The "We Shall Not Be Moved" march draws hundreds concerned about civil rights under Trump

Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A frigid rain poured on hundreds of protesters here Saturday, during the "We Shall Not Be Moved" march convened by prominent civil rights leaders in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although the rain undoubtedly suppressed turnout, the weather failed to deter marchers like 59-year-old Solomon Taylor of New York City who, in tribute to the late civil rights icon, brought along his teenage son, Daymon, to stress the import of King's sacrifice.

"When I think about some of the things that [King] put up with — he was stabbed, spit upon, jailed and had dogs sicked on him — I don't believe that we would be here if it wasn't for him," Taylor said just before the march began.

"Besides, [my son] can say, 'I was actually there five days before Obama came out of the White House. I marched.'" Taylor said.

As President-elect Donald Trump is less than a week from assuming the Oval Office -- and with him a cabinet poised to turn back the clock on King's legacy on economic equality, voting rights and other civil liberties — raindrops are the least of their concerns, said march organizer Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network.

Source: YouTube

"We are not fair-weather activists. We march in the rain, in the ice, in the cold," Sharpton said to a crowd of marchers gathered at the base of the Washington Monument. "We are not Trump Tower folks. We are down-on-the-ground activists."

More than 300 participants had arrived by car, bus and plane, some from as far as California and Arizona, for the march that moved through the National Mall to West Potomac Park, in the shadow of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. Several participants said it was important for them to be seen as part of the resistance to Trump's administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, which put repealing the Affordable Care Act, instituting tough-on-crime policies and cutting taxes for the wealthy at the top of their priority list.

"I wanted to be part of the movement for protecting our rights and freedoms," said Mischelle Massey, who drove to Saturday's demonstration from Charlotte, North Carolina. "I don't want to see the progress we've made reversed unnecessarily."

Rev. Al Sharpton addresses participants in his "We Shall Not Be Moved" march in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.Source: Cliff Owen/AP
Rev. Al Sharpton addresses participants in his "We Shall Not Be Moved" march in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.  Cliff Owen/AP

Sharpton said he and leaders from partnering organizations the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Council of La Raza had called the march around four key issues: voting rights, criminal justice and policing reforms, healthcare and equality under the law. Democrats who wanted to work with the Trump administration must be unwilling to compromise in those areas, activists said.

But some protesters said they most feared Trump's divisive rhetoric during the presidential campaign would soon have a prominent platform in the White House.

"His campaign embodied white racial hatred, racism and all the different isms that have plagued this country," said Jaquair Gillette, 31, of Paterson, New Jersey. "That's not the America that King fought and died for."

Trump's racial dog whistling continued on Saturday, when he attacked civil rights icon and Georgia representative John Lewis as an "all talk" and "no action" politician from a "crime infested" legislative district. The suburban Atlanta-based congressman, who famously fought and bled with King for the passage of voting rights and desegregation in the 1960s, had called Trump an "illegitimate" president.

March participants listen to speakers during the "We Shall Not Be Moved" march in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14, 2017.Source: Cliff Owen/AP
March participants listen to speakers during the "We Shall Not Be Moved" march in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14, 2017.  Cliff Owen/AP

Lewis told NBC's Meet the Press host Chuck Todd that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, apparently to Trump's benefit, didn't sit well with him. Lewis announced Saturday that he would, on principle, skip next week's presidential inauguration. But the president-elect's response to the congressman drew a substantial backlash, both on social media and out at the march.

"I just despise Donald Trump, honestly," Brigette Melody, 20, of northern Virginia, said. She carried a red "Black Lives Matter" sign that had been drenched by the rain.

"He doesn't care about all the people," added Melody, who is of Korean descent. "My mom is an immigrant, so of course [anti-immigrant rhetoric] resonates with me. He's making these terrible things okay to say."

The march was part of a broader effort among progressive and left-leaning activists around Trump's transition to the Oval Office. The Movement for Black Lives, a collective of over 50 black activist groups around the country, said on Friday that thousands of protesters and activists had responded to their call for five days of resistance from Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday to the inauguration.

Mass protests are expected as Trump is being sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday, followed by the Women's March in D.C. the next day.

Marchers walk along the tidal basin in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14, 2017.Source: Cliff Owen/AP
Marchers walk along the tidal basin in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14, 2017.  Cliff Owen/AP

Mary Pat Hector, national youth director for the National Action Network, said the millennial activists who helped organize Saturday's march were committed to vigorously protecting King's legacy for the next four years.

"There's a war on women in this country,"  Hector said to participants after the march. "There's a war on black and brown bodies in this country. There's a war on justice in this country.

"And so we stand here today to tell Donald Trump, [Sen.] Jeff Sessions and everybody else in his administration that we will not be moved," Hector said.