On September 30, 2017, the March for Racial Justice started at Lincoln Park in the northeast section of Washington DC. The start time for this demonstration was at noon, but serendipitously it was joined by the March for Black Women that had started at 10 am. The venue was filled with people from many different cultures, ethnic backgrounds, genders, ages, and social/religious backgrounds. Signs ranging from “Black Lives Matter” to “White Silence Equals Violence” and “Protect Immigration” were touted in a sea of progressive expressions.
The excitement was rising as advocates like Ana Rondon, an organizer and immigration activist from Many Languages One Voice; Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, founder of Philando Castile Relief Foundation; and Steven Douglass, Washington DC pastor, activist, and representative for Terrence Sterling began speaking. Their powerful voices influenced the energy of the crowd as chants of “No Justice, No Peace” and “No how, No way, No Racist Police or KKK” echoed throughout the congregation. The crowd had grown to close a thousand voices, and with the addition of the March for Black Women it grew even larger.
The congregation left from Lincoln Park and headed toward the Capitol. The organizers of both marches led them; two groups chanting and singing to make their voices, frustrations, concerns, and solutions heard. Conscious entertainment groups such as; Rising Hearts Drum Circle, The Juney Band, and Allison Bucket Drum Brigade, were positioned through the crowd to continue the flow of energy.
K.G. Bethlehem At March For Racial Justice
At one point in the march, the Washington DC police escort had to relinquish its position as they crossed into the jurisdiction of the Federal Capitol Police. Tensions rose as a commander of the Capitol Police shouted through the intercom from his patrol SUV for the congregation to get on the sidewalk. This task was impossible since there were over a thousand people participating in the march. Most tried to follow instructions, others did not. The ones who did pointed out that there wasn’t enough room on the sidewalk to accommodate such a request, and that the streets belonged to the taxpayers. This back and forth between the commander and the activists went on for a few minutes until the commander stopped demanding such a challenging, if not impossible, directive. It seemed from the protesters’ point of view that it was an attempt to cause friction and ultimately a confrontation between them and law enforcement. Thankfully there was no confrontation, and the march proceeded.
When the protesters reached the front of Trump International Hotel, the march halted for a short time. The crowd booed and expressed their displeasure toward the current president by razzing his family business. People laid down in the streets, some took a knee, and mostly all chanted, “People of Color Matter!” It was a surreal moment, especially when a man, presumably a patron of the hotel, walked out in front and started to take pictures. Maybe it was simply that he wanted to capture a moment in history, but who actually knows why he was photographing that day, that moment, at that location.
The march wrapped up at the National Mall. The crowd rested, but was attentive to the speeches that continued. Protesters were talking with different representatives of community organizations that were present. They discussed progressive ideas such as fair living wages, Medicare for all/single payer healthcare, ending mass incarceration, ending violence against women, ending unfair drug laws, immigration rights, protecting women’s healthcare, free college education, and many others. The hope for the promotion and education about these types of ideas and issues is that it would not only help with those particular issues, but that they would ultimately help end systemic racial injustice and social/economical oppression.