The National March Against Police Violence, led by Rev. Al Sharpton, will culminate just outside the U.S. Capitol grounds Saturday afternoon, and the U.S. Capitol Police are ready in case the protest comes to the Capitol.
"Our security plans are flexible enough to allow us to modify them as necessary so that our security procedures in place maintain the integrity of the Capitol campus," Lt. Kimberly A. Schneider, spokesperson for the Capitol Police, wrote in an email. "We’ll continue to maintain close contact with our law enforcement partners, including the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police." Schneider also said additional staff will be on hand. Adding to the activity on the Hill, it is possible senators could be in the Capitol as the protesters march toward it Saturday, since the Senate could still be in session, hustling to finish its end-of-year business.
Sharpton announced the march on Washington following the grand jury decision not to indict police for the death of Eric Garner, sparking protests across the country. The protests added to unrest brewing since the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The families of Brown, Garner, Trayvon Martin and the 12-year old Tamir Rice are expected to join the march.
Jacky Johnson, a spokesperson for Sharpton's National Action Network, said they did not have an estimate for the number of people who would attend. But Sharpton wrote in the Huffington Post that thousands would likely march with them.
Protesters will begin gathering at Freedom Plaza, just a short walk from the White House, at 10:30 a.m. At noon, they will march down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. They will stop at Third and Pennsylvania, where a stage will be set up across the street from Capitol grounds for speakers to address the crowd.
Washington Metro Police officers will be on the scene, along with U.S. Park Police. Capitol Police will keep their posts at the Capitol, since the protests is not technically on their grounds.
Unlike other protests in D.C. in recent weeks, which have centered mainly on the Department of Justice and blocked traffic on major thoroughfares, Saturday's march ends across the street from the Capitol Building because organizers are calling for Congress to act.
Sharpton has been pushing for congressional action to respond to issues of police brutality and address how grand juries handle these cases. On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights held a hearing on the state of civil rights in the U.S. During the hearing, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, recalled being confronted with racial profiling by Capitol security . But to Sharpton, discussing the issue at a hearing is not enough.
"The Congress needs to not only do hearings, they need to deal with the jurisdictional threshold of how you make a federal case," Sharpton said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "Congress needs to put money in the Justice Department, investigating these cases. We've got to go there bring protest to where it goes into legislation. Otherwise, we'll be back here again."
D.C. Officials have yet to take a firm position, but Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser has said she will uphold the will of the voters. Bowser's spokesman Joaquin McPeek said in a phone interview Friday, "She's exploring all legal options in front of us."
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