On July 7th, thousands of people around the country marched in protest of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by white police officers. On July 8th, another peaceful protest ended in tragedy when a gunman killed five Dallas police officers. Over the weekend protests continued with police arresting nearly 100 people in Baton Rouge.
Things weren't like that in DC on July 7th. My wife and I joined thousands of people as we marched from the White House to the steps of the Capitol, a unified body of Americans demanding our government address the systemic racism that cost Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Tarika Wilson, and hundreds of other Americans their lives.
We reached the steps of the Capitol building as the sun set. An initial barricade was broken by the demonstrators and the police presence intensified as a result. The police stood under the Capitol dome facing a crowd of several thousand people. Throughout the crowd, demonstrators spoke and yelled, in anger and sadness and frustration. Sometime during all of this, the news broke that a gunman had opened fire on the police at a rally in Dallas.
A few minutes later, the Capitol police invited one of the leaders of the march onto the Capitol steps, handed him a bullhorn and gave him a chance to speak. He spoke about the police shootings and asked us to vote and to take our phones and light them up. We remembered those who'd had their lives taken from them.
Then the demonstrators started cheering as members of Congress walked down the Capitol steps towards the crowd. Rep. John Lewis led them. "This is good trouble!" someone in the crowd yelled towards him. The Congressman and woman spoke to the crowd. There was applause and a fair amount of folks holding their legislators accountable. "What are you going to do?" "We've had enough talk." "We'll remember this in November." After some short speeches, our Representatives crossed the barricade and walked with their people. Side by side, arms locked from the steps of the Capitol back to the White House.
The police blocked off the road from traffic and escorted the march through the city back to the White House. Protesters chanted "This is what democracy looks like." Even at night it was hot and people gave each other water. When the march reached the White House, Rep. Maxine Waters spoke to crowd. "This has to stop." Throughout, there was a refrain: hold your representatives accountable. Don't give up. Don't accept it. Don't be patient.
There's a verse in the Bible that says "faith without works is dead." It means that it's not enough to believe in something, you must on act on it. You must live it. I think the same is true of our shared American ideals. If you believe that all men and women should have equal protection under the law, that all men and women are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness then you should feel compelled to act on those beliefs. We can't make laws, but we can vote and march and raise our voices. We can be there, standing next to someone letting them know that you support them and love them. We can do something.
Thursday night in DC felt like a bright spot in the darkness. Thousands of people came together, confronted their government and demanded change, and their government responded by giving them space and walking amongst them.