Tens of thousands of marchers convened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington Friday, capping off a summer of near daily street protests against police brutality and other forms of systemic racism following the police killing of George Floyd.

Several hundred New Yorkers joined the event, boarding pre-dawn buses, and taking precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19—like sitting one person per row and wearing masks. After getting their temperatures checked, the crowds gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, filling the lawn, and wading in the reflective pool.

“This gives me so much hope,” said 30-year-old Nzinga Williams, company manager for a theater in New York, who recently started a mutual aid fund for Black theater workers. “This feels like a pivotal moment in our move for liberation.”

The march followed a tumultuous week for the Black Lives Matter movement, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake Jr. in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and subsequent killing of two protesters by an armed 17-year-old vigilante.

“People are tired. More tired than they’ve ever been before,” said Clíve Destiny. The 20-year-old is an organizer with the group Unite 2020, which formed after the death of Floyd, that arranged 20 buses to transport 500 marchers from New York City. “Kenosha was so draining, it was a big slap in the face and disrespect to everything we've been marching for and standing for.”

Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized the demonstration that featured union leaders, politicians, activists, and family members of people killed by police violence. Many speakers pushed attendees to lobby for federal legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Bill and to vote in November.

At the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, August 28, 2020

Photo by Mikiodo

“This is the time for us to vote like we never voted before,” Sharpton yelled to the crowd. “Our parents died for the right to vote...Our vote is dipped in blood, our vote is dipped in those who went to their grave. We don’t care how long the line…We gonna vote for a nation that’ll stop the George Floyds.”

The march–a tradition that began in 1963 calling attention to civil and economic rights for African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement–also followed four days of the Republican National Convention where President Donald Trump and others hammered a message of law and order, in an explicit rebuke of Black Lives Matter protests that have been occurring in cities all over the country.

“This shows, while the silent majority four years ago spoke their truth, this is our truth now,” Williams said. “For all that hate, there’s all this hope.”

For some New Yorkers who the made the trek, it was less about specific political goals and more about an emotional and historical connection to the movement for Black lives.

“Seeing all these elders walk past…It’s kind of like I feel tethered to them,” said C.J. Hart, 27, from Brooklyn, who added that here he felt some release of all the anxiety and sadness of the last week. “Coming out here, lets me relieve that stress. I’d definitely like therapy for me in a way.”

Derrick Ingram, who goes by Dwreck, an organizer with Warriors in the Garden, said while the march marked a difficult week, he was also reminded of some of the victories the movement has already won in New York City, like the repeal of 50-A that for decades shielded police disciplinary records from public view.

“You go through this phase of being demoralized and then you march,” he said. “You're so upset and you get reinvigorated and reenergized and I think we're in that reinvigorated and re-energized phase.”