Protesters shut down D.C. streets after police fatally shot 31-year-old black man, Terrence Sterling, in Oct. 2016. Nearly a year later, protesters took to the streets once again in a peaceful demonstration to remember Sterling and bring awareness to racial justice and black women.
The organizers for The March for Racial Justice chose Sept. 30 to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the Elaine Massacre, where more than 100 black sharecroppers were murdered by white mobs after demanding better pay from white plantation owners. It was one of the many massacres of the Red Summer in 1919.
Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile — the man who was fatally shot by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop last year — said the officer crucified her son.
“The seat belt was the cross, the bullets was the nails and the car was his coffin,” Castile said to a crowd of hundreds at the National Mall.
Castile said despite her son’s life being cut short, she has a feeling that he served his purpose on earth.
“My son is affecting people all over the world,” Castile said. “I believe that this we are in, is just a vehicle for our spirits, and once the body dies the spirit never dies and my son is still here. That’s what keep me strong and gets me up in the morning.”
The March for Racial Justice
Dorcas Davis, co-founder of the march, said her father was assaulted in 2011 by police officers in New York.
For six years, Davis said she watched her father’s rights being violated by the justice system and listened to lawyers who told her family they weren’t going to win the case.
The not guilty verdict in the Philando Castile shooting triggered memories for Davis. She added that the march was not just for black people.
“We all need to be activated because the only way this changes is if the entire country sets a new standard for the country,” Davis said.
The March for Racial Justice and the March for Black Women rallies joined to protest racial injustice and sexual and domestic violence against black women and girls. The rallies started in Lincoln Park, a gentrified neighborhood in Capitol Hill.
The March for Racial Justice, which was funded by online supporters, began with volunteers. The biggest challenge, Davis said, was getting other organizations involved and funding.
“No justice. No peace. No racist police.” — Dorcas Davis
“People are very used to black issues or Latino issues or women’s issues and we are saying we need to be talking together and addressing this thing called white supremacy that’s suppressing us all,” Davis said.
Voices of the march
As a crowd of more than 500 people followed Dalbin Osorio, 32, screamed “Show me what America looks like,” a rainbow coalition of activists and organizers marched through Independence Ave. “This is what America looks like.”
Osorio marches for his brother, who he said was assaulted by New York police.
“Racial justice means more opportunities for employment, equal opportunity for education and equal opportunity for homeownership,” he said.
Protesters marched to the Justice Department where they chanted “say her name” for black women who lost their lives to police brutality. Once there, black women were told to turn their backs to the building and kneel in solidarity.
Coby Owens, a 22-year-old chief executive officer of the Youth Caucus of America, works to get young people involved in legislation.
Owens marches because he doesn’t want his future children to see some of the injustices he saw.
“It’s not just the older generation. It’s us. It’s our turn to also stand up and stand with the older generation to fight to finally end this injustice,” Owens said, who co-organized the march.
Steps toward change
Since the death of her son, Valerie Castile has been working on police reform with Minnesota’s governor Mark Dayton.
The goal of reform is to create better community relations with law enforcement. Several members from the governor’s staff are also working toward reform.
Castile said an effective system has officers that know how to deal with issues without escalating to violence.
“My goal is that no one else gets killed by police,” Castile said. “The officer should know how to de-escalate a problem or used the force that is needed in that position.”