(CNSNews.com) – Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C. Thursday night to join nationwide protests from Hawaii to New York sparked by the August 9th shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a police officer in Ferguson, MO as more details began to emerge about the incident.
“We’re out here tonight to really stop a national epidemic of police terror to stop the disrespect and say that black lives matter, brown lives matter, all of us matter,” Eugene Puryear, a speaker at the rally and co-founder of the Jobs Not Jails Coalition in D.C., told CNSNews.com.
“We were outraged to see what happened in Ferguson where people who were rightfully upset at a brutal killing of a young man just about to go to college was completely suppressed,” Puryear told CNSNews.com at the conclusion of the march.
The vigil and rally began in Malcolm X Park and concluded with a march to the steps of the National Portrait Gallery. It was organized as part of a nationwide Twitter campaign under the hashtag #NMOS14 which also called for a national moment of silence following the events in Ferguson.
Marchers carried signs reading “Stand with the People of Ferguson” and “RIP Mike Brown.” They chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” as they marched with raised arms.
“I’m actually from Egypt originally,” one marcher told CNSNews.com, explaining what brought him out to protest. “I relate very strongly to police brutality.”
“A young man was killed and we’re having our first child and we are very nervous about the country that might come about from this,” another protester said.
“I have students the same age as Mike Brown and a number of other individuals, black boys that have been killed unjustly, and I’m here for them,” a woman who identified herself as a teacher said.
“The media, they were trying to shut it down so we couldn’t know about it. The media was brutalized and arrested in many cases,” Puryear complained. “Peaceful protesters had tear gas shot at them.
"I mean, I think from my perspective and from a lot of people’s perspective, it’s a move to the criminalization of protests.
“We already have the criminalization of these communities like the one in Ferguson that shut down, poor majority black marginalized communities mired in poverty and afflicted by police brutality, and ultimately this is a national thing and we all feel it because we all can relate,” he explained.
“All of us could be Michael Brown. Our brother could be Michael Brown, just like he could be Treyvon Martin or Kimani Gray and we recognize that if we don’t stand up and say that it’s wrong, if we don’t stand up and say that it has to stop, it’ll never stop and it’ll continue,” he said.
“It doesn’t make sense that people have to witness a live attack, you know, in the United States of America and no one’s coming to their aid,” a woman in a Black Panther uniform told CNSNews.com following the rally and a verbal confrontation she had with the D.C. police present. “This is not Gaza, this is not Afghanistan.”
“We’re not out here for anything other than to organize and to stop this,” she said. “I have two sons, I don’t want to have to bury my children, I don’t. This is a lynching, this is a lynching. I’m continuing what Ida B. Wells did, she stood up against lynching and so am I. That’s what it’s about.”
According to Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) communications director Gwendolyn Crump, the police presence at the rally was to “safeguard the participants and the public with temporary rolling street closures.” Crump added that there were no issues for police at the peaceful protest.
According to MPD statistics, there were 73 homicides in D.C. so far this year that did not involve the police.
Homicide Watch DC, which catalogues all homicides in the District, lists nine black males and one black female murder victim under the age of 21 killed in 2014: Jonathan Adams, 17, Tykia Dickerson, 19, Deangelo Gatling, 18, Marquette Hooks, 18, Kevin Leonard, 20, Xavier Lyles, 3, Devon Parker, 19, Delano Phillips, 20, Vincent Purvis, 20, and Antwone Tolson, 19.
According to a January 2014 report by the Violence Policy Center using the most recent FBI supplementary homicide data, homicide rates for black Americans are four times the national average.
Arrest-related homicide data from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reveals that between 2003 and 2009, “whites accounted for 42% of reported arrest-related deaths, 32% were black, and 20% were Hispanic.”
"Among arrest-related deaths attributed to homicide, 75% of decedents allegedly engaged in violent offenses," according to the BJS report.