By Olivia Montes
These past six months, we as a nation have watched the police-related deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain, as well as the police-related shooting and hospitalization of Jacob Blake last month. These incidents have caused an eruption of numerous movements social justice movements.
“In the months since Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter marches have proliferated across the country,” CBS News’ Aubrey McNamara said.
“Protesters continue to call for justice for the officers charged in Floyd’s death, and those involved in other controversial cases including the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by officers in her own home in Louisville, and Elijah McClain, who died after a police chokehold in Aurora, Colorado, last summer,” she said.
Now, many have watched a mass response matching that of the Civil Rights Movement half a century before.
Approximately 57 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, thousands of protesters have demonstrated throughout the nation’s capital against racial injustice. They also emphasized the importance of voting in the upcoming Presidential election and filling out the United States census.
The march itself occurred mere hours after President Donald Trump’s speech claiming recent Black Lives Matter protests, and those involved, were destructive and hellbent on dismantling “the American way of life”.
As the Republican National Convention had ended, the protest, following in the non-violent strides of those that came before them, sought to raise political, racial, and social awareness and strive for reform within the country.
Also known as the “Get Your Knees Off Our Necks” demonstration, it was initially planned prior to Floyd’s death, but, as a surge of protests across the country began to swell, civil rights advocates and leaders decided to center the march on the leading cause for the movement from its inception: police brutality.
“With the march coming just after the conclusion of the…convention, the two events presented starkly different accounts of the state of the country in a summer marked by widespread protests of police officers killing Black people and a pandemic that has taken about 181,000 lives and cost millions of jobs,” The New York Times’ Michael Wines and Aishvarya Kavi said.
“[While] the Republicans mentioned Mr. Blake, who is partially paralyzed in a hospital, or other Black victims only in passing, and painted a picture of American cities out of control…for the thousands who came to the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, the country’s problem was not too little police presence but far too much,” they said.
With little to a lack of change enacted from both these incidents and reactions from many Americans, protesters decided to make the ongoing issue of racial injustice known.
With notable speakers including Martin Luther King III and Rev. Al Sharpton, the presences of both Floyd and Blake’s families, and demonstrators passing notable landmarks including the Lincoln Memorial, the march sought to stress importance for political and national change for all Americans, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which seeks to limit racial bias and assumed criminality based on race within law enforcement.
“The national upheaval triggered by Mr. Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police in May loomed large over the march, as did the sense among civil rights leaders that action this year could set the course of American race relations for years, if not decades,” Wines and Kavi said. “It was a ringing note of optimism on a day when [it] was impossible to ignore that 57 years of marches and action had yet to realize Dr. King’s dream.”
The march also sought to mirror Dr. King’s words of optimism and hope for the future, while also balancing perseverance and determination for continuing the fight for recognition, both for those who have been fatally or near-fatally victimized by this brutality and to those who have been — and continue to be — affected by these incidents.
“There are those who are asking the devotees of Civil Rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’,” Dr. King had asked demonstrators on August 28th, 1963. “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality…and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”
“[King’s speech] also spoke to the urgency of now — a lesson that can apply just as much today as it did back then,” Vox Media’s Katelyn Burns said. “His words still ring true as the country marches in the streets against police brutality.”
While the march itself lasted for one day, the movement continues on, striving to bring reform onto the agenda of those in charge and make the system equal and just for all Americans.
In the words of Dr. King, “now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”
Featured Photo caption: On the fifty-seventh anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, demonstrators have gone to Washington D.C. to protest racial injustice and promote political, social, and national change. Photo Courtesy of Bush Nguyen.