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Activists gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on Friday as part of the 2020 Virtual March on Washington, also known as the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march — 57 years after the first March on Washington for civil rights.

Named in reference to the way police officers murdered Geoge Floyd in May, the demonstration was organized to demand racial equality, call for criminal justice reform, and reaffirm that Black lives matter in the United States.

Rev. Al Sharpton first announced the march at Floyd’s funeral in Minneapolis in June, and the event captured the unrest after a summer defined by police violence against Black people, a virus that has disproportionately affected Black and brown communities, and global protests. Just earlier this week, another Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

Protesters gathered as early as 7 a.m., echoing the first march in 1963 that drew a crowd of more than 200,000 people. While the official march on Friday began at 11 a.m., a range of speakers took to the stage for a pre-march rally. By noon on the 92-degree day, the area around the Lincoln Memorial was filled with thousands of people.

Organized by Sharpton and his civil rights organization National Action Network, the families of people who have lost their loved ones to police violence were front and center at the event. The families of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Jacob Blake were among the long list of speakers calling for justice. 

March-On-Washington-2020-Racial-Injustice-Black-Lives-Matter-002.jpgMarvin Alonzo Greer and Cheyney Mcnight gather at Lincoln Memorial to attend the March on Washington, DC Aug. 28, 2020, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.
Image: Jose Luis Magana/AP

Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, asked the crowd to commit themselves to enacting long-term change. 

Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, said through tears, “I wish George was here to see this right now — that’s who I’m marching for." The crowd chanted, “I can’t breathe” in response.  

Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, also spoke and declared that she believes today, people have the power to make the changes that Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed about. 

Blake's father, Jacob Blake Sr., said, “I’m tired of seeing young Black and brown people suffering.”

Martin Luther King III, who was just 5 years old when his father delivered his famous “I Have a Dream speech” at the first March on Washington, was also in attendance with his wife, Andrea Waters King, and daughter, Yolanda Renee King. 

March on Washington, 1963

March on Washington, 1963
Participants march carrying signs for equal rights, integrated schools, decent housing, and an end to bias on Aug. 28, 1963 during the March on Washington.
Warren K Leffler/Library of Congress

March on Washington, 1963

March on Washington, 1963
View of the crowd from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.
Warren K Leffler/Library of Congress

March on Washington, 1963

March on Washington, 1963
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington, D.C. in this file photo of Aug. 28, 1963.
AP Photo

March on Washington, 1963

March on Washington, 1963
Marchers walk with signs during the March on Washington, 1963.
Marion S. Trikosko/Library of Congress

Hosted in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic, organizers developed safety protocols for the event. People from COVID-19 hotspots were asked to stay home and tune into the virtual march programming instead.  

Hand sanitizer stations were available, and in order to gain entry to the event, attendees had their temperatures checked and received masks. Attendees received admission wristbands to signify that they had passed the health screening required for admission. The wristbands also featured QR codes with links to voter registration information.  

Throughout the event, speakers asked participants to stretch their hands out and be cognizant of social distancing. 

“We are courageous but conscious of our health; we are socially distanced but spiritually united,” King said in his speech Friday. “We are masking our faces, but not our faith in freedom.” 

Take Action: Check Your Voter Registration Status With 'Just Vote' Here

Voting was also a key theme throughout the day, and many speakers stressed the importance of exercising the right to vote in the November 2020 presidential election. 

“We must vigorously defend our right to vote because those rights were paid for by the blood of those lynched for seeking to exercise their rights,” King said.

Sharpton echoed King's sentiments in his speech: “Our parents died to give us the right to vote. Our vote is dipped in blood." 

Speakers paid homage to the activists who came before them. Alica Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, the three women who started the #BlackLivesMatter movement in 2013 after Trayvon Martin’s murder, were mentioned and honored throughout the event. Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, who died in July, was also honored. 

March-On-Washington-2020-Racial-Injustice-Black-Lives-Matter-001.jpgPeople pose for a photo in the Reflecting Pool in the shadow of the Washington Monument as they attend the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
Image: Julio Cortez/AP

Chelsea Miller and Nailah Edari, two Black women who co-founded the police reform organization Freedom March NYC, spoke about the importance of intersectionality in the racial justice movement. 

“Black women have continued to be on the front lines," Miller said. "These movements need to continue to be intersectional."  

“We are not going anywhere," Edari added. "We will ensure that this revolution will be televised that this movement will continue in an intersectional way and in an intergenerational way.” 

At approximately 2:30 p.m., while the names of other victims of police brutality were read over the speakers, attendees began to march toward the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and recommit themselves to his dream for a just America. 

Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to launch Just Vote, a campaign mobilizing young Americans to register to vote ahead of the 2020 election and beyond. As part of the campaign, your favorite artists and entertainers are offering exclusive experiences, performances, and memorabilia — and they can only be unlocked once eligible voters check their voter registration status. Learn more about Just Vote and how you can take action here.



Demand Equity

Activists Gather for 2020 March on Washington to Demand Racial Justice

By Sophie Partridge-Hicks