Tens of thousands of protestors seeking criminal justice reform gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Friday under the rallying cry “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” a reference to the manner in which George Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
Rev. Al Sharpton announced the march in June during his eulogy at Floyd’s Minneapolis memorial service. It occurs on the 57th anniversary of the original March on Washington — during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, calling for an end to racism — and in conjunction with the NAACP’s virtual March on Washington.
“We are tired of the mistreatment and the violence that we, as Black Americans, have been subjected to for hundreds of years,” Rev. Sharpton said in a statement before the march. “Like those who marched before us, we are standing up and telling the police, telling lawmakers, telling the people and systems that have kept us down for years, ‘Get your knee off our necks.'”
“We’ve come, like Dr. King came 57 years ago, to say we’re tired of broken promises,” Sharpton said at the march on Friday. “There’s a sense of urgency now. We need national legislation to deal with this.”
The reverend said now is the time for change.
“It’s time we have a conversation with America,” he continued. “We need to have a conversation about your racism, about your bigotry, about your hate, about how you would put your knee on our neck while we cry for our lives. We need a new conversation.”
Civil rights and social justice activists addressed the crowd and delivered speeches from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, demanding action to end major issues such as systemic racism and calling for the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King Jr.‘s 12-year-old granddaughter, also gave an impassioned speech about the challenges facing her generation.
“We are going to be the generation that dismantles systemic racism once and for all, now and forever,” she said. “We are going to be the generation that ends poverty here in America, the wealthiest nation on Earth.”
Speakers at Friday’s march are also expected to include the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner. Jacob Blake Sr., the father of the man shot by police in Wisconsin on Sunday, also is expected to speak, as first reported by USA Today.
The speeches will be followed by a march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.
By Adia Robinson & Kiara Brantley-Jones
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