In Washington on Saturday, tens of thousands of people gathered along the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.
Fifty years after the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. led a quarter million people in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, people from across the country retraced those steps, following behind the Reverend Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network co-sponsored the event.
The day-long demonstration kicked off with fiery speeches from politicians and civil rights figures.
"When they say, 'No you can't pass the Dream Act, no you can't pass marriage equality, no you can't abolish the death penalty, no you can't expand voting rights in any state south of the Mason Dixon,' we say, 'Yes we can!'" said NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous.
Fifty years ago, the March on Washington focused primarily on jobs and justice, while this demonstration has a broader range of goals, including ending racial profiling by police, abolishing controversial "stand-your-ground" laws, and expanding gay rights.
"So keep dreaming of the constitutional right to vote," said the Reverend Jesse Jackson. "Stop the madness in North Carolina and Texas, keep dreaming, keep dreaming, revive the war on poverty, keep dreaming."
After his speech, Jackson pushed back against comments by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program actually helps people in minority communities.
"It reminds me of what George Wallace said to me one time," said Jackson. "George Wallace said to me one time, he said, 'Reverend, I'm very sincere that we did the marchers a favor when we beat them in Selma, because if they had gotten across to the other side, it would have been even worse. A mob would have attacked them.' So, to give us a kind of Hobson's choice is ridiculous."
The parents of Trayvon Martin also took the stage at the rally.
"Trayvon Martin was my son, but he's not just my son, he's all of our son and we have to fight for our children," said Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother.
Also among the crowd of thousands was 82-year-old June Terry of Manhattan, who attended the march as a 32-year-old, and made the return trip with her daughter.
“I’m so happy that she’s here with me today and see all these great people," said Terry. "I’m just happy, happy, happy. I really am.”