By Amy Phillips and Elaina Moradi
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writers
WASHINGTON – An estimated 10,000 people gathered on Capitol Hill this Saturday to fight for their rights in what organizers billed as the March for Racial Justice.
“I’m marching for America in general, for my race, and other people of color,” said Jada Lee, a participant in the march.
The March for Racial Justice was meant to combat racism, sexism and white supremacy. The organizers chose the date Sept. 30 to mark the 98th anniversary of the Elaine Massacre, where more than 100 African Americans were murdered in Arkansas after asking for better pay from white plantation owners.
The rally acted as a way to bring people of all backgrounds together to demand a reversal of unjust laws and defend human rights, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Hundreds of signs filled Lincoln Park where participants gathered to line up prior to the march.
They read, “I am Black with NO apology,” “The time is always right to do what’s right,” and “Enough is enough.” The banners waved in the wind as Rayceen Pendarvis, the host and motivational speaker of the lineup, made dozens of people tear up with his words.
“We will make our voices loud and clear as we march for racial justice today,” Pendarvis said. “As we stand together in brotherhood, sisterhood, as we stand together in a rainbow of people, we are beautiful, we are important, and we matter.”
Diane De Laet held a sign that read “I march so my grandkids don’t have to.” She said the colorful handprints on her sign were painted by all of her grandchildren to make her statement more powerful.
“This march is primarily centered on the fact that so many African American men and women are being targeted unnecessarily,” De Laet said. “It’s also about all forms of social injustice, immigration, LGBTQ, and religious freedom, and that’s something we need to stand up for so our children and grandchildren don’t have to.”
In addition to march participants, dozens of staff members filled the scene in preparation for the movement.
One of the marshals, Dalbin Osorio, explained that the marshals were in charge of leading all of the volunteers to the front of the march.
“We are also responsible for the demonstration in front of the Department of Justice, where 15,000 of us will be kneeling … for a minute,” Osorio said. “We’re marching for a good cause and it’s the right thing to do.”
Washington Police Officer S. H. Brecht said the department’s job is to ensure the city’s safety during the march.
“We will assist this group with the march itself,” he said. “In the parks, we have officers present in those locations and then during the march we assist and guide them through the march on the streets.”
While many adult groups gathered to march, a number of college students also arrived in their school’s colors.
Many students from William and Mary’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America proudly chanted while holding their signs up for all to see.
Sam Nusstaum, a leader of the group, said, “Socialism is against all forms of oppression, and that’s why we’re out here.”
Group member Billy Bearden added, “We do a lot of stuff on our campus to promote social justice: we’ve held rallies on campus for the student body and we’ve had turnouts of about 400 or so.”
Another student, Nicholas Guglielmetti, was excited to gather information for his journalism class at George Mason University. Donned with his camera equipment, Guglielmetti said he enjoyed getting opinions from spectators and participants.
“I am going to try to encourage my friends to come to the next march with me,” he said. “I love being here in the middle of these social justice matters.”
With so many college students in attendance, Amy E. Ritter, the communications director for Making Change at Walmart, thought the march would be the perfect opportunity to advocate the 2017 Trump and Walmart Make America Worse tour.
“We’re raising awareness to the younger generations just so they know that their decisions matter,” Ritter said. “Where you shop matters, who you support matters, who you vote for matters. We all have socio-economic impacts, and we can affect the world through everyday decisions.”
The March for Black Women, coming from Seward Square, was walking to ultimately converge with the March for Racial Justice to combine both of their messages of equality for all.
The women’s march was fighting against the lack of proper treatment of black women, from incarceration and assault, to murders and disappearances.
Some of those marching included a group of New Jersey women, all sporting pink, knit hats.
Norma Bowe, a professor from Kean University, said there is a lack of equality throughout different backgrounds in her hometown.
“I live in a town where 48 languages are spoken,” she said. “I’m standing for justice. I’m not going to be silent. I’m going to be visible. I’m marching for my students, for young women, for older women. I’m disgusted by this administration. I see systemic racism everyday with my students.”
The president of the National Organization for Women, Toni Van Pelt Tuni, said all women must stand together.
“We have to lift up women of color,” she said in an interview. “We have to fight for racial justice, and to dismantle a racist system in this country.”
She stressed the importance of white women showing up to fight, and said that all of the women present at the Women’s March on Jan. 21 should be here marching as well.
One of those women was Morgan Taylor, a student who marched to demonstrate why all people of color matter.
“It’s more than just one race, it’s all people who are not white, all people of color, Asian American, Native American, and all in between,” she said. “It’s not all lives matter, it’s all lives should matter, and that really speaks to what our country is going through right now.”