Thousands descended upon Washington, D.C. Saturday to demand jobs, full voting representation for the District of Columbia and an end to partisan bickering on Capitol Hill to kick off The Martin Luther King Jr. March for Jobs and Justice.
The event began with two pre-march rallies with performers and speakers, including D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and activist and former D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy.
Members of “Occupy D.C.” – an extension of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement – organized the early morning portion of the event, which was designed to honor King and bring attention to issues, especially those affecting Washingtonians, including taxation without representation in D.C., the need for jobs and economic reform in America.
“I hope [this] makes people see that we are not as free as we think we are,” said native Washingtonian Sheila Garey. “Everyone is still a slave to something and we need to work together to try to stop it.”
Garey’s sentiments were echoed in speeches by D.C. Council member Kwame Brown and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Participants then gathered near the National Sylvan Theater at 15th Street and Independence Avenue NW for proceedings organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
Sharpton’s rally focused on the nation’s high unemployment and the Senate’s rejection of President Obama’s American Jobs Act on Tuesday.
“We bailed out the [automobile industry]…We bailed out Wall Street, now it’s time to bail out our working class people!” exclaimed Martin Luther King III.
Following that rally, the demonstrators marched to the site of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall, which will be officially dedicated tomorrow from 8-11 a.m. at the Tidal Basin next to the memorial off Independence Avenue. The dedication will feature Aretha Franklin, who will sing “Precious Lord,” one of King’s favorite hymns. Jennifer Holliday and Sweet Honey in the Rock are also scheduled to perform and a host of dignitaries and artists are scheduled to speak.