Recently, our team journeyed to Washington, D.C. for the National Action Network’s Commitment March. The August 28 march marked 57 years since the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have A Dream” speech. According to the National Action Network’s website, the goal of the march was to advocate for comprehensive police accountability reform, promote participation in the Census and motivate voters to cast their ballots in the upcoming Presidential election.
The National Action Network was founded by Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991. With nearly 100 chapters nationwide, the civil rights organization works in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. to achieve “one standard of justice, decency, and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, criminal record, economic status, gender, gender expression or sexuality.”
The trip from New York to Washington, D.C. was made easy by taking Amtrak’s Acela service. Despite the higher price point, the Acela is newer and less crowded than regional trains. The express train eliminated the burden of tolls and stopped in only a few cities, arriving in D.C. after about three and a half hours. It can be stressful to travel right now, so it was a relief to see how clean the train was. The quiet car, basic free wifi and outlets on board provided the perfect environment to research and write articles on our tablets. We utilized our extra time to discuss with one another and prepare for our coverage of the march and our days in D.C.
The café offered coffee and various snack options, and the sliding glass doors made it easy for us to walk through the cars. The reclining seats were comfortable and allowed us to rest before our trip. There were also sections of four seats for those traveling in a larger group. Each passenger could bring two personal items weighing up to 25 pounds, and two carry-on bags weighing up to 50 pounds at no additional cost. Amtrak is currently offering reduced fares for two to six tickets purchased together where riders can save eight to 45 percent.
Luckily, we were able to call Amtrak in advance to ensure we could carry on our folding bicycles. With limited parking available in the city, electric bikes served as a great mode of transportation for many protesters. E-bikes such as the DYU Smart Bike and a custom scooter from Good Vibe Gliders were an affordable alternative to renting a car, and made covering and participating in the march much easier.
The Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks started early Friday morning. Participants marched through the National Mall, many carrying signs remembering those whose lives have been lost in acts of police violence. Others displayed “Black Lives Matter” on flags, shirts and masks.
Some participants created street art during the event, voicing their support through their work. At one point, a number of demonstrators stood together in the Reflecting Pool in front of the Washington Monument. Marchers reached the section of 16 Street NW that has become known as “Black Lives Matter Plaza” around 3:30 PM before dispersing for the day.
Organizers of the march upheld COVID-19 guidelines and regulations. The National Action Network placed multiple signs throughout the National Mall encouraging social distancing, and took marchers’ temperatures as they entered the area. Face masks were distributed to people who did not have one, and visitors from high-risk areas were urged to join virtually from their homes. There was also a testing booth on site, as reported by WUSA 9.
The march was co-convened by Sharpton and Martin Luther King III. Among the thousands of attendees who gathered on the National Mall were the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Jacob Blake. Many members of these families gave speeches at the Lincoln Memorial, along with lawmakers from across the country. These congressmen and women pushed for legislation that would address cases of racial injustice.
Though she was not present, Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris shared her message to marchers via Twitter. In her speech, which was played at the event, she said, “…if we work together, to challenge every instinct our nation has to return to the status quo, and combine the wisdom of long time warriors for justice, with the creative energy of the young leaders today, we have an opportunity to make history, right here and right now.”
Yolanda Renee King took the stage to address the crowd, standing where her grandfather had led March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In a video posted by CNN she said, “We stand and march for love and we will fulfill my grandfather’s dream.” She then led a chant of “Show me what democracy looks like; This is what democracy looks like!”
Friday was also the 65th anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder. The 14-year-old was lynched and thrown off a bridge while visiting family in Mississippi. He was abducted after “allegedly whistling at a white woman,” according to ABC 7 Chicago, and his body was found mutilated in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s family never received justice, as the two men responsible for his death were both acquitted. Till’s murder helped to spark the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Civil rights leader and former congressman John Lewis wrote that “Emmett Till was [his] George Floyd” in a New York Times essay that was published on the day of Lewis’ funeral.
The trip provided a meaningful experience to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as time to see local relatives. 360 President Vaughn Lowery visited his uncle Leroy Lowery, the former executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, who raised over $120 million for the Stone of Hope.
Leroy Lowery is the son of the late Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a civil rights leader who helped Martin Luther King, Jr. establish the Southern Christina Leadership Conference, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Leroy Lowery attended the march with his father in 1963 and stated on Friday, “to see that we have to march [again] 57 years later is deflating.”
