seventh night of demonstrations triggered by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. (Photo: Hannah Gaber, USA TODAY)
Kendra Butler, 49, of Arlington, Texas, was among those gathering Friday morning. She said she was in Washington visiting her cousin, Narvin Gray, and they decided to come March. Butler has two sons and said sheâs here for them and their future.Â
« I have two Black sons and seeing their parent out here trying to make a difference… to see them growing up asking why this is happening and I have to explain all the way back to when we were kidnapped. Itâs a horrible situation to have to explain to a 15-year-old who did not learn (Black history) in high school.
« As a Black parent, I want to show them that they not only have to learn, but have to practice what they preach. »
‘People are not going to stop’: 57 years later, thousands to gather for another March on Washington on Friday
Butler and Gray said theyâre organizing their family to vote early together, to show the younger family members itâs important.
Gray, 56, of Washington, D.C., said he wasnât alive for march 57 years ago so he wanted to come out today. « I just figured it was time to do something, time to stop being a spectator, » he said.
Narvin Gray, left, with cousin Kendra Butler and other family members on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020 in Washington, D.C. ahead of the March on Washington. (Photo: Rachel Aretakis)
NAN leaders say they will enforce strict rules during the march including requiring participants to wear masks, checking in at thermometerÂ stations, providing hand sanitizer,Â restricting access toÂ buses from states or cities that are COVID-19 hot spotsÂ andÂ social distancing. There willÂ be a livestream of the march on NANâs website.
Programming for the march will feature speeches byÂ Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, Crump and the families of Blake, Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks andÂ Eric Garner.Â At about 1 p.m., participants will march from the Lincoln Memorial to theÂ Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
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