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Thousands march for Black life in Washington D.C.

By Brenda Muhammad and Trenna Muhammad | Last updated: Dec 17, 2014 - 12:35:22 PM

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Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 13, during the Justice for All rally. Civil rights organizations held a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed Black men who died in incidents with White police officers.

Lesley McSpadden, center, the mother of slain Ferguson teen Michael Brown (middle), raises her hands along with other protestors during the Justice for All march and rally. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

WASHINGTON ( - Calling for nationwide legal accountability, thousands of Blacks, Whites, Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans marched together in the Nation’s Capital for a common cause, to let the world know “Black Lives Matter!”

Organized by the National Action Network, Black Women’s Round Table, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Urban League, thousands  marched from Freedom Plaza to the United States Capitol where they chanted, “I Can’t Breathe”, “Black Lives Matter!” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, left, and others listen, as Eric Garner’s widow Esaw speaks at Freedom Plaza in Washington, Dec. 13, during the Justice for All rally. Photos: AP/Wide World photos
Protestors of all ages and nationalities carried signs, banners and wore t-shirts with the images of unarmed Blacks who have lost their lives at the hands of vigilantes and overzealous law enforcement officials.

“My husband was a quiet man, but he’s making a lot of noise right now,” said Washington protest marcher Esaw Garner, widow of Eric Garner, 43, who died in July after being put in a chokehold by New York City police. His death, which was captured on video, disturbed many. The grand jury decided not to indict any officers in Garner’s death acted as a catalyst for many large protests nationwide. Several speakers prompted the crowd to chant, “I can’t breathe,” which were the words Garner gasped before his death. Some protesters also wore those words on shirts and carried signs and banners with the slogan.

“His voice will be heard. I have five children in this world and we are fighting not just for him but for everybody’s future, for everybody’s past, for everybody’s present, and we need to make it strong,” she added.

“Hands Up Don’t Shoot” has become a national rallying cry after unarmed Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. The grand jury’s decision not to indict Mr. Wilson preceded the Garner decision by one week, and led to major disruptions on Black Friday and the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The march in Washington D.C., coincided with nationwide demonstrations generating spectacular images as a huge throng of marchers crossed the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Other marches were held in the streets of major cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston.

Organizers had predicted 5,000 people at the Washington march, but the crowd appeared to far outnumber that. Washington police do not release crowd estimates.

Before the crowd started marching, Rev. Sharpton directed, “Don’t let no provocateurs get you out of line. ... We are not here to play big shot. We are here to win.”

Many came as far away as California, New York, Boston, Texas, and Kentucky to join the nationwide protest calling for swift Congressional action on police brutality, reviewing the justice system, police accountability, and fair and objective jury selections.

“Members of Congress, beware we’re serious ...,” said Rev. Sharpton, “When you get a ring-ding on Christmas, it might not be Santa; it may be Rev. Al coming to your house.”

Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, called the demonstrations a “history-making moment.”

In attendance also was the mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot down by police in Ohio while holding a pellet gun; and the parents of John Crawford, who was shot by police in an Ohio Wal-Mart while holding an air rifle.

Family members of Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea who was shot and killed by four New York City Police Department plain-clothed officers: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss, in February of 1999. They fired a combined total of 41 shots, 19 of which hit Mr. Diallo.

Also present was LeVar Jones, who was shot by former South Carolina State Trooper Sean Groubert, but not killed. Dash camera footage from the officer’s patrol car showed Mr. Groubert pulling to Mr. Jones’ truck and asking him for his license. Attempting to be in full compliance, Mr. Jones reached into his truck to get it. Mr. Groubert yelled at Jones and shoots him several times.

“It appears as though there is a genocidal plan against Black people. The desire of many of those in power is the maintenance of White Supremacy ... As a result, there are those who fear that our youth are no longer afraid to resist White supremacy and reject its efforts,” said Student Minister Abdul Khadir Muhammad, Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Regional representative of the Nation of Islam. He quoted a recent article by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan appearing in the December 16 issue of The Final Call titled “America on the Brink of Anarchy.”

Thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. Photos: Terrence Muhammad
“Saturday’s march for justice highlighted the problem this country has with local government who support bad cops and their bad behavior. There needs to be an immediate change in the policing culture that condones militarized policing and the outright murder of African Americans. This change needs to happen legislatively – state by state, jurisdiction by jurisdiction,” said Sharrarne Morton, President of  Morton Media.

Many brought their teen children out to the protests because the deaths of unarmed young Black men in such rapid succession hits very close to home.

“I have three sons and their lives matter,” said Tracy Harrison, from Upper Marlboro, Md.

“Police are killing innocent Black young people and I think that this March will focus on the need to change,” said 14-year-old Justin Harrison.

“I’m here because I am a young Black man and I don’t want police to kill me,” added his 12-year-old brother, Gabriel Harrison.

Donna Adams, of Washington D.C. said, “I brought my  8 and 9-year-old-sons to the march in hopes of helping them to get a better understanding of what it means to be Black and living in a society that condones police brutality, as well as the importance of doing the right thing and respecting authority.”

“I’m here because on Friday, my 10-year-old son, Chance asked me ‘why you never let me play with guns?’ I tried to tell him that he can’t do what everyone else does because it might cost him his life and I am stressing to him the seriousness of a gun and my fear is that he might be killed just by playing with a toy gun,” said Felicia Pinkney, also of Upper Marlboro, Md.

“I am here to remind America of what America is supposed to be and the need to get us back on a moral course. America was built on misunderstanding and must refocus on what we can do in the world,” said 70-year-old Harvey Boyd from Charlotte, N.C.

(Final Call staffers and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)