On Friday, August 28, 2020, tens of thousands of Americans from all racial, religious and geographic backgrounds gathered in Washington, D.C. on the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington to recommit themselves to the fight for justice; a fight that calls for the eradication of systemic racism, police reform and full and open access to the ballot box in November’s presidential election and beyond.
Others joined virtually from cities and states across the world to show their solidarity and to call for longstanding change. You can watch the complete coverage here on C-Span.
The day was empowering. Reverend Al Sharpton issued a clarion call for the next steps. Between now and November, National Action Network will organize voting education brigades and train poll workers to work the polls on Election Day. Our vote will not be suppressed.
According to CBS News, “Sharpton first announced plans for the march during a memorial service for George Floyd, the 46-year-old father who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.” After the unjust killing of Floyd at the hands of police, cases of police brutality against the black community gained media attention, sparking protests across the world.
Many of those families who had been dismantled because of this violence epidemic had the opportunity to speak at this year’s march, coined the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” Commitment March on Washington. Philonise Floyd, George Floyds brother, and Tamika Miller, mother of Broenna Taylor who was killed in her home by police, both took the podium to speak to the crowd. NPR reported that Floyd told the crowd, “My brother, George, he’s looking down right now. He’s thankful for everything that everybody is doing right now. Our leaders, they need to follow us while we’re marching to enact laws to protect us.”
The March also hoped to bring attention to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. According to the New York Times the bill would, “overhaul law enforcement training and conduct rules to try to limit police misconduct and racial bias.” Which comes after months of protest demanding the defunding of police departments and more education for those pursuing a career in law enforcement.
We will work tireless to push for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, named in honor of our beloved Congressman who recently passed away after a heroic battle with cancer. You can read more about these proposed pieces of legislation below.
More importantly, if you are not registered to vote, please do so today. Most states are offering mail-in and early voting. The 2020 presidential election may be the most significant election of our lifetime. Key issues that impact the civil rights community will be on the ballot. Additionally, you will want to make your voice known in your local elections, particularly on issues relating to education.
• Click here to find out deadlines for registering to vote.
• Call your Senators and urge them to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
Organizers originally estimated that there would be 100,000 protestors, according to the Washington Post; however, following a permit from the National Park Service that number was decreased to an allowed 50,000.. Organizers urged protesters to abide by COVID regulations by keeping social distance, causing some to step out into the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool in efforts to keep a six-foot distance.
Even with this cut, the immense power of the crowd was still felt. Protestors filled the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park holding signs painted with the faces of those who have been murder by police, calls voter registration and the dauntless reminder of the 8 minutes and 46 second George Floyd was pinned at the neck by an officer.
Martin Luther King III, King Jr’s son, spoke at the rally on the 57th anniversary of his father’s historical speech. CNN reported King III said, “If you’re looking for a savior, get up and find a mirror. We must be (our own) hero.” He reminded the crowd that quoting his father who died for this movement was not enough. King III stressed the importance of this generation of protestors to continue their activism and to vote in this upcoming election.
2020 has been a historical year engulfed by the flames of a pandemic and police brutality which both disproportionately affect black Americans. This years march served as a reminder that 57 years later, King’s dream has a long way to go and the fight for racial equality is still emanating through out America.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives. This bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It includes measures to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, to enhance transparency and data collection, and to eliminate discriminatory policing practices. The bill facilitates federal enforcement of constitutional violations (e.g., excessive use of force) by state and local law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:
• lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,
• limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer, and
• authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination.
The bill also creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct. It establishes a framework to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels. The bill establishes new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, including to report data on use-of-force incidents, to obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to wear body cameras.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act
This bill establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices in these areas may take effect. (Preclearance is the process of receiving preapproval from the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before making legal changes that would affect voting rights.)
A state and all of its political subdivisions shall be subject to preclearance of voting practice changes for a 10-year period if (1) 15 or more voting rights violations occurred in the state during the previous 25 years; or (2) 10 or more violations occurred during the previous 25 years, at least one of which was committed by the state itself. A political subdivision as a separate unit shall also be subject to preclearance for a 10-year period if three or more voting rights violations occurred there during the previous 25 years.
A state or political subdivision that obtains a declaratory judgment that it has not used a voting practice to deny or abridge the right to vote shall be exempt from preclearance. All jurisdictions must preclear changes to requirements for documentation to vote that make the requirements more stringent than federal requirements for voters who register by mail or state law. The bill specifies practices jurisdictions meeting certain thresholds regarding racial minority groups, language minority groups, or minority groups on Indian land, must preclear before implementing. These practices include changes to methods of election, changes to jurisdiction boundaries, redistricting, changes to voting locations and opportunities, and changes to voter registration list maintenance.
