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Generations of activists march to end systemic racism

by Sananda Dasgupta
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end systemic racism

End systemic racism

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Washington DC on Friday to participate in the Get Your Knee Off Our Necks March. The march was announced early June following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The protestors demanding long-lasting change in the countries criminal justice system to end systemic racism and police violence on Black Americans gathered near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr delivered the historic “I have a dream” speech. 

Friday’s rally was organized by the civil rights campaigner Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network along with the NAACP and the National Urban League to commemorate the 57th anniversary of March on Washington, where King delivered the speech envisioning the end of racism in the country. 

Friday’s march took place amidst the fresh rounds of protests that have erupted across the country after the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake, a Black man, remains in the hospital after being shot seven times in the back. He was paralyzed from his waist down after being shot by the police, and it is not clear if he will walk again.  

Blakes’s family attended Friday’s march along with the families of several other shooting victims including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin Botham Jean, and others. 

While addressing the participants of the rally, Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr. said, “But we’re gonna stand up. Every Black person in the United States is gonna stand up. We’re tired!” Blake’s sister Letetra Wideman who was speaking on behalf of their mother said, “We will not be a footstool to oppression,” and urged Black people to unify. 

Brother of George Floyd Philonise Floyd echoed the sentiment and said, “It’s never been more clear that change right now, is happening right now. Because we demand it. Everyone here has made a commitment. Because they wouldn’t be here for no other reason right now,”

Sharpton in his keynote speech said, “In 1963 and 1964, they fought Bull Connor. Here we are in 2020. We’ve gone from Bull Connor to Bull Trump. We’ve gone from a mean spirited sheriff to a mean spirited president.” 

Relatives of other Black people killed in police brutality in recent years also took turns to address the crowd before marching to nearby Martin Luther King memorial. 

Participants to wear urged to wear masks and temperature checks were conducted at the entrance. Hand sanitizer and face masks were also distributed at the venue.

Martin Luther King III, son of Martin Luther King Jr, and one of the convenors of Friday’s march said, “We are courageous but conscious of our health, we are socially distant, but spiritually united, we are masking our faces but not our faith in freedom, we are taking our struggle to the streets and to social media.” 

According to the organizers, around 50,000 people could take part in Friday’s march after the shuttle buses from the Corona hotspots were canceled, but hundreds of thousands participated in the virtual commemoration which featured civil rights activist Reverend William Barber.

Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris virtually addressed the march and posted a brief speech on Twitter. Several other politicians and celebrities were also in the line-up.

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