By James Wright
Special to the AFRO
A larger than expected group of marchers, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, converged on Washington D.C. to protest the policies of President Donald J. Trump on Aug. 28.
The Ministers’ March for Justice occurred on the 54th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. Sharpton said that the event had a special purpose.
“This nation is in moral trouble,” he said. “We have people who want to take health care from their momma because they didn’t like Obama. That is why I have called 1,000 rabbis, sheiks, imams and Christian ministers to come to Washington.”
The march took place two weeks after the Charlottesville, Va., disturbance in which a woman, Heather Heyer, was allegedly murdered by a White supremacist who used his car to recklessly mow through a group counter-protesting in opposition of a White supremacist rally on Aug. 13. Sharpton indicated that in spite of the Charlottesville, Va. tragedy, the planning for the Ministers’ March had been taking place for months.
The Rev. Leslie Copeland-Tune, the director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, told a crowd of about 5,000 at the pre-march rally that was held near the grounds of the King Memorial on the National Mall, that the Trump conservative agenda is unacceptable.
“No. Hell no. We refuse to go back on the progress that we have made,” Copeland-Tune said. She said that prayer is a potent weapon of protest.
“While we march, we are praying,” she said. “Our prayer is protest against this administration.”
The Rev. Jamal Bryant is the senior pastor of Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore and he spoke at the pre-march rally sporting a San Francisco 49ers jersey of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t signed with a NFL team because of his activism on Black causes. Bryant denounced pro-Trump evangelists Paula White and Jerry Falwell Jr., for characterizing Trump as “God’s Man.”
“We as a nation are rising,” Bryant said. “Donald Trump, we are coming.”
The march started at the King Memorial and went east on Independence Ave., S.W. until it got to 17th Street., S.W. and then it proceeded north to Constitution Avenue., N.W. The march stayed on Constitution until it got to 15th Street., N.W. and then it went north for one block until it got to Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
On Pennsylvania, the march proceeded east and stopped for a two-minute prayer in front of the Trump International Hotel. Then they went a block to the northwest entrance of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The actual procession had a touch of the District in it with D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) in the front, with D.C. Statehood Sen. Michael Brown (D) close behind and the Alpha Omega chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity serving as the marshals for the succession.
At the Justice Department, Southern Christian Leadership Conference president The Rev. Charles Steele said his organization wants every state capitol to have a statute of King.
Sharpton, in his address, said that in order to fight the Trump agenda and prepare for the 2018 election cycle, “we will organize church by church, mosque by mosque and synagogue by synagogue.”
Sharpton said he didn’t want a turnout of hundreds of thousands but wanted to focus on the faith leaders.
“These are the leaders who represent real folks,” he said. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but principalities, wickedness and the powers of darkness in high places.”
Martin Luther King, III, the oldest son of King, talked about the country’s economic inequality.
“Since the Great Recession that took place almost 10 years ago, the wealthy have done well while millions are seeking a recovery,” he said. “During my father’s speech, he called for a march for revolution of values and we are doing the same here.”
King, III also said that the District should be a state and “now is the time to stand up for justice and stand against injustice.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 and 1988, said that Trump is indifferent “to our rights.”
“Seventy-eight percent of the people are living paycheck to paycheck,” Jackson said. “We are privatizing schools and prisons. We need and deserve a better government.”
The rally at the Justice Department ended with a mass singing of “We Shall Overcome.”
Students from Oakwood University in Huntsville, Ala., took the bus and rode 13 hours to attend the march. The students wore Black shirts with “This is My HBCU” on the front.
“After the events in Charlottesville, students approached me about coming to participate in the march,” The Rev. Dedrick Blue, dean of the school of religion at Oakwood, told the AFRO. “There are 25 students that came and they are all theology students. They wanted to become engaged about what was happening and I am so proud of them.”