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Rev. Al Sharpton’s thousand-minister march gains steam after Charlottesville

The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks with local African-American clergy members on Aug. 8, 2017, in Woodlawn, Md. Sharpton addressed Baltimore's upswing in violence and urged clergy in attendance to participate in the Thousand Ministers March from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., which will take place Aug. 28. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(RNS) — The Rev. Al Sharpton says his thousand-minister march is all the more urgent now than when he began planning it months ago.

The Pentecostal-turned-Baptist minister says the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., has sparked more interest and a greater need for clergy of many faiths to speak up at the march set for Aug. 28, the 54th anniversary of the March on Washington.

The march will begin at the Washington memorial honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and end at Justice Department offices to protest increased hate crimes, discrimination and mass incarceration.

The 62-year-old president of the National Action Network, a predominantly black, Christian organization, talked with RNS about his plans. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you sum up your reaction to the events of Charlottesville over the weekend?

Charlottesville was a very startling and repulsive reminder to us of the issue of hate and the issue of racism and anti-Semitism that is still alive and practiced in the country. It seems now to have been revived and, in many ways, given moral equivalency with those that protested by the president of the United States. We need a president that’s clear that anti-Semitism and hatred and the kind of public display of bigotry that we saw is unacceptable.

How do faith leaders need to respond to President Trump’s series of comments about the violence in Charlottesville?

We had already called for 1,000 ministers of all faiths — Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim — to meet at King’s memorial and march to the Justice Department, saying we do not want to see the moral authority of Dr. King’s dream undermined no matter who the president. And we’ve had several hundred ministers already sign. After Charlottesville happened — and then the president’s reaction — it has intensified and we’re getting calls from all kinds of ministers from all faiths saying we must make a statement.

Our hope is that when you looked at those Nazis carrying torches talking about “You will not replace us,” we can contrast that with rabbis linking arms with Baptist ministers and Muslims marching in the spirit of Dr. King. They went to Robert E. Lee’s monument. We’re going to King’s monument and marching to the Justice Department. I heard growing up that the best way to expose a dirty glass is put a clean glass next to it. Faith leaders must stand up and show a dignified, nonviolent way.

Have your plans for the Ministers March for Justice changed in light of Charlottesville, whether in numbers or logistics or security?

Our security concerns have grown ’cause we always now have to be concerned about whether some people will try and do a counter thing — I’m talking about from the right. I get up every day facing death threats. That’s normal when you’re high-profile. So our security concerns increase although we’ve had no direct threats.

As I’ve talked to a lot of the ministers that have called and joined in now, a lot of them said that, yes, we always agreed with the idea of a march but I think we didn’t understand the urgency until we saw that footage on Saturday night. I think what that has done is brought back, into everyone’s living room, why we need to keep marching. This is much worse than we thought in terms of a spirit of hate and immorality.


RELATED: ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ marchers honor King, fight fear of Trump


How does this march compare to some of the previous ones you were involved in – including the march just before the Trump inauguration and the one on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington?

This one is for faith leaders. We’ve only asked for ministers. Now, others might come but it will be led by — and the program will be — rabbis, clergy members of the various parts of Christendom, Muslims and Hindus. Because we want to make a statement that hundreds of faith leaders came to Washington on the day of Dr. King’s dream. That is a big difference from us bringing tens of thousands of people —  we want to make a clear statement from the moral and the faith leaders of this country.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, founder of the National Action Network, joins other civil rights leaders at the front of the “We Shall Not Be Moved” march in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14, 2017, ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Don’t forget Dr. King’s organization was named the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was very specific that it was religious-based and National Action Network is that as well. We’ve not heard from the faith community in a very public, united way and that’s the difference this march is.

What does it say to you about where we are as a country, or about its people of faith, that ministers are going to gather this way?

It gives hope that there are people that are willing to stand up. We’ve gone through rough periods in our history before and faith leaders lead us through. What do we remember about the ’60s? We remember when Rabbi (Abraham Joshua) Heschel joined Dr. King in Selma. We remember how it was a rabbi that was the speaker right before Dr. King at the March on Washington. When we all started coming together and raised the high moral questions, it set the climate for change. And you will always have other things going on, but when people know that those whom they go to on their Sabbath to get guidance are standing up, it brings it to another dimension. And I think it is extremely important that we do this, particularly at this time.

