WASHINGTON — Thousands of people are expected to rally in the nation's capital Wednesday to mark 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, all with the hope of finishing his work to end racism in the U.S.
The milestone hits as the nation is seeing a steady rise in white supremacy and as tensions continue to mount between the black community and police departments. Just last month, protests broke out in Sacramento after an unarmed black man was shot eight times, most of the bullets hitting him in the back. The high-profile shooting reignited the anger and frustrations of minorities who feel targeted by officers because of their skin color.
Organizers of Wednesday's event, dubbed A.C.T. to End Racism, say about 50,000 people will march in silence from the Martin Luther King Jr. monument at 7 a.m. to the National Mall where they will hold a rally. Faith leaders, activists and celebrities are expected to speak at the event, including actor Danny Glover and activist DeRay Mckesson. The aim, organizers say, is to commemorate King's legacy "and issue a call to action" in hopes of launching a movement to finish what King started: Ending racism once and for all.
"This year marks the 50 years, but yet we're still dealing with the same issues," said Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, co-chair of the National Council of Churches' task force on racial justice and reconciliation, which is planning the rally. "We have to wake some people up. It's time to act. It's time to end racism. It's time."
She said faith leaders were frustrated watching the progress made over decades being slowly eaten away and decided it was time to act. She and members of the National Council of Churches, a nationwide group of churches from different denominations, are using the rally to start a multi-year campaign targeting racism.
Many other events, ceremonies and rallies are planned across the U.S. to mark King's death and look back on his life and accomplishments during the civil rights movement.