Hundreds of people rallied in San Francisco on Jan. 19 to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery, Ala., marches that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This year’s celebrations come amidst national outcry over police killings of African Americans across the United States and an emerging “Black Lives Matter” movement. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics from 1968 to 2011 show that African American people were two to eight times more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement than whites.
Participants at the San Francisco rally said last year’s deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., at the hands of police — and the decision by grand juries to not charge the officers involved — were a stark reminder of persistent inequalities in the U.S. justice system.
“It’s important for me to march because of all the young black men that were born with a target on their back,” said Clara Wise, a grandmother from San Leandro, Calif. “A lot of people want this to stop … black lives do matter, our black men do matter.”
The 1.5-mile march, which was peaceful and spirited, gathered a diverse crowd from different cities in the Bay Area, including San Jose and Union City. The Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation organized the event.