Thousands gather in DC to protest police brutality

Thousands of people gathered in D.C. Friday as part of a massive movement to protest police brutality.

“We need to shed light on what’s going on out here with this injustice,” one demonstrator told WTOP.

Another said: “We’re in this together. It’s not just one race against another race.” She added that it was important to be at the event “because I have a Black son, and his life matters, and my life matters, and there’s a lot of change that needs to take place.”

Speakers addressed the crowds from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963.

Friday’s event comes 57 years to the day after King’s speech.

Martin Luther King III, a son of the late civil rights icon, called the current climate an “American nightmare.”

“There is a knee on the neck of democracy,” he added.

“We’ve got some people we need to straighten out,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said later, talking about why the march on Washington, and national attention, is needed. “We need to have a conversation about your racism, about your bigotry.”

“Our vote is dipped in blood,” Sharpton said.

“You might’ve killed the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream.”

Breonna Taylor’s mother spoke, visibly emotional, and urged people to vote in November.

Other families of victims of violent policing — Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner — were also at the Lincoln Memorial.

“This is the last season of the police version of ‘How to Get Away with Murder,'” one speaker said.

The gathering has shaped up to be the largest political assembly in Washington since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Many attendees showed up wearing T-shirts bearing the image and words of the late Rep. John Lewis who, until his death last month, was the last living speaker at the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which went on to become one of the most famous political rallies in U.S. history, and one of the largest gatherings at the nation’s capital, with over 200,000 people advocating for social change.

The thousands of participants that streamed in for the march late Friday morning stood in lines that stretched for several blocks, as organizers took temperatures as part of coronavirus protocols.

Organizers reminded attendees to practice social distancing and wear masks throughout the program.

Get updates on the march from 103.5FM and listen live online.

The march route starts at the Lincoln Memorial and will head south on 23rd Street onto the southern portion of Independence Avenue toward Ohio Drive.

From there, demonstrators will march to the West Potomac Park Polo Field, across from the M.L.K. Memorial, which will be the dispersal point.

While some followed the original march route, WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez reported around 3 p.m. that a large number of protesters had broken off from the planned path and instead took to the streets of downtown D.C. in several smaller groups.

He said the group he had followed regrouped at Black Lives Matter Plaza around 4 p.m.


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A full schedule is available online.

The “Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” comes nearly three months after nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and amid continued coronavirus restrictions in the District and elsewhere.

It’s also on the heels of extreme unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a Black man was shot in the back by police and paralyzed and a 17-year-old stands accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a chaotic night of demonstrations.

The march was born out of the protest movement that sprang up in cities across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest in May.

The weather Friday will be hot and humid.

There are many road closures in effect around the National Mall until 11:59 p.m.

The road closures associated with the Aug. 28 march. (Courtesy D.C. police)

The march was organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network.

He announced it in June during the eulogy he gave at Floyd’s funeral.

WTOP’s Kyle Cooper, Jack Moore, Alejandro Alvarez, Zeke Hartner and The Associated Press contributed to the report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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