The bill expands the circumstances under which (1) a court may retain the authority to preclear voting changes made by a state or political subdivision, or (2) the Department of Justice may assign election observers. States and political subdivisions must notify the public of changes to voting practices.
The bill revises the circumstances under which a court must grant preliminary injunctive relief in a challenge to voting practices.
A comprehensive report of the continuation and influx of unjustified treatment towards minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
February 23: 25-year-old Georgia resident Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot while running unarmed. No arrests were made immediately, but Gregory and Travis McMichael, who claim to have been making a citizen’s arrest, have since been apprehended more than 2 months after the shooting and charged with murder and aggravated assault. The murder and its delayed action have sparked nationwide protests and calls for justice. The lawyer, hired by Ahmaud’s family, was also hired by another African American victim – Breonna Taylor.
March 13: Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her Louisville home after police entered the house on a search warrant. Taylor and her boyfriend believed they were burglars and began firing at the police. The shootout left 26-year-old Taylor dead and her boyfriend, 27, arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder of a police officer. Neither Taylor nor her boyfriend Walker had a criminal record, but Walker had a firearm license.
March 23: A newly released video shows a 68-year-old black Missouri woman by the name of Marvia Gray and her son Derek being forcefully arrested on the floor of a department store on March 23rd. The two were accused falsely of trying to steal a television and were injured when thrown on the floor by police, according to Gray. They were however, arrested for assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.
April 18: Steven Taylor, 33, was shot to death by police in a California Walmart while attempting to steal from the store and threatening violent acts with a baseball bat. Taylor was fatally shot, however, after becoming a non-threat, it prompted the family to call for charges against the officers. Taylor was also allegedly in a mental health crisis and has a history of disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Taylor leaves behind three children and three siblings.
April 24: Austin Police murdered 42-year old Michael Ramos after a nearby 911 call about a possible drug deal. The police shot Ramos when he was out of his car, with his hands above his head. When Ramos re-entered his vehicle and began driving away, he was shot again and soon after, died. A later investigation found no sign of a firearm in the car.
April 28: A shootout with police in Florida killed 26-year-oldJonas Joseph after his car was pulled over. Joseph began firing at police, who returned fire and killed the young man.
May 6: 21-year-old Sean Reed was killed by police following a vehicle pursuit on the evening of May 6, 2020. The police pursued Reed after being seen driving erratically on the highway. The pursuit terminated, but when Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Assistant Chief Chris Bailey spotted the car parked, he approached. Reed tried to flee, but the confrontation left the young man dead. A crowd of protestors at the scene demanded the reasoning for the officer’s use of force.
May 9: 48-year-old Adrian Medeariswas killed after being pulled over under suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Houston. The officer conducted a sobriety test, and attempted to arrest Medearis, a well-known local Gospel singer and choir director, but he resisted arrest and was fatally shot in the ensuing altercation. His family and community are demanding the release of the video.
May 18: A Sarasota police officer was filmed using excessive force and kneeling on Patrick Carroll’s neck during an arrest. The video was put on social media and the officer in question has been put on administrative leave weeks after the event.
May 25: A woman named Amy Cooper called the cops on Christian Cooper, a Harvard alumnus and former Marvel Comics editor. The 57-year-old man was bird watching in Central Park when she approached him without her dog on the leash. After he asked her to put the dog on a leash, she called the police and claimed to be threatened. The altercation went viral after Christian Cooper posted a video of the event on social media, recording the woman aggressively restraining her dog and her saying, “I’m going to tell them [the police] there’s an African American man threatening my life.” Amy Cooper has since publicly apologized. But, Cooper has faced repercussions beyond negative comments on Twitter. She has been fired from her job at Franklin Templeton Investments, where she was vice president, and her dog has been rescued by a pet shelter.
Also on Monday May 25th, a Minneapolis man named George Floyd was murdered by police after an officer knelt on his neck despite his cries for help. Floyd was taken to a hospital where he died, and four officers were fired soon after the incident. A police statement says that Floyd was being investigated for a “forgery in progress” and resisted arrest. But, surveillance video of the arrest shows Floyd complying with the officers. On May 29th, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with murder and manslaughter, four days after George Floyd’s death. On June 3rd, the other three officers involved in George Floyd’s murder, J.A. Keung, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao, were arrested and charged with Aiding and Abetting Second Degree Murder and Aiding and Abetting Second Degree Manslaughter. Floyd’s murder sparked protests around the country with citizens looting and setting fire to buildings. The protestors have been met with tear gas and rubber bullets from police officers.