What do you think clergy and other people of faith should be doing at this time beyond sermons and marches?

I think that they’ve got to get into the community. They’ve got to get into the schools. They’ve got to get into the local gatherings, the town halls, the planning board meetings. And we’ve got to beat back this spirit of hate. We’ve got to go and do the work. Faith without works is a dead thing, the Bible says. And I want to lay that challenge out at the march: We’ve got to come off our pulpits and out of our cathedrals and save the soul of this nation.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

72 Comments

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  • Did you hear the one about a priest, a rabbi and a protestant minister walk into a bar…and the punchline is Rev. Al “Race Card” Sharpton. LOL LOL. LOL!

  • Hi Spuddie, you no-good Antifa salesman! Already busy trying to destroy America Trump again, of course. So predictable.

    Well, I’m here as promised, to thwart your standard evil deeds. But first I need to address a REAL domestic terrorist, a true Antifa favorite.

    Hello there! Are you having a nice dinner this evening, Missouri Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal? Got some yummy beef brisket and potatoes ready? Corn on the cob, yes?

    Well, please make sure you get four more plates ready, with plenty of buttery biscuits, because according to today’s media news reports, THE SECRET SERVICE is gonna stop by soon to show you their five-star JAILHOUSE MENU,
    and baby, your half-cooked anti-Trump assassination talk just might wind up in the FEDERAL SLAMMER tonight !!!

    (We now return you to your regularly scheduled Spuddie programming. Thank you.)

  • Spuddie the Antifa salesman, the willing promoter of distorted history based on ignorance of the true facts, and only too willing to use it as a justification for a Stalinesque purging of history and heritage.

  • Spuddie provides me with tons of material to help explain what is wrong with today’s postmodern millennial generational group think rationalizations. Makes certain parts of my job much easier as I have a ready source for invaluable quotations as my team tries to make progress against idiotic policies and advisement coming from certain think tanks.

  • Antifascist is not an insult. Anti Nazi is a badge if honor and pride. The opposite of Nazi is not commie or anarchist. It’s moral upright people who aren’t repugnant monsters. I honor my ancestors in opposing Nazis.

  • I wasn’t the one urging Trump to support Nazis. He did that all by himself. Unscripted. At this point I am happy he finally got the out in the open and addressed his only real constituency. Own that.

    Still, gotta laugh at how events have drawn together some very strange bedfellows. Iran and Israel together to blast our president! When will you ever see that again?

  • Pull the other one. You lot behave just as badly as the Nazi Brownshirts that you claim to abhor, and you only believe in freedom of speech for as long as you agree with what’s being said. You’re a plague of rabid self-appointed commissars.

  • About all these accusations of hate on both sides.

    Funny how the radical right only denounces hate when it is directed at them.

  • Freedom of speech includes the right to say “I hate the JEws” “I hate blacks” “I hate figs.”

    It doesn’t include the right not to be denounced for saying it.

  • I firmly believe that racism in this country is not as prevalent as the liberals think it is and not as rare as the conservatives believe.

    Is there any measurement as to the true incidence of racism that we can agree on, or is this just an arbitrary assumption.

  • When the antifa uses violence they are no better than the white supremacists and should be called out. Ditto any group advocating violence to counter free speech and assembly.

  • She should face condemnation for her post. Hate is hate whether it comes from the Left or Right. Individuals are responsible for their actions.

  • You need to believe what you need to believe. But you might work on your reading comprehension. Oh, wait. That’s why you voted for Trumpelthinskin. If you understood anything apart from your own anger, thinskin, you wouldn’t have voted for 2Rump.

    I’m not antifa. As I said clearly, you can say whatever you like. And other people have the right to call you an a-hole for saying it.

    You can say whatever you like. If the government tried to arrest you for saying it, I would be standing right next to you fascist bigots being arrested and demand your release. After which, I would tell you what a total ahole you are.

    Ahole.

  • The ACLU supports the alt right freedom of speech, the southern poverty league does not support antifa. That is two examples of what leadership looks like in this situation hopefully the principle they stand on will not be abandoned. It’s times like these that the good folks on the left need to double down on principles and lead. I believe that they will and in the end they will succeed, and they will succeed with principled leadership help from the right.

