Thousands of activists gathered on the National Mall for the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, calling for police reform and urging voters to make their voices heard. One by one, speakers highlighted those killed or critically injured at the hands of police, including Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor. King’s granddaughter was among the speakers.
For Lewis, it was the 1955 death of Emmett Till, accused of offending a white woman in Mississippi, that sparked a call to action, Harris said Friday. Till, 14, represented to Lewis what Blake, Floyd, Brooks and others represent today, she said.
Lewis died last month at the age of 80.
“For Congressman Lewis, the brutal murder of Emmett Till is what shook loose the activist inside him,” Harris said during the event which The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered via livestream. “It was the start of a lifelong journey toward service and driving change, the same journey that countless young leaders are building on as we speak.”
Harris called on those attending the March or watching the coverage to continue the fight, both to honor ancestors as well as their children and grandchildren.
“The road ahead, it is not going to be easy,” Harris said. “But if we work together to challenge every instinct our nation has to return to the status quo, and combine the wisdom with longtime warriors for justice with the creative energy of the young leaders today, we have an opportunity to make history right here and right now.”
Many of those speaking Friday honored Lewis and his lifetime of efforts. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton urged Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a rewrite of the 1965 act, to honor the man who attended previous Marches before his death.
“If we can stand in this heat, we can stand in the polls all day long,” Sharpton said.