WASHINGTON — Nearly 10,000 people are expected to descend on the National Mall for the Commitment March on Washington to commemorate 57 years since the first March on Washington and the continued fight against police brutality.
The march, scheduled for Aug. 28, will coincide with the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network are preparing for this year's March on Washington. WUSA9's Bruce Johnson spoke with Sharpton to discuss plans for the march and what participants can expect if they chose to participate.
"We're asking people to come because there's a sense of urgency now, Sharpton said. "When you look at the fact that this summer, we've seen the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, just one right after another in the middle of the pandemic, it brings to a real sense of need to respond with national legislation to deal with this."
Sharpton announced plans for the march during the memorial service for George Floyd, who was killed at the hands of police in May, sparking weeks of protests in D.C. and around the nation.
"We call this march to call on the United States Congress and Senate to pass the George Floyd justice bill, police and justice bill that has already passed the House of Representatives, and to pass the John Lewis voter rights bill," Sharpton said.
Following a National Board meeting, Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN) announced strict rules and restrictions to ensure safety during this year's March on Washington amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The march's COVID-19 protocols for participants include:
- Distribution of masks,
- Thermometer check-in stations,
- Restricting access to buses from states or cities that are "COVID-19 hot spots"
- Practicing social distancing
While thousands of visitors will make their way to the District to participate in the march, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reiterated her quarantine order for visitors from 27 states with higher rates of COVID-19. The D.C. Health Department said individuals from states that are considered high risk will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days when they visit D.C.
"We have said that if you're in a hot spot state, have a march there," Sharpton said. "We'll have a march that National Action Network is doing in South Carolina in front of the offices of [Sen.] Lindsey Graham, Houston, Texas in front of the office of Sen.Ted Cruz and Florida in front of [Sen. Marco] Rubio's office."
Sharpton believes that having these satellite marches across the United States will still get the initial message across.
"We will have satellite marches and rallies that will have the jumbotrons of what we do at Lincoln Memorial," he said. "So we don't expect 100,000 people, but we expect a gathering that will send an effective message as we do this around the country."
Being in the middle of a pandemic, some organizations are holding virtual "March on Washington" events leading up to the march next Friday.
The NAACP announced they will lead a “2020 Virtual March on Washington.” Civil rights leaders, activists, and families of people who have lost loved ones at the hands of police will be leading the charge.
Black Lives Matter, the organization at the forefront of protests against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against Black people, is hosting a virtual conference, but has also been invited to participate in the march.
"They've been invited and they have a virtual conference that they said will start after the march," Sharpton said of Black Lives Matter. "We're not fighting against each other. We're finding ways to cooperate because all of us want to see something done about the threat of voting rights and about police brutality."
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Sharpton is confident that this year's march will not be a risk to those who choose to participate.
"We're confident because we've checked with the health experts," Sharpton said. "They've never stopped marching every day in other cities, and there has not been an uptick in COVID-19 in any of those areas, because they're outdoors and people are taking precautions. And we're confident that this will also be the case on Aug. 28."