The Rev. Al Sharpton led an inter-religious march Monday in Washington, accusing President Trump of racism and complicity in hate crimes and white nationalism.
Mr. Sharpton and his National Action Network organized the Thousand Ministers March for Justice, billing it as a call for justice on issues of health care, economics, voting rights and criminal justice reform.
The date was planned to mark the 54th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, predating the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month, though several Christian and reform Jewish leaders gave impassioned speeches about the importance of combatting racism and white supremacy in the current moment.
“This nation is in moral trouble,” Mr. Sharpton told the crowd gathered Monday morning at a staging area across from the King memorial to the civil right’s activist and then marched to the steps of the Department of Justice.
“It’s immoral to try and take the vote from people, that blacks and Jews and others suffered and died for. It’s immoral to try and take health care from your Mama because you don’t like Obama!” he said.
“You’re going to see the victims of Nazism, the victims of white supremacy march today to the Justice Department and say we don’t care what party is in, we are not going to be out, we’re coming together,” Mr. Sharpton continued.
“It’s marching time, it’s fightback time!” he encouraged the crowd.
While the event included members of all faiths, the crowd was overwhelmingly Christian and black. Around 300 Jews were part of the march, and a few Sikhs and Buddhists could be seen among the crowd.
Among the crowd was the Rev. Gregg Knepp, pastor of the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Ocean City, who said he was concerned with what he viewed as a “step back” in progress for social justice and equality.
“What I see happening recently in our society and culture seems to be a tremendous step backward in terms of unity,” he said. “I think it’s important for faith communities to come together and be a witness that we won’t let the alt-right or any other group to divide us.”
Rabbi Jessy Gross of Baltimore had come to the march as a member of the Religious Action Center, the social justice arm of the Reform Jewish movement.
She said that the march was a powerful response to the Charlottesville protests and that being present was a powerful statement in itself.
“I believe the most important thing we can do is show up. If Nazis are going to take to the street, I plan to take to the street. I grew up outside D.C. — I learned to lobby and protest in the spirit of Jewish values long before I prayed.”
Likewise, Rabbi Ilene Haigh from Vermont said the multi-faith march was a show of strength in unifying the different groups.
“The greatest act of non-violent resistance is not to let us be torn apart,” she said. “I believe this is a statement of that. As long as any part of our society is not free or equal, none of us are.”