On the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, tens of thousands gathered at the Lincoln memorial to protest the ongoing police shootings and racism of this country. Nearly 50 thousand people came to Washington DC from all over the country, despite restrictions due to COVID-19. A group walked from Wisconsin to DC, getting arrested and shot at along the way. Others came from as far away as New Zealand.
The march was called by Al Sharpton, a Baptist preacher and civil rights leader, in June at a George Floyd protest. The thousands who participated are part of the movement that has been ongoing since May, in some cities nearing 100 straight days of demonstrations. The shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha sparked new protests as well as strikes by major sports teams. These are further signs that this movement is spreading and deepening.
Sharpton and other speakers called for legislation, declaring that “demonstration without legislation will not lead to change.” But what has happened this summer shows that this is not true. It has been the demonstrations that have put racism and police violence at the forefront. When cops are quickly charged with murder and police chiefs resign because of actions they got away with in the past, we know that the movement is having an impact. Anything we have won is because of the thousands of people who have been tear gassed, chanted in the heat and through masks, and refused to go home and hope that someone else would do something about it. Without the Black Lives Matter movement, countless flags and statues commemorating slavery and racism would still be standing.
Yolanda King, Martin Luther King’s 12-year-old granddaughter, is right – we must be the generation to decide we will end systematic racism, police brutality and gun violence, save our planet from the climate crisis, and end poverty once and for all. We cannot settle for anything less than the world we deserve, and we must look to each other in the fight for our lives.