May 28: At a protest in Minneapolis, 43-year-old Calvin L. Horton Jr. was fatally shot and a suspect is in custody.
A Mississippi cop is on leave after a video is released of him choking a young suspect.
May 29: CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested while reporting on the protest in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, another CNN reporter, Josh Campbell, says he was treated very differently by police and allowed to stay and report. Jimenez is black and Latino whereas Campbell is white. All three CNN workers were released from custody an hour later.
21-year-old Javar Harrell was not protesting but was fatally shot near protests in Detroit. It is unclear if his death is tied to protests.
May 30: The “Rally To End Modern Day Lynching” took place in Harlem in honor of George Floyd. The rally emphasizes that participants should still practice social distancing and wear a mask. Also on May 30th, participants will honor Floyd at the site of Eric Garner‘s murder in 2014. These New York protests became progressively more violent into the evening. Governor Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency and curfew for Atlanta in preparation for planned protests on May 31st. After four days of protests, Governor Newsom declares a state of emergency in Los Angeles. The courthouse and city hall were set on fire in Nashville.
A 21-year old unnamed man was fatally shot at a protest in Detroit.
In Dallas, a machete-yielding storeowner confronted protesters and was then violently beaten by the crowd; the man is now in stable condition.
Chris Beaty, 38, was killed from multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene in Indianapolis.
May 31: After setting fires and looting in Santa Monica, the city declared a curfew. Curfews have since been set all around the country.
Italia Kelly, 22, and another victim were fatally shot while leaving a protest in Davenport, Iowa.
In Victorville, CA, Malcolm Harsch, 38, was found hanging from a tree and authorities are investigating the event as a potential homicide. Harsch’s family says they are very skeptical of his death being by suicide.
June 1: In Minneapolis, a group of men attacked Iyanna Dior, a black transgender woman; Dior is okay and in stable condition now.
53-year-old David McAtee was shot as national Guard troops and Louisville police broke up a protest; some footage shows McAtee shooting at police but it is unclear who fired their guns first because the officers involved did not activate their body cameras. The Louisville Metro Police Chief, Steve Conrad, was immediately fired because of the officers’ unactivated cameras.
16-year-old Jahmel Leach was tased in the face by NYPD and could be permanently disfigured from the attack. It is unclear why the police officers used force to arrest Leach.
June 2: Six Atlanta police officers have been fired and arrested for using excessive force towards Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim, two young black people leaving the protests.
77-year-old David Dorn, a retired St. Louis police captain, was fatally shot by looters of a pawnshop after responding to an alarm.
June 4: At 3:45pm, NAACP holds a moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in honor of George Floyd live on their Twitter.
June 5: All 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department’s emergency response team resigned in protest for police brutality – particularly seen in a video of Buffalo police pushing an unarmed man.
Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigns from the company’s board and urges the company to replace his spot with a black candidate.
In a YouTube video, Robert L. Johnson, the first black American billionaire and co-founder of BET, talks to The Breakfast Club about racism and reparations.
20-year-old Dounya Zayer was violently shoved by a police officer at a protest in Brooklyn, NY.
June 6: Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand pledge $100 million donation over the next 10 years to organizations promoting social justice and racial equality.
A video shows protestors creating a human shield to protect NYPD officers fro rioters throwing objects at the policemen.
June 7: Virginia governor plans to remove Robert E. Lee statue later this week.
CEO of CrossFit Greg Glassman’s insensitive tweet about George Floyd has caused Glassman to face serious backlash. Partners of CrossFit, like Reebok or Rogue Fitness, and athletes, including Brooke Wells and Richard Froning, released statements that they will cut ties with CrossFit.
BLM protestors in Bristol pull down statue of Edward Colton, a slave trader who transported nearly 100,000 slaves in the 17th century.
Harry H. Rogers drove into a group of protestors near Richmond, Virginia. Rogers identifies as the leader of the Ku Klux Klan and prosecutors are investigating the assault as a potential hate crime.
June 8: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces police reform legislation called The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 which would ban chokeholds, establish a national database to track police misconduct, and more.
Minneapolis City Council announce plans to defund the Minneapolis police department.
GoFundMe suspends Candace Owens’ account saying that Owens, “spread hate, discrimination, intolerance and falsehoods against the black community.”
June 9: Greg Glassman, the CEO and founder of CrossFit, retires after his inappropriate tweet about George Floyd’s murder.
