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A New March On Washington, 57 Years After MLK Jr.'s 'I Have A Dream' Speech


Fifty-seven years ago today Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered the "I Have A Dream" speech. And this morning, thousands of people are gathering in the same place demonstrating over the same issues - another march on Washington. The event is being led by families of Black Americans who've been killed by police officers. Jenny Gathright with member station WAMU is by the Lincoln Memorial and joins us on the line. Jenny, good morning. You've been out since dawn. Just describe the scene to us.

JENNY GATHRIGHT, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. Yeah. I would say people are starting to stream into the reflecting pool. This march is taking place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the same place where Martin Luther King spoke in 1963. There's a line that snakes all around several blocks surrounding this area and has been doing so all morning. And things are going kind of slow because we're in a pandemic. And organizers and volunteers are doing temperature checks for every single person who enters the space in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

MARTIN: All right. And a lot of precautions being taken. You've been talking with protesters who have traveled in from outside the district, including a college student named Michael Larson (ph) who made the trip from Washington state. Let's play a clip of what he told you.

MICHAEL LARSON: I'm done waiting for the leaders in power to make the change that I want to see. My generation, we're the leaders that we're waiting for.

MARTIN: Is that representative, Jenny, of what you've been hearing?

GATHRIGHT: I think I have heard that sort of same call from the younger generation, that they want to be the generation that really moves forward and makes a change here. I spoke with a woman last night who was referencing the fact that her father and her uncle had both participated in the civil rights movement in the '60s. And she was kind of exasperated. But she was out here marching for the same things that they were marching for back then.

Overall, I heard that, you know, people of all ages that I spoke to wanted to be a part of history today. And that's why they came out despite the pandemic and often traveled long distances. I talked to people from Milwaukee, from Chicago, from Washington state, from Louisville. So people came from far and wide and definitely acknowledged that they were taking a calculated risk and taking a lot of precautions when it comes to this pandemic, which, you know, we see constant reminders of here outside the Lincoln Memorial.

MARTIN: In just seconds, Jenny, can you preview some speakers? Just tick a couple of names off.

GATHRIGHT: We're expected to hear from Reverend Al Sharpton, whose organization is putting on the event, Martin Luther King III. We're also expected to really hear the voices of the families of Black people killed and injured by police across the country. You know, as I was standing in front of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I saw families streaming in with T-shirts acknowledging their loved ones who they had lost. And so we're expected to hear from the families of George Floyd, of Jacob Blake and others who have - you know, who have suffered at the hands of police in this country.

MARTIN: Thank you so much, Jenny. We appreciate it.

GATHRIGHT: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: Jenny Gathright with member station WAMU live at the Lincoln Memorial covering this historic March on Washington, 57 years after Martin Luther King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.