Thousands of protesters brought Washington to a standstill on Saturday with demonstrations demanding justice for black men killed by white police officers.
The Washington rally was part of a growing protest movement triggered by the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on 9th August.
Weeks of protests have followed the grand jury decisions not to prosecute the white officers responsible either for 18-year-old Brown’s death or for the fatal chokehold on New York father-of-six Eric Garner in July. The protests have since spilled out across the US states of New York, Boston and California, and have even been held in the UK.
Demonstrators at the Washington march could be heard chanting: “No justice, no peace!” “Justice now!” and “I can’t breathe!”
“I can’t breathe” were Eric Garner’s last words, which he repeated as he was wrestled to the ground by two white police officers for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on New York’s Staten Island.
The families of Garner and Brown were joined in Washington by relatives of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot dead last month by Cleveland police, and of Trayvon Martin, who was killed in Florida by a neighbourhood watchman in 2012.
Garner’s widow Esaw Garner stated: “I am here not only for marching for Eric Garner, but for everyone’s daughters and sons and nieces and nephews and dads and moms.”
Garner’s mother Gwen Carr described the protest as “a history-making moment”, going on to say that demonstrations would continue until lawmakers respond to demands for reform.
Today’s march was led by civil rights activist and president of the National Action Network Al Sharpton, who is often seen as a significant figure in the rallies. Joined on the stage by the families of those who were killed, Sharpton commanded the audience’s attention by directing his words at lawmakers.
Sharpton said: “You thought it would be kept quiet. You thought you’d sweep it under the rug. You thought there would be no limelight. But we’re going to keep the light on Michael Brown, on Eric Garner, on Tamir Rice, on all of these victims.”
Many are calling for a reform of the grand jury process, claiming that fundamental changes need to be made in order for citizens to regain trust in the police and judicial systems.