Crowds stepping off the Metro at Union Station Wednesday morning encountered a group of high school students marching for a left-wing civil rights group, chanting: “They say Jim Crow, we say, ‘Hell, no.’”
Holding banners for The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, backpacks and a lone Pan-African flag, the students marched out of the station and into a light drizzle shortly before 10 a.m. on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
They cut through lanes of taxi and bus traffic as they passed South through Columbus Circle, headed toward the National Mall.
Sitra Adem, 17, said she and hundreds of other Parkdale High School students traveled from Riverdale Park, Md., to join a group of 600 students for the day’s festivities. Adem said she was “fighting for affirmative action and fighting for the Dream Act,” and confirmed that the group would eventually stop (after a 2.5 mile walk) at the Lincoln Memorial to hear President Barack Obama deliver his 3 p.m. speech.
Adem carried one side of a six-foot BAMN banner that read “FULL CITIZENSHIP RIGHTS FOR ALL IMMIGRANTS.” Black silhouettes in both corners of the banner held hands and segments of border fencing, and appeared to be climbing through a maze of wire.
Other students passed out invitations to an Oct. 15 march on the Supreme Court being organized by BAMN. On that day, the court hears arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case involving a challenge to Proposal 2, an amendment to the Michigan Constitution approved by voters in 2006 that banned affirmative action in the state. The ruling will decide whether a state violates the Equal Protection Clause by amending its constitution to prohibit race- and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public-university admissions decisions.
Donna Stern, a national coordinator for BAMN, told CQ Roll Call that 220 students had traveled by bus from the Detroit area to join the Maryland group.
A statement on the group’s website says: “We are building a united mass, integrated civil rights movement that will unite black and brown, gay and straight, to win full freedom and equality for all. We are fighting to defend public education, to defeat budget cuts for education, to defend public jobs and public services, to win college financial aid and citizenship for undocumented immigrant students, and to make every school, college, city, municipality and state a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. BAMN is also fighting to build a new, international youth leadership for the environmental movement.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.