August’s March on Washington: will the world follow suit?

On the anniversary of the ’63 March on Washington, America will rise up once more. Will the rest of the world follow suit?

Well-known preacher and black activist Al Sharpton has announced that he’s organising a March on Washington this August 28th to protest the recent death of George Floyd, as well as years of systemic racism and police brutality in the US. Sharpton issued the statement on Thursday during a memorial service held for Floyd in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd lived and died.

The 28th August will be the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington that saw Martin Luther King Jr deliver his now infamous rally cry for racial justice: the ‘I have a dream’ speech. 57 years on and the fatal actions of police officer Derek Chauvin against unarmed black man George Floyd are but a microcosm of the many ways in which US society is still steeped in racism.

‘We’re going back this August 28 to restore and recommit that dream (of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) … We need to go back to Washington and stand up, black, white, Latino, Arab, in the shadows of Lincoln and tell them this is the time to stop this,’ Sharpton said to the crowd of thousands that had come to commemorate Floyd.

Sharpton announced that the event will be led by the families of black people who have died due to police violence, including Floyd’s family and the family of Eric Garner, a black man who was choked to death by a New York police officer in 2014. Sharpton emphasised that these families ‘know the pain’ of police brutality.

The revered used the opportunity to emphasise the proximity of the impending march to the 2020 federal election. He said the march is ‘going to be getting us ready to vote, not just for who’s going to be in the White House, but the statehouse and the city councils that allow these policing measures to go unquestioned.’

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These are poignant comments less than a week after the leader of the US government, President Donald Trump, made a mockery of Sharpton’s religion by tear gassing protesters in Washington for a photoshoot outside a church, where he managed to hold the bible not only back-to-front, but upside down.

Questions about the safety of protesting in the current environment, where Coronavirus is still a very present and real threat, have been raised regarding the August march as they have been for all the protest movements currently erupting around the globe. This didn’t deter the crowd at Floyd’s funeral from cheering Sharpton on, however, as demonstrators point out that racism is a social epidemic of its own, with equally deadly consequences.

If the fire that has ignited black voices and the voices of their allies in the past few weeks burns into August, as it very well should, it’s likely that we’ll see concurrent marches in other parts of the world on or around this date, though no official plans have been made yet.

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