It was pouring rain all along the three-mile route, but about 100 protesters showed up anyway to march into Washington, DC, on Wednesday with a goal to end — or at least begin to end — white supremacy.
The demonstration was the last leg of a 10-day, 120-mile journey that began in Charlottesville, Virginia. Just a few weeks ago, white supremacists descended onto the Virginia city to protest lawmakers’ plans to take down Confederate monuments. They caused mayhem for a weekend — including a death when a Nazi sympathizer ran his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The events in Charlottesville drew further controversy when President Donald Trump said “both sides” were to blame for the violence, drawing a false equivalence between the neo-Nazis and KKK members who went to Charlottesville and the anti-racist demonstrators who stood against the white supremacists.
Along the way of the Charlottesville to DC march, people held up a variety of signs — “end white supremacy,” “black lives matter,” “no papers, no fear,” “not my president,” and more. Whenever the march passed onlookers, participants would shout, “Join us!” The message: White supremacy is still very much alive in America, and it’s important for everyday citizens to stand up to it.
On Wednesday afternoon, the march culminated near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at the National Mall in Washington, DC. Several speakers — all people of color — spoke, sang, and prayed about their struggle against Trump and white supremacy. They spoke about what transpired in Charlottesville as well as Trump’s decision to end DACA’s deportation protections for young undocumented immigrants. And they vowed to defend the common humanity of people of all races.
They all agreed this was only the beginning of their efforts. Some intend to stay in Farragut Square in DC and “hold this space” through September. “We will have a presence in DC until there's no white supremacists in the White House and until we have a racial justice agenda,” march organizers claimed on Twitter.
Throughout the final part of the march, I talked to participants — some who attended from the beginning in Charlottesville, and others who participated only in the DC part of the march — about why they were there and what they hoped to accomplish. What follows is six of those marcher’s comments, edited for length and clarity.
Jamal Johnson from Philadelphia: “I felt that there wasn’t enough representation of people of color”
“I came here as a result of what happened in Charlottesville. I felt that there wasn’t enough representation of people of color involved [at Charlottesville]. So when I heard about the march, I came down to be a presence hopefully along the way with everybody else, speaking out against white supremacy and about the actions that happened in Charlottesville.
“I’ve been involved in a few marches in the past. This one seems to be very cohesive. Everyone is very touched by the killing of the young lady in Charlottesville. It melded everybody together for the common goal of trying to fight this white supremacy. This thing hasn’t been spoken about as much as it has recently, and it seems like everybody is trying to do something about it now.”
Renata Cardoza from Bethesda, Maryland: “I’m hoping that we all leave from here and continue the fight”
“This is not the very first march that we’ve seen so far and that I’ve been to. I think all of us are trying to be heard. We really want to make a change here — and hopefully help the administration realize that we’re not going to stop.
“[Trump] is just dismissing everything that we should be as human beings, and I’m personally very upset. I’m Latin; I worked my butt off in this country since I started working. I have helped this economy like you wouldn’t believe, and it’s terrorizing to see that nothing will make a change for him. He just doesn’t seem to understand that this is supposed to be the country of opportunity. We’re all here working hard for our families, for our people — and we should be treated with some respect.
“I did not march all the way from Charlottesville, but I am so impressed and inspired by all of these people. I’d like to thank them, thank Charlottesville for their courage. I’m hoping that we all leave from here and continue the fight.”
Dan Harrison from Lynchburg, Virginia: “I hope that people realize that white supremacy is real”
“I was in Charlottesville with the clergy there on August 12. We stood against white supremacy there, and then this march happened the week following. I wanted to be with people leaving out of Charlottesville coming to DC to confront systemic white supremacy.
“I hope that people realize that white supremacy is real, and that there’s a lot of affected people in this country — a lot of marginalized people. I hope that people take it seriously, and work within our governmental system to change that. And that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Stephen Green from Roselle, New Jersey: “We must uproot white supremacy from its core”
“We’re here because we believe that we must uproot white supremacy from its core. We’re here because we believe that this is a moral movement that requires a level of sacrifice to move this nation forward and love. We’re here because we believe that we are better and stronger together. I think it’s important for the nation to see millennials out in the front lines in a moral, nonviolent way to uproot white supremacy and to take that message to the White House.
“This was the right time, and this was the right moment. When we started this journey 10 days ago, we didn’t expect what would transpire across this country as it relates to the deadlock in Congress and the decision of the DREAMers. But this has brought more meaning to this march because it shows that we’re here to push back against business as usual.”
Katie Beckman-Gotrich from Woodridge, Virginia: “I hope to make a little bit of noise”
“I hope to make a little bit of noise, be in community, bring attention as one of the organizers for the March for Racial Justice. This is the beginning event to Solidarity September.
“One of the major criticisms is that people will come in from outside the DC community. And we want to make sure that while we call attention to white supremacy, we call out the issues of what organizers here are doing in the local community related to those issues.”
Annaliess Trommatter from Manassas Park, Virginia: “I’m here to support my sisters and brothers of color”
“I’m here to support my sisters and brothers of color, to stand up against hate, march for beauty, trust, integrity, and honesty.
“The march was originally put together in response to [Charlottesville] and the virulent hatred that’s come up and become almost acceptable to express nowadays. The goal was to march nonviolently and to protest nonviolently to show that you can affect change without having to resort to violence.
“The first step to any kind of change is to raise awareness. If you don’t know something is wrong, you cannot fix it. I think a lot of people have stayed with the status quo. And without opportunities to learn an alternative point of view, they’re going to really struggle to appreciate the other perspective of things. This is a big moment in the movement to raise awareness to hopefully start the change.”