20th Anniversary of Million Man March calls for changes in policing and in black communities

Thousands of African-Americans from across the country gathered at the National Mall to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and called for changes in policing and in black communities.

Waving flags, carrying signs and listening to speeches and songs, the crowd wove their way through security barricades and souvenir vendors at the U.S. Capitol and spread down the Mall on Saturday.

The families of several unarmed African-American men and women killed in encounters with police encouraged the crowd to continue to speak out against police misconduct.

The families asked the marchers not to forget the names of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland and not be silent about their deaths.

Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said: ‘We will not continue to stand by and not say anything anymore.’

Attention has been focused on the deaths of unarmed black men since the shootings of 17-year-old Martin in 2012 in Florida and 18-year-old Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Authorities said Bland hanged herself in July in a Texas jail cell after a traffic stop, but her family disputes those findings.

Deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of law enforcement officers have inspired protests under the ‘Black Lives Matter’ moniker around the country.

Among the attendees of the march on Saturday, was Nate Smith of Oakland, California, who joined the 1963 March on Washington and the 1995 Million Man March.

‘It’s something that I need to do,’ the 70-year-old man said. ‘It’s like a pilgrimage for me, and something I think all black people need to do.’

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who spearheaded the original march, led an anniversary gathering on Saturday at the Capitol called the ‘Justice or Else’ march.

During a rally, Farrakhan said black men and women should forsake foul language and violence against each other.

He also said that if things don’t change in the black community, participating in the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March is just ‘vanity.’

Farrakhan spoke out against using foul language against women, and against domestic violence and abortion.

He said, ‘It is your body, you can do what you want with it.’ But he added it would be tragic if a scientist or leader was aborted.

Farrakhan also praised the young protesters behind Black Lives Matter. He called them the next leaders of the civil rights movement and called on older leaders to support them.

He asked: ‘What good are we if we don’t prepare young people to carry the torch of liberation to the next step?’

The original Million Man March on October 16, 1995, brought hundreds of thousands to Washington to pledge to improve their lives, their families and their communities.

Women, whites and other minorities were not invited to the original march, but organizers welcomed all on Saturday, saying they expected hundreds of thousands of participants.

The National Park Service estimated the attendance at the original march to be around 400,000, but subsequent counts by private organizations put the number at 800,000 or higher.

The National Park Service has refused to give crowd estimates on Mall activities since.

President Barack Obama, who attended the first Million Man March, was in California on Saturday.

Life has improved in some ways for African-American men since the original march, but not in others.

For example, the unemployment rate for African-American men in October 1995 was 8.1 per cent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In September 2015, it was 8.9 percent.

In 1995, 73.4 per cent of African-American men had high school degrees. In 2004, 84.3 percent did, according to the Census Bureau.

Law enforcement agencies made 3.5 million arrests of blacks in 1994, which was 30.9 per cent of all arrests, the FBI said. By comparison, they made 7.6 million arrests of whites that year, which was 66 per cent of all arrests.

By 2013, the latest available data, African-American arrests had decreased to 2.5 million, 28 per cent of all arrests.

Anti-Muslim protesters plan to demonstrate at mosques around the nation on the same day.

Source: The DailyMail

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