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Demonstrators Converge on D.C. to Commemorate Civil Rights Anniversary

Alexander Reed Kelly
Associate Editor
In December 2010, Alex was arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House alongside Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, healthcare activist Margaret Flowers and…
Alexander Reed Kelly

On a march from the National Mall to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Saturday, tens of thousands of people honored the work of those who marched on Washington, D.C., 50 years ago in the struggle for civil rights and pledged that the goal “included equality for gays, Latinos, the poor and the disabled,” The Associated Press reports.

The generation of past activists honored endured fire hoses, police abuse and other indignities to demand political equality for black Americans. As is common at such events, “there was a strong theme of unfinished business.” Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of the slain civil rights leader, said Saturday: “This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration. Nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration. The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more.”

The AP noted that the 100,000 people who were expected to participate in the event demonstrated in a different Washington from the one civil rights leaders visited Aug. 28, 1963. Back then people huddled on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to get close to King. Today metal barriers divide them from the reflecting pool.

Speakers talked Saturday about black unemployment being twice that of white Americans and the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., was the only surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington. He criticized a recent Supreme Court decision that effectively ended a key anti-discrimination provision of the Voting Rights Act. He spoke about how police beat and gassed marchers demanding access to voting booths during a 1965 march.

“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Ala., for the right to vote,” he said. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us. You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You’ve got to stand up. Speak up, speak out and get in the way.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Associated Press via The Huffington Post:

On Friday, a coalition of black leaders issued what they said is the 21st century agenda for the nation as it marks the watershed civil rights event that helped bring about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 1963 march drew some 250,000 to the National Mall and ushered in the idea of massive, nonviolent demonstrations.

The leaders named economic parity, equity in education, voting rights, health care access and criminal justice reform as national policy priorities.

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