National Black Justice Coalition CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks and Noel Gordon of the Human Rights Campaign were among those who spoke at a pre-march rally that took place at Freedom Plaza. Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, which organized the event, marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol alongside family members of unarmed black men killed by police officers.
The National LGBTQ Task Force, Freedom to Marry, GetEQUAL and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission are among the LGBT groups that endorsed the march.Darlene Garner and others affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Church held a large banner during the march that noted their religious affiliation. They also carried signs that read “hands up don’t shoot,” “black lives matter” and “black LGBT lives matter.”
“As LGBT people it’s important that we remember that some of us are black, some of us are brown, some of us are yellow, some of us our red,” Garner told the Washington Blade as she stood outside the National Theater before the march. “We are everywhere. Our community is not a community without its people of color.”
Rev. Danny Spears of MCC of Northern Virginia in Fairfax agreed.
“I’m here to support my brothers and sisters in the African American community to march against police brutality,” he told the Blade. “It’s a problem that’s not new. It’s been going on for far too long. It’s far past time for us to stand up and say no more.”
The D.C. march is among the largest protests to take place since a Staten Island, N.Y., grand jury on Dec. 3 decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a white police officer who killed Eric Garner in July when he placed him in a chokehold.
A second grand jury in St. Louis County, Mo., on Nov. 25 did not bring charges against Darren Wilson, a then-member of the Ferguson (Mo.) Police Department who fatally shot Michael Brown in August. Timothy Loehmann of the Cleveland Police Department late last month shot Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was holding a pellet gun, to death outside a local recreation center.
Rice’s mother, Samaria Rice, marched in D.C. alongside Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, his mother, Gwen Carr, and Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, shot to death in Sanford, Fla., in February 2012, joined the women along with Sharpton.
Spears told the Blade he was “absolutely appalled” by the grand jury decisions not to indict Wilson and Pantaleo.
“I just cannot see how they reached the decisions they did in both cases, especially in the Garner case,” he said.
Less Henderson of Oxon Hill, Md., who joined Spears and Garner at the march, agreed.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Henderson told the Blade. “Frankly this is a white society. I wasn’t surprised at all when that happened. It is what it is.”
Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department will investigate the shootings of Garner and Brown. The agency earlier this week announced a new policy that will prohibit federal law enforcement officials from profiling people based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and other factors.
Candy Holmes, who is married to Darlene Garner, told the Blade she is “very hopeful” about the federal investigations into the deaths of Eric Garner and Brown.
Henderson was less optimistic.
“As we’ve seen, the law, they’re going to do what they want to do, frankly,” she said. “While I am hopeful, I just hope this wasn’t another tactic to keep society under control. Another one where you’ll say well our leaders are with us. I just want it to be sincere and not just sensationalized and I hope that everyone out here today really means it and they’re just not out here because this is being sensationalized.”