New York, NY, August 28, 2020 … ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) issued the following statement on the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington, and in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin:
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered what would become one of the most influential speeches in history, proclaiming to the world, ‘I have a dream.’
The March on Washington, electrified by Dr. King’s speech, was a landmark moment in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and opened the door to the modern civil rights era.
Today, ADL marks the anniversary of the March on Washington. We reflect on ADL’s legacy of marching with Dr. King in Washington, in Selma, and in the struggle for racial equity that he led into the streets and into the halls of power in this country. We acknowledge that our legacy is nothing without a continued commitment in the fight to dismantle systemic racism. We are reminded of how far our country has come, but how much work we still have to do in what John Lewis described as the “good trouble” of fighting to secure a truly just and inclusive society.
On Sunday evening, another Black individual became the victim of police violence and brutality in the United States. Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by police while his children looked on. He was partially paralyzed after a bullet damaged his spinal cord and has multiple other injuries.
Then, amid widespread protests over the shooting of Blake, two people were killed and a third was injured, leading to more grief and more destroyed futures. Charges have been brought against a suspect who is now in police custody. Reports of extremist or militia activity related to this deadly attack are disturbing, and our Center on Extremism is investigating the situation.
The attack on Blake was a catalyst for protest because it highlights, again, the systemic racism and double standard policing practices that have plagued Black and Brown communities for centuries.
The officer who shot Jacob Blake has appropriately been placed on leave. We are pleased that an investigation has been launched by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and that Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes are pushing for a special legislative session to consider police reform bills.
But these steps mean nothing if the investigation is not fully transparent and justice for Jacob Blake and other victims of recent police violence is not realized. These steps are empty if much-needed police reforms are not achieved across the country – changes needed because Black lives matter.
Protestors in Kenosha this week – and in cities across the country this summer – are not only calling for justice for Jacob Blake and others; they are also advocating for wide-spread change to systems of injustice that enable police violence.
The towers of institutional racism that exist today were built over centuries of inequity and injustice. They will not come down overnight – and ADL will remain vigilant in this fight.