Thousands of protesters converged on the nation's capital Saturday to help bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police and call for legislative action.
Led by several civil rights organizations, the crowd will march to the Capitol on Saturday afternoon with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. Civil rights advocate The Rev. Al Sharpton also will be part of the march. The groups and marchers — with signs reading "Black Lives Matter" and "Who do you protect? Who do you serve" — are calling for law enforcement reforms after several high-profile cases of what they call police brutality.
Terry Baisden, 52, of Baltimore said she is "hopeful change is coming" and that the movement is not part of a fleeting flash of anger.
She said she hasn't protested before but felt compelled to because "changes in action, changes in belief, happen in numbers."
Protests — some violent — have occurred around the nation since grand juries last month declined to indict the officers involved in the deaths of 18-year-old Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Garner, 43, who gasped "I can't breathe" while being arrested for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in New York. Politicians and others talked about the need for better police training, body cameras and changes in the grand jury process to restore faith in the legal system.
Murry Edwards said he made the trip to Washington from St. Louis because he wants to make sure the momentum from the movement in Ferguson reaches a national stage.
"This is the national march," Edwards said. "We have to get behind the national movement."
Sheryce Holloway, a recent graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, attended a smaller gathering outside Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington ahead of the main rally. She said she also has been participating in protests at her alma mater.
Holloway said the goal of the protests is "ending blue-on-black crime. Black lives do matter."
Saturday's march — sponsored in part by the National Action Network, the Urban League, the NAACP — is scheduled to go down Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. At the Capitol, speakers will outline a legislative agenda they want Congress to pursue in relation to police killings.
While protesters rally in Washington, other groups including Ferguson Action will be conducting similar "Day of Resistance" movements all around the country. A large march is planned in New York City.