Sharpton, Clergy Push for Social Activism
By Dorothy Rowley
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Thousands of people, including a cadre of faith leaders from the Reconciled Church Movement (RCM), that represents various faith-based communities, joined the Rev. Al Sharpton and members of his nonprofit National Action Network (NAN) in Washington, D.C. to rebuke President Donald Trump and recommit themselves to the fight for social and economic justice.
The longtime civil rights activist said the turnout of about 3,000 people, who participated in the Ministers March for Justice marked one of the largest-ever interfaith gatherings in protest of racism in America.
“[Just] as [Martin Luther King Jr.] marched for 54 years ago, we are still marching for voting rights, health care, criminal justice reform and economic justice,” said Sharpton, who marched recently alongside the likes of Martin Luther King III.
Prior to the peaceful gathering, Sharpton had expressed disdain over how the Trump administration has sought to undo much of the progress of the country’s civil rights era.
The nearly two-mile march, which began shortly after noon at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and stopped briefly for prayer outside the Trump Hotel before moving to the Justice Department building, coincided with the 54th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Johnnie Green, senior pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, thanked Sharpton for organizing the march before taking shots at Trump and other GOP lawmakers.
“We’re here, because many of those who sit in the seat of power — the president, the Republican Congress and the Republican Senate—they’ve once again written us a bad check,” Green said. “The check written to millions of Americans—Black, brown, Jewish, Muslim and many others—has come back stamped with insufficient funds.”
Green continued: “When you try to take away healthcare for 26 million Americans, you’re trying to issue us another bad check. When you co-sign the killings of people of color in the name of law and order, and leave our Black bodies lying in the streets for more than four hours and refuse to hear our cries of ‘I can’t breathe’ while choking us to death, you’re trying to issue us another bad check. When you tell us that there are good people among nationalists, White supremacists and neo-Nazis who commit terrorists acts here on American soil, you’re trying to issue us another bad check.”
Rev. Marshall Hatch, co-chair for the Chicago-based Leaders Network, also gave a fiery speech, blasting Trump for what he said is an attempt to stop an investigation of “foreign meddling into our election.”
He went on to say that neither Trump’s recent pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio nor his “threatening of nuclear war and rumor of war,” via tweeted messages, pointed toward normalcy.
Hatch added that “refusing to condemn racism and anti-Semitism” also isn’t normal.
“Somebody has to have the courage to stand up and say, ‘this emperor has no clothes,’” Hatch said.
The march came on the heels of Trump’s sullen response surrounding a White supremacist rally held earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, after city officials had contemplated the removal of Confederate statues. A couple of days after the rally, in which counter protester Heather Heyer was killed, Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence that erupted during the event.
Jeffrey David Cox, president of the 700,000-member American Federation of Government Employees located in northwest D.C., told the crowd there’s no room in this country for hatred.
“It’s time to take those statues down,” Cox said. “But leave the base so we [can] tell our children and our grandchildren what an evil wicked thing this country did.”