"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
50 years ago on August 28th, 1963 estimates of 250,000 people attended the rally and march on Washington, D.C. where Dr. King delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech. Both his speech and the march have become staples in American history and the civil rights movement of the era.
On Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 an anniversary rally is being held to honor the occasion and to reflect on our nation's history. President Obama will be speaking on the 28th as well.
While today marks the anniversary of that march, another march and rally took place on Saturday calling for organization, mobilization, and action. Issues discussed at this rally included things like Voting Rights (in light of the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn the Voting Rights Act of 1965), Trayvon's Law, the Prison Industrial Complex (also sometimes referred to as "The New Jim Crow"), ALEC (or the American Legislative Exchange Council) which among many other things was influential in getting Florida's Stand Your Ground law passed, the need to raise the minimum wage, and much much more.
The original march in 1963 drew about 250,000 people. Saturday's march drew the same number if not slightly more people. Furthermore the diversity in terms of age, race, and gender were remarkable. There is no question that a call to action has been recognized to address inequality and injustice.
The NYC Light Brigade attended this event as well. However, their goals were somewhat more daring; but only because of the injustice's they experienced.
After arriving in the nation's capitol at around 8:20pm on Friday the 23rd, the light brigade headed to the Lincoln Memorial to hold some signs and spread a message of inspiration.
The group was not allowed to display letters reading "I have a dream" in the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.
Read an account of what happened from Athena of the NYC Light Brigade:
"After we were told by an assault rifle-armed park officer that we were not allowed into the MLK memorial with our letter panels, we realized that taking any shots of our Light Brigade messages in front of the MLK statue would be next to impossible. But we did not just go away. Rather we stood, with our message all lined up in our allotted space: the 3' wide sidewalk between the water and the monument grounds. Martin Luther King was in fact behind us, but good luck getting back far enough to get any sort of all-encompassing shot. All we needed was to stand a few feet into 'monument grounds' to get the shot we needed: Our letters spelling out I HAVE A DREAM and Martin Luther King solemnly looking out over them. There we persisted, trying any calm tactic we could think of: singing 'We Shall Overcome', trying to level with the guard ("come on man, just one picture"), individuals going up and talking to him one-on-one."
Passersby who were visiting the monument started gathering around, curious. Our determination was great, our intentions clear, and our patience high."
Watch a video of some of the confrontation here.
It is worth noting how the harassment the Light Brigade received at the MLK Jr. Memorial may have been related to this bill.
Following the confrontations at the Martin Luther King memorial the Light Brigade continued to its next scheduled location. Read an account from Light Brigade member Marilu:
"In the van on our way to the next location, I mentioned how much you can get away with if you are saying that you are making a video, a movie, or a commercial when it has nothing to do with anything relevant, and are even allowed to go into private areas. When we arrived at the White House, we were told that we were allowed to stand on the street; if on the sidewalk, then we had to keep moving; and to not lean on the fence. It was nighttime, and not many people were around the already unlit White House. As we noticed a group of drunk tourists leaning on the fence without being disturbed, we approached the sidewalk and started to assemble for the picture... 'What are you guys doing?" one of the policemen asked as he approached us. "We are Art students!!' I instinctively yelled out, loudly, so that everyone could hear and maybe follow... 'it's a thesis project (minding our ages), we brought helpers, been working on it for a while, thanks!' The policeman responded 'Oh!, heh, OK!... As long as y'all are not protesting or anythin' like that! heheh.'"
"I could not believe, how, in front of the President's abode itself, the security was letting us do what we peacefully intended to do in front of the statue of MLK Jr. because we said we were art students. In front of a statue of Dr. King though, we were not allowed to assemble and take pictures like tourists would; they knew we were protesters and activists, not drunk tourists, or art students making their thesis project, or filming a commercial... so we were harassed."
"What school are y'all from???" The other guard came up to ask defiantly. "Pratt!, in Brooklyn" I yelled, thinking of how one of the people in our group (Athena) had just told me she went to Pratt and majored in painting. "We came all the way here!"
"So the policemen stood there and watched us take the picture in the sidewalk, with the drunk tourists helping us to hold up the letters as we engaged the small crowd to help us. Some of the younger 'helpers' started asking me what we were really doing; and as I started explaining the message and that they were helping the Light brigade with their messaging, they would fill up with pride and smile with their letters."
The first message the Light Brigade displayed was the following...