US Ministers March on Washington in Call to End Racism

Hundreds of ministers marched Monday in Washington on the anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, calling for an end to racism after recent violence in the country.

The eldest son of King, Martin Luther King III, joined the rally along with the Reverend Al Sharpton and ministers from many religions, marching along parts of the same route that civil rights activists took 54 years ago.

Sharpton’s National Action Network said in a statement Monday that his group was “not only disgusted by the lack of leadership in the current White House, but are also tired of the silence of others.”

The march followed recent violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a man, described as a Nazi sympathizer, ran his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring about 20 others.

President Donald Trump was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats because he didn’t immediately denounce the white nationalist groups that organized the rally. The president later said several times that he condemned white supremacist groups and believed all racist sentiment was “evil.”

The president was also criticized for blaming “many sides” for the violence. Trump has contended there were people fomenting violence on both sides of the conflict in Charlottesville, which saw both members of white supremacist groups and counterprotesters wielding weapons.

A Jewish participant in Monday’s ministers march, Catherine Lynch, told VOA, “It’s not a black issue only, it’s also an issue for Jews. It’s an issue for all of us because all of us have some piece of who we are that is targeted by these groups,” referring to white supremacists and other extremist groups.

“People have gone to sleep. They think we are in a postracial society, and we are not. It’s just been hidden. It went underground, but now with this new president, it’s come above ground,” said the Reverend JoAnn Hilton from Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack, N.J.

Marchers paused at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a few blocks from the White House, to pray and send a message to the president.

Sunday school teacher Aaron Shingler said, “I don’t know really what his agenda is, but it’s an agenda that doesn’t promote justice.”

The march ended at the Department of Justice. The Trump administration did not comment on the march.

VOA’s Carolyn Presutti contributed to this report.

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