  • Dem. Sen. McCaskill (MO) has called on her to step down. She refuses to step down or apologize.

  • Greitens is a repub but McC. is a dem. The dem party should demand she resign if they want to keep what little remains of any moral credibility they may have.

  • So at least we heard from both sides of the racists troublemakers. The true definition of Equality

  • Well knowing Berkeley, Ferguson, Baltimore and the OWS demonstrations all ended up with rioting, destruction of private property and murder the antifa terrorists still accuse everybody else of the crimes they are solely responsible for. Oh and please stop feeding the troll and just block him.

  • So is the antifa listed on the SPLC’s terrorist list? You know like they did to the AFA and in fact caused a terrorist attack at the AFA and the AFA never rioted. caused a riot ar condones rioting.

  • Yes the media is extreme and that is why I no long watch or believe anything they say. You see the White Supremacists and national socialists and the antifa are socialist terrorists. The White Supremacists are not conservatives and the antifa are defiantly leftists because every time they show up the democrat Governors and Mayors order the police to stand down just like they did in Charlotte.

  • Antifa does not represent what these two groups represent. I support the stance of both groups toward antifa in this instance and I welcome their condemnation of the alt right movement. Antifa is a reaction to a serious problem that probably makes some people feel better but it is not a solution, it is a escalation of the problem.

  • Then you agree the antifa is a terrorist group that came to the demonstration with weapons to start a riot.

  • It seems as tho violence is part of their warp and woof. Shouldn’t all good liberals then denounce them as well – and not just when they “bust a few heads”?
    Shouldn’t the alt-left in toto be denounced as being antithetical to America’s values?
    But I don’t see that happening. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is the dems approach.

  • Not really knowing it’s already an inalienable God given RIGHT stated in the 1st amendment. And knowing liberals/progressives are anti-Constitutional they are the problem. .

  • Why dont you say something about HILL CLINTON callin 50 million people deplorable great job AL SHARPLESS

  • Hah! Trump was defending and minimizing the white supremacists. I am just pointing out the Left’s hypocrisy. The act of terrorism overshadows any mutual head hanging of both sides. Funny how the Right condemns Islam for the actions of the terrorists but seems reluctant to condemn white supremists when they commit terrorism. The terrorism springs from a core idealogy.

  • I don’t believe the antifa have become organized enough. Unless a group embraces and formerly incites violence, I prefer to limit the terrorist label to actions.

  • You’re so full of yourself as the SPLC is you ignore the fact every time the antifa and/or the BLM come to a protest they riot, destroy other peoples property and bring weapons and here you are giving them a free pass. But we won’t being up terrorist attacks directly caused by the SPLC against the FRC and a Congressman and his company will we? So by your own belief the SPLC is a terrorist organization?

  • The SPLC labeled the American Family Association a hate group, not a terrorist organization. The former was well deserved due to their view that LGBT individuals’ mere existence is intolerable. The listing did not “cause” the shooting at the AFA anymore than conservatives’ 15+ year crusade against Islam “causes” attacks on Muslims.

  • Note that Sharpton made a point three times in this interview alone of naming Jewish faith leaders as part of his movement/march. That’s quite a change from his earlier days. I don’t count myself as a fan, but appreciate any steps toward repentance he’s made from the past.

  • I’ve never seen the quote: “…LGBT individuals’ mere existence is intolerable,” made by AFA folks.
    However, all you need to do to see the dangers of the homosexual lifestyle is google search “men having sex with men” and follow the link to the cdc. The “gay ( (of a person, especially a man, homosexual) lifestyle” doesn’t appear to be very gay (lighthearted and carefree) after reading their fact sheets.

  • It wasn’t a quote, it was a paraphrase of their viewpoints over the years. For example: the AFA has condemned various media for portraying “evidence of homosexuality and lesbian people.” They have condemned various companies for showing same-sex families in ads. They have condemned various companies for employing lesbians as spokespeople. Their views have nothing to do with health risks of gay sex. In fact, they were forced to repudiate Bryan Fischer’s opinion that homosexuality should be illegal as a danger to human health.

  • And it is unfair to slander them with your so-called paraphrase, but I expect that kind of dishonesty from prog libs.

