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From Ferguson to D.C.: Solidarity in struggle

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Sep 3, 2014 - 4:36:56 PM

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Demonstrators chant at the steps of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Aug. 23, during a protest against the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown, a Black 18-year-old killed by a White police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Photo: A/P Wide World Photos
WASHINGTON ( - Over four days activists in the nation’s capital showed solidarity with and support for activists in Ferguson, Mo.

There was a standing room only town hall meeting organized by the Institute of the Black World. There was a 950,000-signature petition delivered to the White House calling for justice for Mike Brown organized by a group that included ColorofChange and MoveOn. The National Black United Front (NBUF) and the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition organized a march to shut down a D.C. business district.

Demonstrators march through the streets in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington Aug. 23, during a protest against the shooting of Michael Brown. Photo: A/P Wide World Photos

“Residents of the District of Columbia, just like millions around the country recognize that at the root of Ferguson are the social, racial and economic injustices that exist nationwide. They know that Ferguson could really be anywhere and Michael Brown could be any young Black male. According to a report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, every 28 hours a Black person is killed by a police officer, security, or vigilante in the United States,” said march organizers.

“There is almost complete impunity for the perpetrators of most of these crimes. The political marginalization and racialized poverty that exist in Ferguson are replicated in communities across the country.”

Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was shot to death in early August by White police officer Darren Wilson. Grief, anger and public demonstrations after his death were met with tanks and officers in full battle gear. There was some unrest, some targeting of demonstrators and a huge Aug. 30 rally and march that attracted 10,000 people, according to organizers of the National March on Ferguson.

The D.C. protestors met at Union Station Aug. 30 for a brief rally before marching down H Street to Benning Road and back.

“We were able to shut down two parts of H Street,” Salim Adolfo, head of the D.C. chapter of NBUF told The Final Call. “We stopped traffic and prevented people from going into businesses especially around Hechinger Mall.”

Daisy Washington was coming from grocery shopping when she saw the protestors. “I was glad to see the young people in the streets doing something constructive. It a shame what happened to Mike Brown and I feel for his parents. Something needs to be done and more young people need to get involved,” she told The Final Call.

Two days earlier and in front of the White House, some 950,000 signatures were delivered to Barack Obama as part of a petition calling on the president and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to ensure justice for Michael Brown and do everything possible to reform policing policies and practices throughout the country.

Jamala Rogers, representing the Organization for Black Struggle and a resident of Ferguson, signed the petition and was there to drop it off.

“There’s no need to over-analyze why Michael Brown’s death has rocked this country from coast to coast,” she said. “The shooting death of the Black, unarmed teen by a White Ferguson police officer on August 9, 2014 was one too many. We knew that Mike’s death struck a deep chord in the souls of people when 40,000 signatures were collected in the first 24 hours of the online petition.”

Organizers of the march also included the Organization for Black Struggle, Howard University student leaders, MomsRising, UltraViolet, Democracy For America, and activist Shaun King.

The four days of protest started with a standing room only town hall meeting Aug. 27 at the Busboys and Poets Restaurant webcast live by the Institute of the Black World.

The town hall panel included Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights; Ron Hampton, former executive director of the National Police Association and Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Office.

Speakers were placed outside for those who could not get in. Activist and spoken word artist Jasiri X posed a poignant question in a song. “Do we need to start a riot? What do we have to do to get justice?  Ferguson is simmering right now but so is New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and D.C. If you’re not going to give us justice are we wrong for taking justice into our own hands?”

The town hall meeting was broadcast on CSPAN the next day.

Attorney Nkechi Taifa, senior policy analyst for the Open Society Foundation, told the crowd that a surplus of $5.1 billion in military equipment is being given to communities. More prisons are being built to lock up more people for longer periods of time, she noted.

“Officers in Ferguson are walking around in camouflage. They are using the war on drugs as an excuse. Why do you need camouflage in the inner city? We need to connect the dots,” said the attorney.

Actor Danny Glover spoke via Skype. “That’s why we are here today. To use this moment to express our outrage and condemnation. We must use this moment to mobilize ourselves,” he said.

Dr. Ron Daniels, head of the Institute of the Black World, summed up what many were feeling. “Someone has to pay for all of the damage done to our community. We need a Kerner Commission-type study. Why does this keep happening? Why do we have such economic underdevelopment?” he asked.