A march promoted by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network that is set to step off from the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday is billed as part of the official recognition of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
It comes days before separate events scheduled for Wednesday, the actual anniversary, that feature a morning march and an afternoon commemoration ceremony highlighted by a speech from President Obama.
Organizers say they complement each other, but the several days worth of events are distinct in tone and aimed at different audiences.
The Sharpton-led group has projected 100,000 people will attend its march, which is activist in nature and scheduled to feature the parents of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Martin Luther King III, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the family of Emmett Till, a black Chicago teenager lynched for whistling at a white woman in 1955.
The march is expected to address a wide variety of issues — jobs, immigration reform, environmental justice and the civil rights of workers, voters, women and gays. Organizers describe it as a continuation of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in which 200,000 people converged on the Mall.
“You have to remember that 1963 was a moment in history when the nation came together in an activist fashion to demand change,” said Michael Hardy, the network’s executive vice president.
Events on Wednesday — the anniversary of the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech — will include a morning march organized by a Rochester, N.Y., lawyer and an afternoon ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, in which Mr. Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are scheduled to speak.
The event at which Mr. Obama will speak, the “Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action,” is an 11:30 a.m. event sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change with the goal of “involving everyone” in the anniversary celebration, officials said.
Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center, said at 3 p.m. bells will ring at the Lincoln Memorial and churches around the city. They will be joined by ringing bells at hundreds of other locations across the country and around the world in honor of King’s call to “let freedom ring” from his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“This is how we wanted to involve everyone,” Mr. Klein said. “It’s a simple thing, but people have organized some really interesting programs. It’s designed not just for people who come to Washington. It’s a way to involve followers and admirers of Martin Luther King all over the world.”
Mr. Hardy pointed out the differences with the march scheduled for Saturday.
“Saturday represents that burning activism that still demands justice now. Wednesday represents the cumulative efforts of our history to celebrate where we were and where we are now,” Mr. Hardy said.
Van White organized a 1.6-mile march slated for 9 a.m. Wednesday that passes sites relevant to the civil rights movement, such as the headquarters of the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor as well as the federal courthouse in the District, before a rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
He said there was “really no substantive conflict” between the events.
“They’re different dates. One’s scheduled on the 24th, I believe, to accommodate people’s work schedules. The other is the 28th, for the purists, people who want to celebrate the date on the actual anniversary,” said Mr. White, founder of the Center for the Study of Civil and Human Rights Laws.