Thousands of Americans gathered in Washington on Friday for a civil-rights protest capping off a week of unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Friday marked the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The late John Lewis, the longtime Democratic congressman from Georgia who died last month, was the youngest speaker at the 1963 march.
This year’s demonstration was planned following the widespread protests this summer in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, earlier this year.
But ambitions for in-person demonstrations were scaled back amid concerns about spreading Covid-19, which has killed more than 170,000 Americans, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayor of Washington, has imposed quarantine requirements on people visiting the nation’s capital from US states with relatively high infection rates.
The protest took on added relevance, however, after Mr Blake, a black man, was shot seven times in the back last weekend in broad daylight by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mr Blake survived the shooting but remains in hospital. His lawyer, Benjamin Crump, has said he is paralysed from the waist down.
Mr Blake’s shooting prompted a wave of protests in Kenosha, where a fatal shooting on Tuesday night left two protesters dead and a third injured. A white 17-year-old from Illinois, who reportedly attended a Donald Trump rally in Iowa earlier this year, was later arrested and charged with first-degree homicide in connection with the shootings.
Friday’s march also came just one day after Mr Trump broke with precedent and gave a speech on the White House South Lawn to formally accept the Republican party’s nomination for president.
With just over two months to go until November’s US elections, Mr Trump, who has frequently criticised the protesters, used his speech on the final night of the Republican convention to portray Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, as soft on crime.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Biden accused the president of “pouring gasoline on the fire” after Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, told Fox News: “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.”
It remains unclear whether the president’s “law and order” message will energise his Republican base and persuade moderate voters, especially women living in America’s suburbs.
Mr Trump has to overcome a polling deficit between now and November if he is to win re-election. Mr Biden leads Mr Trump nationally by 8.3 points, according to a Financial Times average of recent polls. He is also ahead in several key swing states, including Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, although there are some signs his lead may be narrowing.
Friday’s march was organised by the National Action Network, a civil-rights group founded by Al Sharpton. Mr Sharpton addressed the crowds at the Lincoln Memorial, alongside Martin Luther King III.