- West Virginia rallies against hate crimes (FCN, 11-14-2007)
- Hate crimes sweep Mid-Atlantic region (FCN, 10-06-2007)
- Anti-immigrant sentiment grows into nationwide hate crimes (FCN, 03-16-2006)
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Angry about the rash of racist hate-crimes perpetrated against them in recent months as well as several recent incidents of police brutality, and frustrated over the inadequate response from government law enforcement agencies, more than 25,000 Blacks marched on the U.S. Justice Department Nov. 16 in an emotional show of strength which snarled downtown traffic and filled the air with chants of: “No Justice! No Peace!” and “We’re Fired Up! Can’t Take it No More!”
It was billed as “A weekend of justice in D.C.” by the Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network; Martin Luther King III; and Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the group founded by Mr. King’s slain father. Young activists continued the protest another day with their own “Enough is Enough” rally and concert to “Stop hate crimes and police brutality,” organized by the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, founder of the Hip-Hop Caucus.
Organizers complained about the racial disparity and injustice in the case of the “Jena 6,” Black youths charged with crimes that could get them decades-long prison sentences for a schoolyard fight that was provoked by the hanging of three nooses in the schoolyard by three White students who went virtually unpunished; a series of noose hangings all over the country; and a rash of police shootings of unarmed Black youth, as well as the alleged rape and torture of Megan Williams in West Virginia.
Black elected officials including D.C. Council members Kwame Brown and Harry Thomas Jr., led the marchers, along Congressional Black Caucus member, Rep. Al Wynn (D-Md.). “This is a tremendous turnout for a very important cause,” Rep. Wynn told The Final Call. “We can’t go backwards.
“We’re on Capitol Hill with the Congressional Black Caucus trying to expand hate crimes legislation, meanwhile the legislation on the books is not being enforced. There are ‘Jenas’ all over this country,” he said, referring to the case of the six Black youth facing trial in Jena, La. “In Maryland, the University of Maryland, College Park there was a noose hung. This is serious. There are ‘Jenas’ all over this country.”
Marchers, many of them college students, came in hundreds of buses from as far away as Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. “This right here is our lunch-counter moment of the 21st Century,” the Rev. Yearwood told The Final Call, recalling the student lunch-counter sit-ins more than 40 years ago which helped trigger the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
“And we recognize how important this process is for our generation. If we don’t stand up right now, then we are complicit in this madness. No justice. No peace,” he said.
“Today we thank the Rev. Sharpton, and Martin King III and others, and all those that stand here today to appeal to the government for what rightfully belongs to us, if not as citizens, then as human beings,” the Nation of Islam’s Brother Ishmael Muhammad told the crowd on behalf of the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan.
“So, it is right that we petition our own community to stop the violence that is plaguing us, because an executive decision has already been made, where we are concerned, and it is not good for us. The plan that is being formed, as we speak and march here today, is to send troops into our communities, and it will lead to the indiscriminate slaughter of our people. This is what is being planned against us, so it is wise for us to act now to stop the violence that is in our community, lest they use that violence as a predicate for an action that they have been planning against us, and our youth and their so-called ‘gang activity.’
“They are not hearing our cry. Today, we make yet another record that the world can see, that we are appealing to our government in a proper, intelligent, and civilized manner…but, but, but” Brother Muhammad continued. “But!” the crowd cheered in response. “But, we don’t believe they care anything about our cry.
“So I am appealing to us, whether they do anything or not, it is in our best interest to go into our communities to summon the preachers, the politicians, the activists, and let us unite to stop the violence and work to make our communities a decent and safe place for our women, and children, and elders to live in.”
The Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Washington’s Union Temple Baptist Church and National Director of the Millions More Movement was a central local organizer of the events which included rallies at Howard University, the University of the District of Columbia and several churches every night during the week. He reiterated the Nation of Islam theme of organizing the victims into a solid force.
“As I have said throughout this program, we’ve got a twofold approach to this,” the Rev. Wilson told The Final Call. “We want to challenge the government, but we also have to challenge our own community. We’ve got to deal with the crimes, the murders and the violence. The Justice Department is not doing that. It’s our people and our community.
“In this program today, we had several groups that are working for peace in the community. We are enlisting people to join some of these groups, to join the churches, to join all of these organizations that will work together to make a difference in our own community. We have to take care of our own community. Then we will be even more effective in challenging the government,” the Rev. Wilson concluded.
The Justice Department defended its record of prosecuting civil rights cases. “The Justice Department shares with those who demonstrate today their objective of bringing to justice those who commit criminal acts of hate,” Attorney General Michael Mukassey said in a statement.
“It shares their vision of eradicating hate in our society. At the same time, the Department must follow the law and the principles of federal prosecution in every case it investigates and prosecutes,” Mr. Mukassey’s statement said.