PHOTOS: D.C. March Draws Thousands to Protest Police Actions

WASHINGTON -- If there was an antithesis to the night of looting and rioting in Ferguson, Mo., after a grand jury decided to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown, it was today's "Justice for All" march in D.C.

There was no more police presence for the demonstration starting at Freedom Plaza near the White House down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol than there was for any other D.C. event; cops were mainly focused on traffic control at closed road segments. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier mingled and chatted among the crowd.

After it was over at around 3 p.m., demonstrators strolled around the sights of D.C., found places for lunch, or found their tour bus among the vehicles lined up on Constitution Avenue.

Ethnically diverse marchers ranged from senior citizens to little kids, and many parents pushed strollers down the protest route. College groups and organizations such as the ACLU, NAACP, and SEIU organized groups of marchers, but many protesters just came on their own. One woman told PJM that she and 30 others had pooled together for a bus from Savannah, Ga.

The family-friendly atmosphere extended to impromptu speeches off the main stage. One man was overheard apologizing to those around him for using a cuss word in his rant, saying he got carried away by the moment.

Washington police don't release crowd estimates, but the number easily exceeded 10,000, stretching during the march along the whole protest route.

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, encouraged the crowd to channel their anger into volunteering for a nonprofit that shares their individual ideals and goals. The mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old playing with a toy gun and killed by a Cleveland cop three weeks ago, found it difficult to speak.

"I want to thank the nation and the world for the support, because that's the only way I'm standing up right now," Samaria Rice said. "The only way."

Organizers attempted to draw rope cordons on the east end of the crowd at Freedom Plaza so that organizer Al Sharpton and family members of Brown, Martin, Rice, Eric Garner, and others could symbolically lead the protest. However, some protesters made clear they were there for a cause and not for Sharpton.

About 400 protesters came to D.C. from Ferguson, and some of them used a bullhorn to briefly steal the stage, accusing Sharpton of putting on a show with the placid protest.

A Washington Post reporter at the west end of the rally spied "dozens and dozens of protesters"  leaving when Sharpton spoke. “I believe in the march," David Saunders told the paper. "But I don’t want to hear him.”

And the family of Akai Gurley, the Brooklyn man shot in a stairwell of his housing project by a spooked rookie cop before Thanksgiving, wasn't among the speakers. His family had told Sharpton, who decided he was going to give the eulogy at the 28-year-old’s funeral, to back off when he tried to run the show. The mother of Gurley's 2-year-old daughter brought the child to the protest and spoke briefly.

The crowd gasped as one surprise guest took the stage: Levar Jones, shot by a South Carolina trooper in September after he retrieved his wallet on a seat-belt traffic stop at a gas station. The dashboard cam video, with a stunned Jones asking the cop "Why did you shoot me?" as he lay wounded, led to assault charges against the officer.

Jones, who was shot in the hip, wore a sweatshirt bearing his famous question. With the help of a cane, he walked the entire protest route.

"I thank God every day that I'm here," Jones said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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