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Washington protesters vow to defend civil rights ahead of Trump's inauguration

Thousands have taken part in a rally to support civil and immigrant rights a week before Trump's inauguration. The marches have come as Trump criticized prominent civil rights leader John Lewis on Twitter.

Watch video 02:20

DW correspondent Alexandra von Nahmen reporting from anti-Trump protests in Washington

Around 2,000 mostly African-American protesters gathered to march and rally near Washington D.C.'s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Saturday, kicking off a week of protests leading up to US President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.

Speakers at the "We Shall Not Be Moved" protest urged participants to fight for minority rights, voting rights, and President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

Trump has vowed to dismantle the law and the Republican-majority US Congress passed critical measures toward repealing the reforms.

"We march in the driving rain because we want the nation to understand that what has been fought for and gained, that you're going to need more than one election to turn it around," the rally's organizer, the Reverend Al Sharpton, told the crowd.

Cornell William Brooks, the president and chief executive of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), echoed Sharpton's sentiments.

"We will march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice," Brooks said.

DW correspondent Alexandra von Nahmen spoke with rain-drenched but determined protesters about their reasons for taking part in the march.

"We won't stand for racism and him leaving people out, making certain people second-class citizens," rally participant Marc Brown told DW, referencing President-elect Trump.

The rally also included politicians, the Hispanic group La Raza, relatives of African-Americans killed by police, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Trump won the US presidential election with a populist platform that included promises to build a wall along the Mexican border and restrict Muslim immigration.

His appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions to become Attorney General has raised concern from many who believe Trump could weaken voting rights for minorities and cut back criminal justice reforms.

Trump blasts civil rights leader

Hours earlier, Trump criticized US Representative John Lewis, a prominent civil rights campaigner.

Lewis said on Friday he would not attend Trump's inauguration and that Russia's alleged hacking has called the Republican's legitimacy into question. It would be the first time the Georgia lawmaker would miss such an event since being elected to the House in 1986.

Trump replied on Twitter that Lewis "should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested."

"All talk, talk, talk - no action or results! Sad!," wrote the incoming US president.

Lewis, who has been a civil rights campaigner for over 50 years, marched alongside King and was severely beaten by police during a protest he helped lead in 1965 in Selma, Alabama.

Protests are expected to run the week leading up to Trump's inauguration on Friday January 20. The largest event expected to take place will be the Women's March on Washington the day after the inauguration, which could draw up to 200,000 people.

rs/kl  (AP, Reuters)

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