When it comes to organizing rallies on short notice, Al Sharpton has few peers. The ability of Reverend Al to generate a crowd through his New York City-based nonprofit National Action Network (NAN) was in evidence last Saturday morning, January 14, in the nation’s capital. Billed as the “We Shall Not Be Moved March on Washington,” the rain-soaked event (see photo) drew thousands of participants, overwhelmingly black, many of whom arrived by chartered bus. The stated purpose of this grievance convention, timed for Martin Luther King Day and the Donald Trump inauguration, was to pressure Congress into resisting the new administration. Accordingly, the march offered a platform for ritual denunciations of enemies of blacks, Hispanics, gays and other “disenfranchised” groups, and calls for new laws to protect their members. If lawmakers are smart, they’ll take a pass.
Al Sharpton for more than a decade has become a political player of the first rank. Having run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination during 2003-04, he realized that he could convey his beliefs to a wider audience, and to greater effect, by cultivating close relationships with the powerful. In this sense, he didn’t have to win a presidential election; Barack Obama did that for him in 2008 and 2012. During the eight years of the Obama era, Sharpton has opened a downtown Washington, D.C. office of National Action Network; visited the White House dozens of times to meet personally with the president and/or top aides; and initiated annual policy conferences on Capitol Hill featuring speeches by members of Congress. Sharpton has political savvy. He knows that the way to put forth and achieve a legislative agenda is to make legislators feel the heat from the streets. And as National Legal and Policy Center coverage of the two most recent congressional conferences have explained at length, NAN is grounded in the conviction that blacks and other nonwhites, not to mention women, gays and lesbians, are marginalized and oppressed by insidious “right-wing” forces bent on turning back the clock. That this caricature has no basis in reality has not fazed Sharpton or his supporters. They have established a permanent Washington lobby. And they’re thinking long-term.
National Action Network’s advance promotion of last Saturday’s march didn’t mince words. Here is the group’s statement of purpose:
On January 14, thousands will converge in Washington, D.C. as the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday begins – just six days before Donald Trump’s inauguration. We will rally and put the next Administration (and the nation) on notice that there are some things that will not be changed no matter who is president and what party dominates the House and Senate. Protecting the civil rights of citizens and the voting rights of people that have been excluded, providing health care for all Americans and equal opportunity should supersede any of the Beltway partisan fights that we are inevitably headed into. Some have given their lives and others dedicated their lives to try to make Dr. King’s dream a reality, and now they have added to that mission by preserving the legacy of President Obama. Groups come and go, elections come and go, but some things must remain constant and non-negotiable.
Thus, Reverend Al Sharpton’s latest March on Washington was born. He and his minions, many mobilized by the hashtag #WeShallNotBeMoved, had visited town on August 28, 2010, the occasion being the “Reclaim the Dream” five-mile march beginning at Washington, D.C.’s Dunbar High School and culminating at the National Mall. The event, commemorating the 47th anniversary of the original 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King spoke, was intended to upstage Glenn Beck’s “Reclaiming America” rally that day at the Lincoln Memorial.
Last Saturday’s march almost didn’t come off. A steady drizzle, coupled with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 30s, almost convinced Reverend Sharpton and fellow organizers to postpone the event. But in the end, mission won out over convenience. “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,” said Sharpton. Demonstrators assembled at 9 A.M. at the Sylvan Theater Stage on the Washington Monument grounds. Beginning at 11 A.M., they marched for an hour along Independence Avenue and on to their noon destination, West Potomac Park, near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Many of the participants had Donald Trump on their minds. And they were not happy about him becoming president. At various points, they chanted: “We will not be Trumped” and “Love Trumps hate,” not to mention more generic phrases such as “No justice, no peace” and “We will not be moved.”
Once having arrived at West Potomac Park, several friends of Al Sharpton addressed the crowd. NAACP President Cornell William Brooks boosted the morale this way: “We will march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on ice.” Also speaking were family members of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Walter Scott, each a black male who died in a confrontation with white cops or (in Martin’s case) neighborhood patrol volunteer. As I explained in detail in earlier NLPC articles, none of these recent incidents qualified as a murder despite furious calls by Sharpton and his supporters for prosecution and conviction. Indeed, Martin and Scott were attackers, not targets. Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, an obese black male in his 40s who died in July 2014 shortly following his arrest by NYPD officers in Staten Island, N.Y., said, “When we leave here we have work to do.” Sybrina Fulton, mother of Florida high school student Trayvon Martin, shot to death in February 2012 while beating a neighborhood patrol volunteer, George Zimmerman, also weighed in, exhorting marchers to “stand up and make a difference in your community.” Other groups present included the National Council of La Raza, the NAACP, Phi Beta Sigma, the National Urban League and the LGBT (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) rights group, the Human Rights Campaign. Members of Congress listed as attendees were Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., and Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., and Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Needless to say, the maestro, Al Sharpton, also spoke. In his speech, Reverend Al made clear that he was aiming for the legislative branch. “We come not to appeal to Donald Trump because he’s made it clear what his policies are and what his nominations are,” he said. “We come to say to the Democrats in the Senate and in the House and to the moderate Republicans: ‘Get some backbone. Get some guts. We didn’t send you down here to be weak-kneed.’” He also zeroed in on Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., President-Elect Trump’s nominee for attorney general. Appealing to his audience to visit Senate offices to oppose the nomination, he remarked: “We need to make some house calls. We need to stay a while.”
Al Sharpton and National Action Network are a lot more than black power. They are key components in an ecumenical Left coalition that now virtually defines the Democratic Party. That explains why there were so many funding sources for the event. While no corporations donated – something for which one should be thankful – labor unions, civil rights groups and nonprofit organizations did. The following is a list of the groups, in addition to National Action Network, that were National Partners:
American Federation of Government Employees
American Federation of Teachers
Alpha Kappa Alpha
Black Women’s Roundtable
Black Youth Vote!
Center for Community Change
Color of Change
Hip Hop Caucus
Human Rights Campaign
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
National Bar Association
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
National Council of La Raza
National Council of Negro Women
National Urban League
National Congress of Black Women
Omega Psi Phi
Phi Beta Sigma
Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
SEIU Local 32BJ
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Transformative Justice Coalition
United States Black Chambers Inc.
United We Dream
Better political instincts lead to the conclusion that last Saturday’s rally was a preview of bigger things to come. For the prospect of a Trump presidency is triggering panic among the Left. These are people who believe that social equality must take precedence over rule of law; that mass immigration from the Third World is necessary to fulfill our national promise; and that whites are oppressors of blacks and other “people of color.” Al Sharpton knows that the Trump administration is unlikely to provide an open door for him. Thus, he and his allies are planning to put the squeeze on Congress, even with Republican majorities in both houses. If anti-Trump protestors from around the country show up at this Friday’s inauguration in the hundreds of thousands, as is anticipated, Washington may experience civil disorder on a level dwarfing anything even Sharpton can muster.