Thousands of black rights activists from across the nation gathered Saturday on the National Mall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and call for policing reforms and changes in black communities.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who spearheaded the original march, led the anniversary gathering Saturday at the Capitol called the “Justice or Else” march. I remember being a 14 year old boy back in 1995 the MMM was an awesome experience for a young buck like myself. I remember seeing Maya Angelou and the late Rosa Parks speak, and just seeing so many black men gathered together for a positive cause was inspiring.
In 2015, Farrakhan called Black Lives Matter protesters the next leaders of the civil rights movement and called on older leaders to support them.
“What good are we if we don’t prepare young people to carry the torch of liberation to the next step?” he said.
At the march, the families of several unarmed African-American men and women killed in encounters with law enforcement encouraged the crowd to continue to speak out against police misconduct.
“We will not continue to stand by and not say anything anymore,” said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black teen shot dead in Sanford, Florida on Feb. 26, 2012.
March participants spoke of their sense of purpose in guaranteeing black Americans rights for which many have fought for generations.
The original march on Oct. 16, 1995, brought hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C. to pledge to improve their lives, their families and their communities. Women, whites and other ethnic minorities were not invited to the original march, but organizers said all were welcome Saturday.
The National Park Service estimated the attendance at the original march to be around 400,000, but subsequent counts by private organizations say the number was at least double that. The National Park Service has refused to give crowd estimates on Mall activities since.
Just a few statistics, in 1994, law enforcement agencies arrested 3.5 million African Americans, comprising 30.9 percent of all arrests, the FBI said. In 2013, law enforcement arrested 2.5 million African Americans, which made up 28 percent of all arrests, the latest FBI data shows.