Article2 D.C.Rally for Justice photo-001

Participants in the MLK Rally. (AFRO Photo/Kevin Zeese.)

A pair of Washington, D.C. nonprofits joined in a rally to protest police brutality ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

On Jan. 12, Hands Up Coalition DC and Witness Against Torture co-hosted a rally which started at the Department of Justice and ended at Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters.

Hands Up Coalition DC is a local nonprofit formed in response to the failure of grand juries in Missouri and New York to indict a pair of police officers in connection with the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively. Witness Against Torture is a group against the torture and the indefinite detention of Americans.

“While most Americans observed the year-end holiday season, the slave patrol/police force did not,” said Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a leader in the coalition. She cited the deaths of Matthew Ajibade, a sufferer of bipolar disorder who died in solitary confinement on New Year’s Day in Savannah, Ga., as well as the Jan. 2 ruling of homicide as the cause of death for schizophrenia sufferer Tanisha Anderson in a Cleveland jail late last year.

“Sadly we mourn two more Blacks killed while in police custody,” Coleman-Adebayo added.

The demonstration included a vigil with a dramatic display of coffins to symbolize the deaths of the two victims. Also recognized was Emmanuel Okutuga, 26, an unarmed Black student at Bowie State University and who was gunned down by a police officer in Montgomery County on Feb. 9, 2011. His mother, Comfort Oluedite, attended the rally.

“Even with evidence, African Americans are being slaughtered,” Oluedite told the AFRO after the rally.  “Thirteen witnesses saw what happened when he was shot.”

“There are specific, immediate, and urgently-needed steps that Attorney General Eric Holder can take today,” said rally speaker Kymone Freeman of We Act Radio. “In the two years since AG Holder promised to investigate Trayvon Martin’s murder, George Zimmerman has threatened to kill four other people. Just this week, the courts took his guns away.”

Freeman was disappointed at the Black turnout for the rally. Despite the rain, 40 people attended.  “Out of those 40, about 10 were people of color,” said Freeman.

Freeman said he believes more Black youth would join the movement if famous people were involved.

“We live in an entertainment culture,” he said. “We need mainstream artists and celebrities. I find this disturbing.”