Families of Black People Shot by Police Gave the Most Powerful Speeches at the March on Washington

Shannon Barbour
·6 mins read
Photo credit: ERIC BARADAT - Getty Images
Photo credit: ERIC BARADAT - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Today, as thousands gather at the National Mall in Washington D.C. for the 2020 Get Your Knee Off Our Necks March on Washington, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Jacob Blake's families took to the podium.

Breonna Taylor's Family

Following Rev. Al Sharpton's speech, Breonna's mother Tamika Palmer said:

"First, I just want to thank everyone who is in support of getting justice for Breonna Taylor. Second, I just wanna thank Louisville, Until Freedom, my family, and most importantly Kenneth Walker [Breonna's boyfriend] for coming out here and continuing to say her name louder. What we need is change...we have to stand together, we have to vote."

Remember: Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by plain-clothes police officers John Mattingly, Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove in March while sleeping in her Louisville, Kentucky home. Breonna's killers have yet to be arrested and charged.

George Floyd's Family

After Tamika spoke, George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd stepped up and said:

"I'm so overwhelmed right now with everybody here right now. I wish George were here to see this right now. That's who I'm marching for. I'm marching for George, for Breonna, for Ahmaud, for Jacob, for Pamela Turner, for Michael Brown, for Trayvon, or anyone who lost their lives to evil...Our leaders, they need to follow us while we're marching to enact laws to protect us."

George's sister Bridgett Floyd then encouraged everyone to think about what their legacy will be and how history will look upon them. "Will they remember you for your empathy, your leadership, your passion, or weeding out the injustices of the world?," she asked.

George Floyd was killed in May by police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck as officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng watched and failed to render aid.

Jacob Blake's Family

Shortly after George's family spoke, Jacob Blake's sister Letetra Widman said:

"America, unapologetically, I am here to tell you in front of the world that you got the right one. God has been prepared me. America, your reality is not real. Catering to your delusions is no longer an option. We will not pretend. We will not be your docile slave. We will not be your footstool to oppression...Black America, I hold you accountable. You must stand, you must fight. But not with violence and chaos. With self love...Unify."

Jacob's father Jacob Blake Sr. followed, saying:

"We're going to stand up. Every Black person in the United States is going to stand up. We're tired. I'm tired...We're going to hold court today on systematic racism...No justice, no peace."

Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times this week by Wisconsin police officer Rusten Sheskey as three of Blake's children watched from a car. Blake survived, but he is now paralyzed and handcuffed to his hospital bed.

Eric Garner's Family

Eric Garner's son Eric Garner Jr. said:

"I'm challenging the young people to go out and vote. It's possible for change. We just have to put in the work. Go out and find out what we have to do and what people we have to vote in to make a change..."

Eric Garner was killed by police officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014. Video footage was captured of Pantaleo choking Garner as he let out his last words, "I can't breathe," which became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. Pantaleo wasn't indicted, and Attorney General William P. Barr ordered the civil rights case be dropped.

Oscar Grant's Family

Oscar Grant was shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, and his mother Wanda Johnson challenged Black people to show up and demand justice like civil rights leaders of the past. She said, "This race is not given to the swift, nor to the strong, but the one who endures. And we are a fighting people."

Ahmaud Arbery's Family

Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by two civilians, but his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, had the opportunity to speak at the demonstration for Black lives and said:

"I stand before you as the proud mother of Ahmaud Arbery. I'm carrying a very broken heart, but also a grateful heart that God chose my son Ahamud Arbery to be a part of this huge movement. I do believe that if we continue to stand and fight together, that we will get change...I love you all for standing with us."

Trayvon Martin's Family

Trayvon Martin was killed by civilian George Zimmerman in 2012. Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, also spoke at the march and told the crowd:

"Even though we're going through a crisis, even though it looks dark, I want to tell you to be encouraged...be strong, stand tall. Be encouraged! Don't stop saying Black Lives Matter, don't stop peaceful protesting..."

Sadly, the police have killed so many Black people that the organizers ran out of time and couldn't give each family much time to speak.

To continue fighting for Black lives, here are more guides for how to demand justice right now, how to support Black trans lives, how to find mental health resources if you’re a Black woman, how to talk to your relatives about Black Lives Matter, how to donate wisely, how to spot a fake protest story, how to protest safely, and how to virtually join the March on Washington.


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