WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Tens of thousands of people — including three New York City mayoral candidates — participated Saturday in a march on the National Mall ahead of the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
As CBS News’ Marlie Hall reported, the march came a few days before the actual anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963, event that featured the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The event was led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and King’s son Martin Luther King III. After several speeches, participants walked the half-mile from the Lincoln Memorial to the 2-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
“I was here 50 years ago, back in the day,” said an emotional Clifford Lee of Washington, D.C.
Lee said King’s words inspire him to this day.
“He’s not here with us, but here with us in spirit, and I want to march to continue his dream,” Lee said.
Mayoral candidates Anthony Weiner, Bill De Blasio, and Christine Quinn were among those in attendance.
Martin Luther King III told the crowd the nation is still working to fulfill his father’s vision of justice and equality.
“This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration, nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration,” King III said. “The task is not done. The journey is not complete.”
Newark Mayor and New Jersey U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker reminded younger generations to remember the sacrifices that came before their time.
“We cannot allow ourselves to let our inability to do everything undermine our determination to do something,” Booker said. “So now I call upon my generation to understand we can never pay back the struggles and the sacrifices of the generation before but it is our moral obligation to pay it forward.”
Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, said he would not be in office, nor would Barack Obama be president, without those who marched.
“They marched in spite of animosity, oppression and brutality because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept,” Holder said.
Holder mentioned gays and Latinos, women and the disabled as those who had yet to fully realize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Others in the crowd advocated organized labor, voting rights, revamping immigration policies and access to local post offices.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the only surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington, railed against a recent Supreme Court decision that effectively erased a key anti-discrimination provision of the Voting Rights Act. Lewis was a leader of a 1965 march, where police beat and gassed marchers who demanded access to voting booths.
“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Ala., for the right to vote,” he said. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us. You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You’ve got to stand up. Speak up, speak out and get in the way.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton implored young black men to respect women and reminded them that two of the leading figures in the civil rights movement of the 1960s were women.
“Rosa Parks wasn’t no ho,” he said. “And Fannie Lou Hamer wasn’t no bitch.”
Speakers frequently mentioned persistent high unemployment among blacks, which is about twice that of white Americans, and the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. Along the Mall, Martin’s picture was nearly as ubiquitous as King’s.
Nancy Norman, of Seattle, said she was disappointed more people who look like her had not attended. She is white. But the 58-year-old she said she was glad to hear climate change discussed alongside voting rights.
“I’m the kind of person who thinks all of those things are interconnected. Climate change is at the top of my list,” Norman said. “I don’t think it’s one we can set aside for any other discussion.”
Those in attendance arrived in a post-9/11 Washington that was very different from the one civil rights leaders visited in 1963.
Then, people crowded the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and could get close to King to hear his “I Have a Dream” speech. Saturday’s speakers were also on the memorial’s steps, but metal barriers kept people away from the reflecting pool and only a small group of attendees was allowed near the memorial Saturday.
There was a media area and VIP seating. Everyone else had been pushed back and watched and listened to the speeches on big-screen televisions. Police were stationed atop the Lincoln Memorial. After the speeches, marchers walked from there, past the King Memorial, then down the National Mall to the Washington Monument, a distance of just over a mile.
On the day of the anniversary, President Barack Obama will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He will be joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Churches and groups have been asked to ring bells at 3 p.m. Wednesday, marking the exact time King spoke.
Joseph Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with King, urged the crowd to continue working for King’s ideals.
“We’ve come to Washington to commemorate,” the 92-year-old civil rights leader said, “and we’re going home to agitate.”
A separate march was held in New York on Saturday.
State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa, Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, and Democratic Public Advocate candidate Daniel Squadron rallied and held a walk in Inwood.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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