Joining the families of blacks killed by police, thousands marched toward the capitol and down New York streets on Saturday to protest what they called an epidemic of abuse at the hands of police.
But even though it was his event, many attendees didn’t want to hear from organizer Al Sharpton.
The march, organized by Sharpton’s National Action Network, once again chanted the oft-heard slogan, “No Justice, No Peace” with marchers demanding that federal laws be enacted to curb local and state police agencies use of force rules.
In an op-ed published on December 8, Sharpton noted that the “march against police violence” was needed to force Congress to “immediately start hearings to deal with laws that will change the jurisdiction threshold for federal cases and policing.”
Once the thousands of marchers reached the grounds outside the Capitol, Sharpton warned Congress that he and his supporters would not be ignored.
“You thought you’d sweep it under the rug. You thought there’d be no limelight,” Sharpton said. “We are going to keep the light on Michael Brown, on Eric Garner, on Tamir Rice, on all of these victims because the only way — I’m sorry, I come out of the ‘hood — the only way you make roaches run, you got to cut the light on.”
Sharpton was joined at the podium by felony armed robbery suspect Lesley McSpadden and alleged riot-inciter Louis Head, the parents of Michael Brown, a strong-arm robbery suspect killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in August.
“What a sea of people,” McSpadden said. “Thank you for having my back.”
Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, the man who died during an attempted arrest in New York, also spoke at the rally, saying, “This is a history-making moment. We need to stand like this at all times.”
But even as Sharpton geared up for his address, dozens of protesters drifted away from the rally, saying they didn’t want to hear from Sharpton.
David Saunders, 62, was one rally-goer who left as Sharpton began his comments. “I believe in the march. But I don’t want to hear him,” he said.
Another person leaving as Sharpton began speaking told The Washington Post, “We wanted to be here. This was wonderful. But we’re good.”
This isn’t the first example of resistance Sharpton has been confronted with after his repeated attempts to capitalize on the pain of recent victims of police actions.
In one case, the family of a man accidentally shot by a rookie New York policeman in November publicly warned Sharpton to stay away from their loved one’s funeral.
Similar protests wracked New York, where protesters allegedly assaulted two NYPD officers and blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Protesters chanted violent slogans: “What do we want? Dead cops!”
— Lnonblonde (@Lnonblonde) December 13, 2014
Lieuteanants were “knocked to the ground, kicked by various people, kicked in the face and in the head,” said John Miller, NYPD dep commish.
— Nicole Fuller (@nicolefuller) December 14, 2014
— New York City Alerts (@NYCityAlerts) December 14, 2014
Back in November, black suspects allegedly beat unarmed white man Zemir Begic to death with hammers in St. Louis earlier in December after screaming, “Kill all white people.” The killing took place after Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Similar hammer attacks took place after Sanford resident George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio issued a warning to would-be violent protesters.
Those who reject peaceful protest and provoke violence can expect immediate arrest and prosecution.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) December 14, 2014
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org