New York Police Chief Mike O’Meara shames the press for vilifying police officers in a video here.
June 10: In Palmdale, CA, 24-year-old black man named Robert Fuller, was found hanging from a tree in what was originally described as an apparent suicide. Citizens are demanding that Fuller’s death is investigated as a homicide.
June 11: After Trump’s comments about Seattle protestors being “domestic terrorists” and that law enforcement must “dominate the streets” to “take back Seattle,” Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan clarifies that the protestors are not threatening and that the president’s claims are unconstitutional.
June 12: Atlanta police fatally shot Rayshard Brooks, 27, at a Wendy’s drive-thru. Brooks’ murder caused Atlanta police chief Erika Shields to resign.
June 13: Patrick Hutchinson, a black personal trainer from London, rescued ‘far-right’ protester who was badly beaten during protest clashes in London.
A young, black FedEx driver named Brandon Brackins turned to social media to tell his followers how he was called racial slurs while working.
June 16: A story resurfaces from 2006 when black, Buffalo, NY cop Cariol Horne was fired for stopping her white colleague from choking a handcuffed suspect.
Philadelphia court supervisor Michael Henkel is fired after video shows him tearing down BLM signs.
June 17: Quaker Oats plans to retire their Aunt Jemima branding and logo after acknowledging the racial stereotyping.
June 18: A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy fatally shot 18-year-old Andres Guardado.
June 20: Rioters storm the streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma during President Trump’s rally.
June 21: A NYPD officer is on unpaid suspension after a chokehold incident in Queens.
June 22: Department of Justice is investigating a noose found in Bubba Wallace‘s NASCAR garage. Wallace is the only black driver in NASCAR’s top circuit. On June 23, the FBI determines that Wallace was not the target of a hate crime.
August 23: Jacob Blake is shot by Kenosha police officers after breaking up a nearby fight that two other women were having. Blake was unarmed and shot seven times in the back. He is currently hospitalized for his injuries.
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On June 20th Poor People’s Campaign digital mass assembly, people from more than 40 states suffering from poverty, COVID-19 & police brutality to tell their stories & demand moral agenda.
Poor and low-income people of every race, creed, color and sexuality from more than 40 states will demand change as they share stories of struggling through poverty and protests for racial justice at a historic digital assembly and march sponsored by The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
Hundreds of mobilizing partners — including 14 national unions, 16 national religious denominations and dozens civil rights organizations — will join the campaign for the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington.
The assembly and march will be aired at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, June 20, and at 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, June 21. It can be viewed at june2020.org, and MSNBC will livestream the entire event, as will other local and national media.
“When we began organizing the poor people’s assembly and march two years ago, we knew 140 million people — 43% of the nation were poor or low-income and that 700 people died each day — or 250,000 a year — from poverty,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.
“We knew racist voter suppression was blocking voters from casting their ballot and blocking progressive policy decisions. We knew over 80 million people were uninsured or underinsured and millions were homeless and without clean water. And we knew that we had a war economy with a gross and unnecessary budget. We knew all of these realities are morally indefensible, constitutionally inconsistent and economically insane, undermining our national health. And then a pandemic hit and exposed the wounds of racism and poverty, and a lynching by police of a black man on camera poured salt in the wound, which makes our call for a moral fusion coalition of all people to address five interlocking injustices even the more relevant,” said Rev. Barber, a bishop and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
Former Vice President Al Gore and other young climate activists will introduce those testifying about the effect of ecological devastation on their lives.
Actors and activists such as Erika Alexander, Danny Glover, David Oyelowo, Jane Fonda, Wanda Sykes and Debra Messing will introduce testifiers and invite Americans and people around the world to tune in.
“The numbers of people suffering in this the richest nation in the world is already increasing and deepening as the effects of the pandemic, recession and racist and anti-poor policies continue to hurt poor and low-income people the hardest,” said Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.
“On June 20th, poor and impacted people will come together to tell the nation what it means to not have enough food to eat, to wonder how to keep a roof over your family’s head, and to have to choose between risking your life by going to work or staying at home and not getting paid. We will share the bold and visionary demands people are putting forth that can solve these grave injustices and the powerful and creative resistance of people organizing across the country. History shows that when those most impacted by injustice come together in a powerful movement, that this country can indeed change for the better. Those whose backs are against the wall are pushing this whole nation towards justice today.”
