Thousands of people marched through the streets of Washington and New York on Saturday to protest recent police encounters that have claimed the lives of unarmed black men and youth across the country.
An estimated 10,000 people marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capital, while thousands more gathered at Washington Square in New York and made their way down Fifth Avenue, chanting, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Protesters also gathered in Los Angeles at Pershing Square and marched through the city for several hours.
In Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the backdrop, the Rev. Al Sharpton, the organizer of the march, brought together family members of some of those who have died, saying they represented all Americans who had struggled with unequal treatment.
“It's not black against white; it's right against wrong,” Sharpton said. “This is not a black march; this is a march for the rights of the American people.”
Sometimes struggling with emotion, the relatives of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and others slain by law enforcement thanked the crowd.
“I look at the masses — black, white, all races, all religions,” said Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother. “This is a history-making moment. We need to stand like this at all times.”
“We came today in peace,” chanted organizers who linked arms with Garner's mother at the head of the march to the Capitol.
The latest demonstrations came after a New York grand jury declined earlier this month to indict New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death in July. Garner, an unarmed Staten Island man, died after the officer applied an alleged chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes.
There have been near-daily protests around the country since the grand jury’s decision.
Just nine days earlier, a St. Louis County grand jury failed to indict Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. Brown died Aug. 9.
Saturday’s marches came a day after an Ohio medical examiner ruled the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice a homicide. Rice was shot Nov. 22 by a Cleveland police officer while carrying a toy handgun in a park.
Speaking to the crowd of demonstrators in Washington, Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, called for an indictment of the officer. “Let that officer get arrested and bring him in front of a criminal jury so he can have the opportunity to prove his innocence and we can prove our justice,” she said.
Several speakers told the crowd not to forget other shooting incidents in the past.
Kimberly Ballinger, whose partner, Akai Gurley, was killed by police earlier this year in Brooklyn, brought the couple's 2-year-old son.
Levar Jones, who was shot by state troopers in South Carolina, said he was waiting for charges against the officer who wounded him.
“This is not something new that started,” said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black high school student who was shot and killed in Florida in 2012 by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer.
“Don't just come to the rally and go home,” she said. “It cannot stop here.”