Thousands march on Washington in protest over racist violence

APTOPIX Racial Injustice March on Washington

The son of the Rev Martin Luther King has issued a sobering reminder about the persistence of police brutality and racist violence targeting black Americans.

Martin Luther King III spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, where his father famously laid out a vision for harmony between white and black people 57 years ago with his "I have a dream" speech.

On Friday, Mr King told thousands of people who had gathered to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: "We must never forget the American nightmare of racist violence exemplified when Emmett Till was murdered on this day in 1955, and the criminal justice system failed to convict his killers.

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Thousands march on Washington
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Thousands march on Washington
Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., raises her fist as she speaks during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP)
People walk on Pennsylvania Avenue during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake, raises his fist in the air while speaking at the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
Philonise Floyd, right, brother of George Floyd, gets ready to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A screen displays a video with Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris speaking during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Priscilla Duerrero from Boston, currently living in Washington, D.C., attends the March on Washington, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
People attend the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A man stands in the Reflecting Pool as people attend the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
People pose for a photo in the Reflecting Pool in the shadow of the Washington Monument as they attend the March on Washington, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
The Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of National Action Network, speaks at the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
People gather at Lincoln Memorial to attend the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators rally at Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
George Floyd's family rally at Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
People start marching at Lincoln Memorial toward the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
People start marching at Lincoln Memorial toward the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
People start marching at Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
People rally at Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
A man holds a photo of Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Marchers chant as they gather along a section of 16th Street, Northwest, renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, near the White House in Washington, during the March on Washington, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, commemorating the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
People carry posters with George Floyd on them as they march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
People gather at Lincoln Memorial to attend the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
People wade in the Reflecting Pool during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
People raise their fists during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Members of the George Floyd family march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A woman holds a "Black Lives Matter," flag during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A marcher walks past banners and signs at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House in Washington, during the March on Washington, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, commemorating the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
A person raises their fist from the steps during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
People participate in the March on Washington, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
People pose for a photo in the Reflecting Pool in the shadow of the Washington Monument as they attend the March on Washington, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Audrey Dimartinez stands with her grand daughter Eliysia Leber as they listen to speakers during the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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"Sixty-five years later (after 14-year-old Till's murder in Mississippi), we still struggle for justice – demilitarising the police, dismantling mass incarceration, and declaring as determinately as we can that black lives matter."

Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many felt compelled to join civil rights advocates in Washington to highlight police and vigilante violence.

They gathered after a white police officer shot 29-year-old black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last Sunday, leaving him paralysed. This event sparked demonstrations and violence that left two people dead.

The Lincoln Memorial
People gather at the Lincoln Memorial (AP)

As peaceful protests turned to arson and theft, naysayers of the Black Lives Matter movement issued calls for "law and order".

The Rev Al Sharpton, whose civil rights organisation, the National Action Network, planned Friday's commemoration, told critics: "Some say to me: 'Rev Al, y'all ought to denounce those that get violent, those that are looting.'

"All of the families (of victims of police and vigilante violence) have denounced looting. What we haven't heard is you denounce shooting."

Mr Sharpton asked: "We will speak against the looting, but when will you speak against wrong police shooting?"

Jamal Bryant
Jamal Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church (AP)

Mr Sharpton and Mr King stood with relatives of an ever-expanding roll call of victims: Mr Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner, among others.

Mr Arbery and Mr Martin both were killed by men who pursued them with guns and whose arrests were delayed until residents protested.

"There are two systems of justice in the United States," said Jacob Blake Sr, the father of the man whose shooting by police in Kenosha left him paralysed from the waist down.

"There's a white system and a black system – the black system ain't doing so well."

Al Sharpton
The Rev Al Sharpton (AP)

And he proclaimed: "No justice, no peace!"

Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, stared out at the massive march audience and said he wished his brother had been there to see it.

Friday's march shaped up to be the largest political gathering in Washington since the pandemic began.

Many attendees wore T-shirts of the late representative John Lewis who, until his death last month, was the last living speaker at the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

That march went on to become one of the most famous political rallies in American history, and one of the largest gatherings, with more than 200,000 people in attendance.

Bridgett Floyd
Bridgett Floyd, the sister of George Floyd, addresses the crowd (AP)

Organisers said they intended to show the urgency for federal policing reforms, to decry racial violence, and to demand voting rights protections ahead of the November general election. A handful of satellite marches were held in South Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, in a video, said the original rally's conveners would be disappointed that black Americans are still marching for justice and equality under the law.

She said: "I have to believe that if they were with us today, they would share in our anger and frustration as we continue to see Black men and women slain in our streets, and left behind in our economy and justice system that has too often denied Black folks our dignity and rights."

Former US vice president and current Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted his support for the march.

Although President Donald Trump did not comment on the march, the Republican National Committee marked the event's anniversary by highlighting the president's record as a "champion for the Black community".

Organisers of the event took temperatures as part of coronavirus protocols. They also reminded attendees to practice social distancing and wear masks throughout, although distancing was hardly maintained as the gathering grew in size.

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