The Rev. Al Sharpton helped to rally 1,000 ministers for a march on Washington on Monday, which he said marks one of the largest interfaith gatherings to protest racism in America.
The daylong Ministers March For Justice, which represents people of all religious backgrounds including Christians, Muslims, Jews and other faith-based communities, will begin at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and end outside of the Justice Department. Sharpton, who is leading the effort through his nonprofit organization the National Action Network, said it deliberately falls on the 54th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech calling for widespread racial equality.
“In Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, he talked about voting rights, health care, criminal justice and economic injustice,” Sharpton told HuffPost. “All four of these areas are at risk.”
The march is a direct response to the dangerous ways that Sharpton says President Donald Trump has embraced racism, and it intends to call out how Trump has further emboldened white supremacists. Sharpton, a longtime civil rights activist who has frequently spoken out against Trump in the past, said he is outraged at the ways the president and his administration have tried to roll back the civil rights progress America has made over the decades.
Sharpton also shared his own grievances with religious groups, expressing dissatisfaction with the level of action faith-based communities have collectively taken to confront Trump and his administration. He says it’s one reason why this march marks a significant moment in the resistance.
“The purpose of the march is to really put front and center leaders in the faith community that have not really made a real dramatic statement about the moral outrage that we’re looking at now in terms of the embrace of white supremacy and anti-Semitism,” Sharpton said.
The march will wind through Washington, D.C., where the group will make a brief stop outside of the Trump Hotel in the city to join in prayer. While Sharpton said he doesn’t expect Trump to embrace their message, he said, “We expect everyone in the Congress and Cabinet to say, ‘This we can’t scoff at.’”
Protesters are using the hashtag #MM4Justice to raise awareness and share pictures:
Sharpton has led countless marches in the past, but he said Monday’s gathering will mark a historic moment as hundreds within the interfaith community will march through Washington in the name of civil rights. While many have criticized the effectiveness of marching as a means of protest, Sharpton said that it is not the only method of protesting and that he is far from the only civil rights advocate pushing for racial equality. Although strategies and personal attitudes around activism in the black community vary, Sharpton said that there is nothing wrong with “a respectful difference in tactics” and also acknowledged the power of nonviolent youth-led activist groups and mass movements like Black Lives Matter.
“Many people criticize marching yet do not understand what marching is for. The job of marching is to dramatize an issue,” Sharpton said, pointing to King as an example of someone who was not an elected official yet used his voice and the power of protest to effectively amplify issues. “MLK dramatized issues and made the office holders have to come up with anti-segregation and voting laws. If you don’t raise or dramatize an issue, then no one will be forced into legislature on local or national levels to deal with it.”
Sharpton said he hopes Monday’s march will send a strong message about the faith community’s intolerance toward racism and religious discrimination ― and that it draws deeper meaning considering it is held partly in memory of King and the day his powerful words rang through Washington.
“Trump once gave Dr. King’s writings to the pope,” Sharpton said of the books Trump gifted Pope Francis in May, which did include King’s work. “Now, he needs to read [those books] because his policies are antithetical to Dr. King’s speech.”