Thousands of demonstrators marched on Washington, D.C., on Saturday to protest the deaths of unarmed men — and a 12-year-old boy — at the hands of white police officers.
They marched down Pennsylvania Avenue from Freedom Plaza near the White House to the Capitol, carrying signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Killer Cops,” and “Hands up Don’t Shoot” and “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?”
But according to The Washington Post, “As the Rev. Al Sharpton took the podium, however, dozens and dozens of protesters walked west on Pennsylvania Ave, leaving the rally.
‘We wanted to be here. This was wonderful. But we’re good,’ says Kiesha Thomas, 32, of Chicago.
David Saunders, 62, was also leaving. ‘I believe in the march. But I don’t want to hear him.’
Among the marchers were family members of slain men, including Esaw Garner, the widow of Eric Garner, who killed by an officer in New York City in July. “Let’s keep it strong, long and meaningful,” he said.
Protests were set from San Francisco to New York, where a Millions March is slated for the afternoon; in Lexington, Ky., before a basketball game between the universities of Kentucky and North Carolina; in Austin at the Texas capitol; and in Kansas City, Mo., at a federal courthouse, the paper wrote.
At the D.C. rally, a dozen protesters caused chaos when they took the stage with a bullhorn. They said they were from St. Louis and Ferguson, Missouri, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by an officer. Rally organizers allowed Johnetta Elzie of St. Louis to speak, but later called the interruption “unnecessarily divisive,” according to the Associated Press.
For her part, Elzie dissed the rally, saying “I thought there was going to be actions, not a show. This is a show.”
Sharpton addressed the interruption and told the crowd, “Don’t let no provocateurs get you out of line. … We are not here to play big shot. We are here to win.”
Saturday’s march was sponsored in part by the National Action Network, the Urban League and the NAACP. At the Capitol, speakers were expected to outline a legislative agenda they want Congress to pursue in relation to police killings, the AP said.
While protesters rally in Washington, other groups including Ferguson Action will be conducting similar “Day of Resistance” movements all around the country. A large march is planned in Manhattan.
“It’s open season on black people now,” New York march co-organizer Umaara Elliott said in a statement, according to The Post. “So we demand that action be taken at every level of government to ensure that these racist killings by the police cease.”