Exactly 57 years since Martin Luther King Jr. stood in Washington to say “I Have a Dream”, Americans have descended in large numbers in the State capital to demand justice. The historic march in 1963 was called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”. This time, it’s the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks March on Washington”.
While things may have improved for some, a lot has stayed the same. Even after decades, the two events still eerily mirror each other: police brutality, voting rights, and new legislation to ensure equal treatment. The event co-sponsored by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and others — share the goal of pressuring lawmakers to act. The march will also have Martin Luther King III as its key speaker who will address the nation from the exact same spot as his father did on 28th August 1963.
“Dad would be very proud that people are coming together to stand up against injustice,” King told CNN. “But certainly very sad that we’re still attempting to get justice.”
March on Washington 1963/2020
Friday’s event is set to bring an end to a brutal and heartbreaking week. The United States witnessed yet another black man getting shocked by the police. The incident comes at the time when the global outcry against unlawful Black killings at the hands of law enforcement officials has taken full force.
Adding to that the mix of a pandemic that has had a devastating effect on people of color.
The 1963 march helped paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 2020 gathering aims to assure that the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 becomes law, along with a police reform bill named after George Floyd, whose death by police in Minneapolis revived the global Black Lives Matter movement.
Activists demand Reform and Equality
The House which approved the George Floyd Policing Act 2020 in June states overhauling qualified immunity for law enforcement, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, bans chokehold at the federal level, and establish a national registry of police misconduct, among other provisions.
“We have to help lift each other up, change this climate, create what my father would call the beloved community and change will come,” King said. “That is what I would say to anyone who has lost hope.”
“We are on the way to a resolution, I believe, because the consciousness is awakened,” King said. “I don’t think these young people are going to stop. I think they’re going to continue to demand justice.”
Activists are calling on the Senate to pass police reform legislation named after Floyd, which the House approved in June. The bill — titled the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 — would overhaul qualified immunity for law enforcement, prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, ban chokeholds at the federal level and establish a national registry of police misconduct, among other provisions. That demand for police accountability is a priority King said his father would be focusing on today, were he still alive.
“Dad wanted to essentially eradicate what he called the triple evils of poverty, racism and he said ‘militarism,'” King said. “I have sort of changed it to violence: poverty, racism, and violence.”
The Black National Convention
Months before announcing the March on Washington, Sharpton had called for the Movement For Black Lives (M4BL). It marked the coalition of progressive Black organizations. The event takes its inspiration from the 1972 Black National Convention in Gary, Indiana. It will be virtually
broadcasted at 7 pm ET. The aim is to mobilize Black communities featuring conversations and different programs at the convention.
“Black people have been saying for literal decades that we want a meaningful place inside of the national political dialogue, and meaningful means specific public policy solutions that meet the height of the need and the height of the problem,” Byrd said in a conversation with CNN. “We have yet to have it in this country, on any side.”
28th August also marks the somber 65th anniversary of the death of Emmett Till. The 14-year-old was kidnapped and brutally murdered after being falsely accused of inappropriate behavior with a white woman.
His disfigured face and body had been the front cover of major newspapers. Decades later Black Americans are still fighting the same fight for equality, justice, and reform.
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