Hours after fireworks bearing President Trump’s name burst over the National Mall, thousands flooded its grounds to rally for racial equality on the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” address, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. Families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and Jacob Blake — Black Americans shot or killed by police officers — gathered alongside Reverend Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for the gathering dubbed the “Get Your Knee off Our Necks Commitment March.”
Led by the National Action Network, CBS News reporter Audrey McNamara reports organizers first announced the day’s events during a memorial service for George Floyd, the 46-year-old father who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.
Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told the crowds he wished “George were here to see this right now.” His sister, Bridgett Floyd, pleaded with demonstrators. “We have to be the change.” The mothers of Dontre Hamilton, Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery also addressed crowds. “Even though we’re going through a crisis, even though it looks dark, I want to tell you to be encouraged,” said Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton. “Don’t stop saying ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Don’t stop protesting,” she said.
In the months since Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter marches have sprung up from coast to coast, mounting calls for the officers charged in Floyd’s death to be brought to justice, and those involved in other controversial cases including the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by officers in her own home in Louisville, and Elijah McClain, who died after a police chokehold in Aurora, Colorado, last summer.
Protests reignited again this week following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was hospitalized after police shot him several times in the back as he opened the door of his parked car. Attorneys for his family say he is now paralyzed.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris recorded brief remarks for the march that played during the event on Friday. The California lawmaker said that if civil rights activists from the 1960s were here today, they “would share in our anger and frustration as we continue to see Black men and women slain in our streets and left behind by an economy and justice system that have too often denied Black folks our dignity and rights.” She quoted the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. “As John put it, Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Richard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor.”
In a video message posted to Twitter, Wednesday, Joe Biden announced he spoke with the family of Jacob Blake. “What I saw on that video makes me sick,” Biden remarked, referencing a graphic witness video of police shooting Blake seven times. “Once again, a Black man, Jacob Blake, has been shot by the police in broad daylight, with the whole world watching.” In the wake of violent protests in Kenosha, Biden also condemned the “needless violence” endangering lives.
President Trump has not weighed in on Blake’s death or Friday’s march, staged just yards away from the White House grounds. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows reiterated Friday on Fox News that the White House has reached out to his family members through their pastor, but has not yet spoken to them directly. The senior White House official suggested President Trump avoided a “rush to judgment” on the police shooting to ensure “we’re not burning down buildings in the meantime while the jury’s still out.