The 20th anniversary of the Million Man March called by leader of the Nation of Islam, Minister Louis Farrakhan, in October 1995, was celebrated in Washington, D.C. today as a likely crowd of tens to hundreds of thousands descended upon the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building and the National Mall to commemorate the inaugural event and demand “Justice Or Else.”
The weather for the march was clear and it appears to have come together without any significant problems. Many attendees expressed positive sentiments about the Justice Or Else gathering.
U.S. President Barack Obama was famously in attendance at the Million Man March in 1995, as reported by the Jewish Daily Forward. President Obama was in California during today’s Justice Or Else rally, reports CBS.
When asked whether President Obama would be invited to speak at today’s Washington Justice Or Else rally in July, Louis Farrakhan did not mince words.
“I’ll think about that one. I really will. Cause he damn sure not going to upstage me. I’ll let him speak, but I’m coming behind.”
Though official attendance estimates do not appear to be available, estimates for the 1995 event ranged from 400,000 to 837,000 to 2 million, as reported by the Washington Post, Boston University, and Louis Farrakhan. Rough attendance figures for today’s Justice Or Else rally, which was reported by Reuters to be “far smaller,” are in the “thousands.” The National Park Service, who published the low 400,000 estimate above, declined to provide an estimate of the size of crowds at today’s event.
The Justice Or Else vision statement reads, “If we are denied what rightfully belongs to us then there has to be unified action that we take that will force the justice that we seek.”
The event in Washington, D.C. was endorsed by a long list of organizations, including the NAACP, the Justice League, the National Bar Association, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and Mothers In Charge, among many others.
“America has now entered the time of divine judgment,” Louis Farrakhan was quoted at Justice Or Else today.
Farrakhan spoke about the need to avoid abortion, foul language against women, sexual promiscuity, and violence of all types. The Nation of Islam leader also took aim at “white supremacy” and spoke of a coming “backlash” against America.
The African-American leader also praised the Black Lives Matter movement, whom he referred to as the “next leaders of the civil rights movement.” Farrakhan called upon established black leadership to support the group.
The deaths of unarmed young black men and women were also addressed, with family members encouraging those gathered to “speak out” against the wrongdoing of some police officers.
The families of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Sandra Bland challenged the crowd not to forget their names and not to “be silent.”
Speakers at the march praised steps the United States has taken toward achieving racial harmony and held President Obama up as an example of this. However, the treatment of Hispanics and unfair immigration policies were cited as examples of areas that are seen needing improvement.
“The message is the same, come together, respect one another, love one another,” 34-year-old R.J. Moss, a lawyer from Atlanta who attended the 1995 event, was quoted in D.C. Other members of the audience reportedly “drew inspiration” from the gathering.
CBS noted that while 84.3 percent of African-American men have high school diplomas in 2015, compared with 73.4 percent in 1995, and arrests of blacks have declined by 2.9 percent from 30.9 percent of all arrests in 1995 to 28.0 percent in 2013, the unemployment rate among black men has increased from 8.1 percent in 1995 to 8.9 percent today.
[Feature Photo by Allison Shelley / Getty Images]