Thousands of people gathered in the nation's capitol on Saturday to protest police brutality and demand reforms in response to several recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers.
Multiple civil rights groups organized the march in Washington, D.C., including Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, to call attention to the recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and other young black males. But a group of young protesters who said they were from Ferguson, Mo., where Brown was killed, took the stage and interrupted the event.
Young protesters took the stage and interrupted the event. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
Johnetta Elzie, 25, and a group of young activists who said they were organizers from Ferguson took the stage and interrupted the scheduled speakers at the Justice For All March. The activists, who said they’ve organized protests, in Ferguson, demanded a chance to speak on stage. The group from Ferguson along with some members of the audience chanted "let them speak." Speaking on stage, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin repeatedly asked for unity.
"This is a youth-led movement, this is a leaderless movement," Elzie told reporters.
Elzie said she had been shot by a rubber bullet during one demonstration in Ferguson. And she described other instances in Ferguson when people were beaten by police. "That's what happening in the middle of America." She said the D.C. march, organized by Al Sharpton's National Action Network was a disappointment.
"They are not doing anything but standing around," she said. "This is a publicity stunt."
Johnetta Elzie, 25, St. Louis, Mo. speaks to reporters after she took the stage. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
Leon Kemp of St. Louis, Mo. said he has been protesting in Ferguson since Aug. 9., the day Michael Brown was shot. Like Elzie, he was critical of the D.C. march.
"We should be shutting something down, stopping an intersection. We should see what it means to face these militarized police."
Kemp said that he is glad that the movement is growing, with organizations like the National Action Network getting involved. But he feared that the message of Ferguson was being muddled.
"I don't want the message to be lost," he said.
He was upset that some speakers used the slogan "all lives matter" because "that goes without saying."
"It's about 'black lives matter,'" he said.
Leon Kemp, St. Louis, Mo. was critical of the Sharpton-organized protest. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
Protesters gathered to hear speakers at Freedom Plaza before a planned march towards the United States Capitol. Jeremy Phillips, 12, from Washington, D.C. attended the rally with his mother.
"I decided not only to pay homage to the people that brought us this far, but to continue the fight and to end it."
"Me and my family have experienced racism."
Jeremy Phillips, 12, Washington, D.C. stands in front of the stage at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
Darien Ford of Baltimore, Md., came to the march and found himself next to fellow Baltimorean Sherby Marshall, 62.
"The older generation — it's about time for them to sit down. It's time for the younger generation to step up. We want to be here for the young folks."
Marshall said when she was 12, her father brought her to March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream Speech."
"I can't believe I am here marching for this reason again," she said.
Marshall said she has a young male relative who is 6' 4" and she is worried he will be profiled.
"I'm worried they are not going to be able to walk down the street and not be feared."
Marshall (right) thanks Ford (left) for coming out to the march and representing the younger generation. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
Nick Barone, 18, who traveled from Clearwater, Fla. said he couldn't just "sit at home" after he heard about the non-indictment decision in the Eric Garner case.
"I figured if I wanted to see change, I need to do something about it," he said.
"I see it every day. When I was in high school, I saw African-Americans being treated badly and differently than whites. In school, it's against the rules to wear a hood because it's gang-related. That's absolutely absurd. It's just assumptions. Everyday, we see African Americans targeted and profiled."
Nick Barone, 18, Clearwater, Fla. stands in the crowd at Freedom Plaza. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
Rodrick Murray, 19, Bowie, Md. Jackie Schipani, 18, Sterling, Va. attended the protest together.
"I was watching an interview with Al Sharpton and he was talking about this march and I thought it would be a good idea for us to come together," said Schipani.
"She's definitely been talking about it a lot. I've definitely been thinking about how injustice has been happening across the country. It's been happening for a while and I'm actually glad it's finally coming to light," said Murray.
"It's not necessarily all policemen that are the issue, it's the people who have prior prejudices against people who wear the badge and say they protect and serve when the reality is they have their own agenda and let the power and gun get to their head," he said.
Jackie Schipani, 18, Sterling, Va. (left) and Rodrick Murray, 19, Bowie, Md. (right) listen to speakers at Freedom Plaza. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
Amanda Seabron, 27, Baltimore, Md. said she was glad to see young people out, active and demanding change.
"The police are trained to shoot first and ask questions later," she said.
Amanda Seabron, 27, Baltimore, Md. watches as speakers take the stage at Freedom Plaza. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
The crowd gathered at Freedom Plaza before protesters marched towards the United States Capitol Building.
People gathered at Freedom Plaza with a view of the U.S. Capitol Building in the background. (Geneva Sands/Fusion)
Geneva Sands is a Washington, D.C.-based producer/editor focused on national affairs and politics. Egg creams, Raleigh and pie are three of her favorite things.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.