  • There you go – typical prog lib. You got to call names. See, that’s what communists do, Nazi’s do, and middle schoolers do. LOL. You can’t win based on the merits of your argument so you call names. LOL. Dude, you need to grow up. And someone here said you were a lawyer? I don’t believe it. The lawyers I know have at their disposal verbal skills that far surpass your “and so’s your mama” schtick. LOL.

  • Oh, are we done making ridiculous characterizations of each other? Great. “Prog lib.”
    Read my comment history before making characterizations of me. I am barely liberal and definitely not progressive. I have spent two decades in law enforcement upholding a system that most “progressives” want to see crippled. I am in favor of the death penalty for the most heinous offenses. I am a Zionist. I am in favor of global free trade and wary of labor unions. The fact that many of my other views, like legalized abortion and finding Trump an existential danger to our nation, our democracy, and humanity, align with those of liberals and progressives, does not make me a “prog lib.”
    Now that we’re done playing games, please tell me what I said about the AFA that isn’t true.

  • I told you I abbrev. frequently.
    And I apologize for calling you a prog lib.
    You sound like a libertarian.
    And I already told you your paraphrase was just that – a paraphrase and does not comport with what AFA would say.
    That they are against the “gay” agenda does not mean they hate gays any more that if they are against alcohol means they hate people who drink.
    Most trad con Christians are against lifestyles that normalize and legitimize and legalize sinful behaviors. That doesn’t mean they hate the people that practice those sinful behaviors. In fact long before the gummit got involved with providing welfare to the needy, churches were already engaged in meeting the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of the “sick, the tired, and the crazy”. And they did it because it is what Jesus would do.
    And I don’t think Trump is an existential danger…he shoots his mouth off and he pays the price for it. We have way too many checks on POTUS’ power. He couldn’t get away with ordering even a bottle rocket attack on a squirrel’s nest, let alone shooting off a nuke. , I swan every time he opens his pie hole prog libs and trad repubs tear him apart – sometimes its like watching The Three Stooges.

  • How does that change the fact the the SPLC is responsible for two terrorist attacks because what is listed on their site? BTW I never sais the FRC was listed as a terrorist group on the SPLC’s site but I did point out the fact the SPLC is directly responsible for two terrorist attacks….get your facts right eh. And yes there is proof positive in both cases that the SPLC’s site was used by the terrorists and one even admitted to it. You have no proof of your ridiculous muslim claim knowing just abuot all terrorists attacks around the world are muslims. You’re not much on facts but obvious on Brown shirt propaganda.

  • While Al is in Washington take dow the robert byrd democrat racist highway sign lets do that a KKK member and u s senator

  • “So is the antifa listed on the SPLC’s terrorist list? You know like they did to the AFA.” Yes, you claimed the AFA (the Family Research Council is a separate organization) was listed as a terrorist group by the SPLC. That is false as the SPLC does not list terrorist organizations, they list hate groups, and these are two distinct categories.
    The shooting took place at the FRC, not the AFA. The SPLC’s listing of them as a hate group does not make them “directly responsible” for the shooting. I never claimed anything about Muslims, I stated that your reasoning would make conservatives responsible for hate crimes against Muslims based on the former’s hateful rhetoric about the latter.
    The Brownshirts were the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. Their ideological successors were the organizers of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Get your own facts right.

  • Sharpton does not speak for the black community no more than Jessie Jackson. These two are no more than pimps who are trying to benefit off the poor conditions of blacks. This march is no more than a show with him trying to mimic Farrakhans one million man march. Also am Sharpton was an informant for the cia as well. Jesse Jackson’s net worth is 3 million. I wonder how much is al Sharpton.

  • I have said it before and I’ll say it again: “Evil is impersonal.” What someone does today he may resist to the hilt doing tomorrow. We are all responsible for what we do – but that’s only human. We turn to the divine for pardon and if we are sincere we experience forgiveness and redemption. Obviously, that’s where Rev. Al is at this time. He was young and didn’t know “everything” as none of us do, especially when we are just starting out. Who are our “partners” in a righteous cause? All who agree with that righteous cause. Someone said sin is never about someone else. I couldn’t agree more. It’s always, only about ourselves. And if we paid more attention to our own sins, the sins of others would be understood and brotherhood would trump judgment. Jesus said, “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12:47)

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