US marks 20th anniversary of Million Man March in Washington | News | DW | 11.10.2015
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US marks 20th anniversary of Million Man March in Washington

Thousands of African Americans have gathered in Washington to mark the 20th anniversary of the "Million Man March." They made new demands for justice reforms and civil rights amid ongoing concerns about race relations.

The original rally on October 16 1995 saw hundreds of thousands of black men demonstrating at Washington's National Mall, the long promenade between the US Capitol building and the Washington Monument.

Almost twenty years on, a similar protest on Saturday saw tens of thousands of people - women and men, black and white - come together once again to push for new policies to tackle social and economic inequalities, as well as violence that disproportionately affects communities of color.

The "Justice or Else" demonstration followed a series of high-profile incidents of police violence involving black Americans over the past year. At one point, the family of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman found hanged in a Texas jail after a traffic stop, spoke from the main stage.

Unlike the march two decades ago which focused purely on issues relating to black men, the scope of Saturday's gathering included a call for justice for a range of ethnic and overlooked groups.

"If we are denied what is rightfully due to us, then there has to be unified action that we take that will force the justice that we seek," said Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, which organized both events.

"There must come a time when we say, enough is enough. It must change, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to bring about that change," he told those gathered in the US capital.

Calls for more progress

For many original protesters, the anniversary was also a chance to expose their children to a similar positive experience that they encountered 20 years ago.

"This is a very special moment for me,' said Joey Davis, a 47-year-old man from Detroit, who attended the original march by himself. "20 years later, I come back with my wife and five children. And so I like to think that over the last 20 years I've been doing my part in keeping the promise of the spirit of the original Million Man March."

Life has improved in some ways for African-American men since the original march, but not in others. In 1995, 73.4 percent of black men had high school degrees, while in 2004, 84.3 percent did, according to the Census Bureau.

But the unemployment rate for black men in the US has remained around 8 percent since 1995, twice that of white men.

African-Americans are also six times more likely than whites to be arrested and often face harsher sentences for comparable crimes, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). However arrest figures for black males have fallen over the past two decades.

President Barack Obama, who attended the first Million Man March, was in California on Saturday.

mm/jm (AP, Reuters)