|PHOTO: Roy Lewis
BY ALANTÉ MILLOW
“We wanted one thousand rabbis, sheiks … Christian ministers of all denominations,” said the National Action Network’s Rev. Al Sharpton, the organizer of the demonstration. “It’s time for moral leaders of all religions to get freed of the fears and political laryngitis … and stand up together!”
The march from the King Memorial to the U. S. Department of Justice commemorated 54 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also a Christian minister, led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His eldest son, Martin Luther King III, led marchers alongside Sharpton down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Department of Justice. King III described the march as a “moral crusade.”
“My father talked about a revolution of values which meant every human being would be treated with dignity and worth,” he said.
The march aimed to hold the Trump administration and Attorney Jeff Sessions accountable during an increase in hate crimes, mass incarceration and discrimination, according to a release by the organization.
Participants gathered that morning, adorned in various types of religious garb, t-shirts and carrying protest signs. Among the messages displayed on the signs were: “Do Justice, Love Mercy, March Proudly,” “54 Years Later, Still Marching,” and “Black Lives Matter to This Rabbi.”
Organizers expected 1,000 ministers in the march. But Sharpton announced that nearly 3,000 had registered that morning, surpassing his goal of unity.
The crowd gathered around a stage and was first serenaded by a choir singing the words, “Love is patient. Love is kind. No room for hate. Show a little more love.” An array of speeches were given by several religious leaders from various walks of faith. Among them was Rev. Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, from the Empowerment Movement of Baltimore. He spoke about the apologies religious leaders may owe to different groups of society.
“We owe an apology today to the members of Black Lives Matter because we have had to adjust,” Bryant said. “Black Lives Matter will historically hold an asterisk as the first social justice movement not led by a religious body and so it has been difficult for us.”
He also said an apology was owed to the LGBT community for “forgetting that [they] too are members of the body of Christ.”
Bryant, known as a prolific speaker, added, “But let me tell you who we don’t owe an apology to…We don’t owe an apology to the alt-right, the extremists, to KKK …We stand today in alignment, in agreement, that our lives matter and we shall not be denied. Donald Trump, we’re coming!”
As the crowd cheered with excited, the outcries got louder as the next speaker, Grammy award-winning gospel artist, Bishop Marvin Sapp, was introduced. Onstage, he delivered a few quick words before singing his hit song, “Never Would Have Made It” acapella-style, to the participants.
“We are here to celebrate years of successful fighting but we’re also here to make sure that the fight continues. You’ve all had some great speakers … telling you all of these wonderful things that we need to be doing,” Sapp said. “But the reality is that we’re not here because of our goodness or because of our kindness. We’re here because all of us have realized that we never would have made it without him.”
With high anticipation, Rev. Sharpton led the crowd in the chant, “No justice, No peace”, before leading marchers out into the streets and toward the Department of Justice. Streets were blocked by police to ensure a smooth journey for the marchers amidst heavy traffic for commuters.
Tourists and working men and women on their lunch breaks stopped, taking in the site of the Monday mid-day march. Some even showing their solidarity with a thumbs-up or wave. The marchers sang traditional songs in harmony such as “Wade in the Water,” and “This Little Light of Mine,” as they passed by the National Monuments on their route. The group also stopped at the Trump hotel, for a brief prayer before continuing their journey.
Once protesters arrived at the DOJ, several more speakers addressed the issues they want addressed.
“It’s time to take those statues down.” Jeffrey David Cox Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, said. “But leave the base so we have to tell our children and our grandchildren what an evil wicked thing this country did.” He was making obvious reference to slave-supporting Confederate leaders around the country, an issue made national due to recent violence connected to them three years ago in Charleston, S.C. and earlier this month in Charlottesville, Va.
“Pardoning the sheriff convicted of contempt of court and racial profiling, this is not normal,” said Rev. Marshall Hatch, referred to Trump’s recent pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “Press briefings from the White House un-televised and filled with misinformation, this is not normal. Threatening of nuclear war and rumor of war by president by tweet is not normal. Refusing to condemn racism and anti antisemitism is not normal. Somebody has to have the courage to stand up and say, ‘This emperor has no clothes!’”