“We demand real, permanent, structural change”

Police violence against blacks in the US has hit the country hard in recent months. The protests just kept boiling. On a historic day, thousands took to the streets

Thousands of people have demonstrated in Washington for an end to racism and police brutality against black Americans. “Enough is enough,” said African-American civil rights activist Al Sharpton, one of the organizers of the rally, to those who gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in the heart of the US capital on Friday.

“We are calling for real, permanent, structural change,” civil rights activist Martin Luther King III said at the meeting. He is the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr., who to this day made his famous speech exactly 57 years ago with the words “I have a dream”. “We will make this dream come true,” announced Sharpton.

Pastor and civil rights activist Al Sharpton also spoke to the protesters. (Source: Jacquelyn Martin / dpa)

Martin Luther King III. called on African Americans to vote in the November 3 presidential election “as if our lives, livelihoods and freedoms depend on it – because it is”. As many people as possible should also offer their help in holding the elections “so that every vote is counted”. “We must resolutely defend our right to vote because they were bought with the blood of those who were lynched for exercising their constitutional rights.” His daughter, 12-year-old Yolanda Renee King, promised, “We will be the generation that will end this racism once and for all.”

Jacob Blake’s death sparked new protests

The meeting was devoted to the anniversary of the ‘March on Washington’ in 1963 and was dominated by the recent police violence that sparked outrage in the United States. Most notable was the death of George Floyd. He died while under arrest after a police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. During the weekend alone, seven shots in the back of black Jacob Blake during a police operation in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparked new protests.

“Without justice there is no peace!” Blake’s father exclaimed at the meeting. The crowd echoed the slogan, dating back to protests in the 1980s. There are two legal systems in the US: one for whites and one for black, Jacob Blake Senior criticized.

Sharpton referred to Floyd’s death during his performance: “We could be as successful as others. But society kept its knee on our necks.” That must come to an end now. “I’m tired of asking for justice,” said activist Frank Nitty. “We’ve been marching with the same demands for 60 years. Black people shouldn’t still take to the streets for the same thing as Martin Luther King.”

Angelica Watson, 24, of Philadelphia said her father and uncle were there for the 1963 march. “But we still have the same problems today,” she said. “The most important thing for me is equality because the rest, every other problem, arises there.

Crowds gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. (Source: AP / dpa / Carolyn Kaster)Crowds gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. (Source: Carolyn Kaster / AP / dpa)

High security measures – but it remained calm

Many participants in the meeting wore masks, even though many people were against the recommendations of health experts. Nonetheless, it contrasted with President Donald Trump’s nomination speech the day before in the White House yard, where the approximately 1,500 invitees sat close together and hardly anyone wore a mask.

Before the day of the protest, the area around the White House was secured with high fences and concrete posts. Some shops in the area covered their windows with wood panels. After the meeting, groups of protesters marched through the partially cordoned off city center. The situation remained calm.

Trump pardons African American woman

As the meeting was nearly over, news came from the White House, just a few hundred yards away, that Trump had pardoned black American Alice Johnson. She was sentenced to life in prison in the 1990s for involvement in drug trafficking and spent more than 20 years in prison. Her case is seen as an example of excessive harshness in the US legal system. Trump released Johnson from the remainder of the jail term after society celebrity Kim Kardashian spoke on his behalf. Johnson appeared on the Republican Congress this week naming Trump a presidential candidate.

Trump and the Republicans are currently busy refuting allegations that the president is addressing racist voters. Meanwhile, Biden is popular with black voters, as is Vice President Barack Obama. Many black Americans appeared at the Republican Convention. Trump himself said in his nomination speech on Thursday evening, “I say with great humility that I have done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.” Under Lincoln, Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery in the United States.

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