The campaign notes that the day’s focus will be on poor and low-income people who demand that their voices be heard. These people from 43 states — white farmers and coal miners standing with black women Latino meat packers, First Nation Apaches and Asian people — will tell the pain of their stories and demand a specific policy, moral budget and political agenda. That agenda includes a demand that the nation address the five interlocking injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism and a distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.
Among the impacted people who will speak are service workers from the Midwest who have worked through the pandemic without PP; families hurt by police brutality; a coal miner from Appalachia; mothers who have lost children due to lack of health care, residents of Cancer Alley in Louisiana, and an Apache elder who is petitioning the federal government to stop a corporation from destroying a sacred site in Arizona.
The assembly and march are being held in the wake of protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, who died on Memorial Day as a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. His cry of “I can’t breathe” echoed that of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 when a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold. It followed those of Breonna Taylor, who was shot eight times by officers who invaded her apartment in Kentucky with a battering ram, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by two white joggers who weren’t charged until a video emerged.
The campaign’s leaders decided at the end of March to hold a digital assembly and march because of the pandemic rather than gathering in person in Washington, D.C. Amidst protests that are happening in every state, this digital mass assembly presents an opportunity for all Americans to join together in a united call for justice from wherever they are.
Los Angeles residents continue their demand for racial equality
Breonna Taylor, a Louisville EMT, would have turned 27 years old on June 5th. Instead, on March 13th, Ms. Taylor was shot 8 times while asleep after police officers entered her home without knocking. The young woman was not forgotten at Friday evening’s LA protest. The administrators of the march passionately expressed how this case of police brutality is emblematic of the chronic racial inequality which has defined the US criminal justice system since the nation’s conception.
The atmosphere of the march was boisterous. The Five Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child” played at the event and defined the hope for a better future omnipresent with lines like, “things are gonna get easier… things are gonna get brighter.” Protestors fed off each others’ energies with chants of “No Justice, No Peace,” “Whose streets? Our streets,” mixed with an eclectic concoction of cheers. Indeed, the emphatic beeps of car horns, the banging of pots and pans from apartments above the street, and a sea of signs created a powerful spirit that, in the moment, felt indomitable.
One of the most inspiring aspects of the protest was the mélange of ethnicities in attendance. The multicolored faces of the crowds formed a microcosm of America – a new America. This diverse movement circled downtown Los Angeles, walking past boarded-up businesses that still bore the scars of previous nights. Much to the credit of the protest’s organizers, they were determined to reject the vandalism that had wounded the essence of the movement’s message earlier in the week. They wished to emulate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s tactics of non-violence, aspiring to make progress in King’s fight that must still advocated for.
At several points throughout the protest attendees were asked to take a knee. The profound purpose of this act was revealed at the conclusion of the event. “It’s uncomfortable isn’t it?” asked one protest organizer stuttering on her own passion, “Well imagine what it felt like for George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds!” Her vehemence echoed throughout the crowd as applause ruptured the silence of intent listening.
As the California sun dipped below the horizon, thousands ascended upon City Hall where a vanguard of LAPD lined the entrance. The protestors were nourished by a plethora of free snacks provided by supportive local vendors. The march culminated with a moving tribute to Ms. Taylor on the steps of City Hall. Here, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to yet another martyr of the African American community in what appears to be an endless struggle for equality. Stories like Breonna Taylor’s tell a hauntingly familiar tale of racism in our country, and these injustices haven’t ceased during quarantine. The 360 Magazine “Minority Report” details all of the acts of racial inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The crowd was rife with enthusiasm for change but there was also a portentous understanding that this is not the last march for justice. However, the prevailing attitude was one of passion in hope that, despite the brutality of US history, America has finally reached a social crescendo free of the injustice that has characterized the country’s nascence.
So, what does all this mean? Well, the protestors and organizers were eager to proclaim a sizeable achievement they have garnered thanks to this movement. One of which is LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s revision of the proposed city budget. In this revision, $150 million from the LAPD will be diverted towards healthcare, jobs, and education opportunities in communities of color. It is unclear whether stripping funds from the police will make the streets safer for people of color, yet protestors saw this as a victory for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The push to reduce police power will undoubtedly clash with President Trump’s call for “law and order.” Trump’s adoption of the infamous Nixonian verbiage and allusions to “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” has inflamed tensions in Los Angeles. In general, the president’s responses to BLM movements have done little to soothe California’s most populous city. A city, that only 28 years ago, was the epicenter of mayhem after a jury acquitted four police officers of using excessive force against black LA resident Rodney King. Thus, almost 30 years after the Rodney King riots and 50 years after the civil rights movement, one is still left wondering: do Americans trust law enforcement?
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