WASHINGTON – Under the Beltway sun, protesters rallying on Saturday in support of Trayvon Martin laughed at a joke mocking the Father of our Country and gay people; laughter at least one progressive blogger tried to conceal.
During the mid-day Saturday vigil for Trayvon Martin in Washington, D.C., African-American comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory criticized the country’s majority support of same-sex marriage, making President George Washington the butt of the first joke in his speech.
“I’m talkin’ about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said Gregory, “You can tell that to George Washington, with them tight silk pants he was wearin’, those high heeled shoes, ruffled shirt, a whig and some powder. So this been goin’ on for a long time [sic].”
Gregory’s joke, delivered less than a minute into his oration as sweltering temperatures climbed into the lower 90s, was met by the predominantly African-American crowd with a mixture of laughter and blank stares.
A traditionally religious segment of the U.S. population, the response was reflective of the African-American community’s shifting, but mixed, views towards same-sex marriage.
Dave Zirin, sports editor for the progressive blog The Nation, however, originally described in his account of the event that Gregory’s joke was met with “silence,” stating, “Homophobia did not sell.”
He said that he could only respond “relative” to where he “was packed in” amongst the attendees.
One of 100 rallies held throughout the nation on Saturday, police estimates obtained by The Daily Caller during the midpoint of the gathering figured the demonstrators in front of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia numbered between 1,500 and 2,000 people.
“The response was disapproval around me,” Zirin said, not answering The Daily Caller’s question about his location in the peaceably assembled crowd only blocks away from the U.S. Capitol building.
Gregory was only one of several speakers scheduled by the event’s host organization, National Action Network.
Demands for the boycotting of Florida and the American Legislative Exchange Council, the overturning of Stand Your Ground laws, and the berating of Mickey Mouse as a rat all resounded from the podium.
Speakers also called for better education, increased political activism of the African-American community, non-violence and faith in God.
The crowd’s energetic repetition of the now-familiar refrain, “No justice, No peace,” was frequently interspersed throughout and after the event.
Protesters of all ages held up signs with slogans in support of Trayvon; adults recorded the event with smart phones and digital cameras; little children held and enjoyed bags of Skittles.
A cool breeze flowed over the crowd as Saturday’s rally formally ended with solemn prayer and a harmonic chorus of “We Shall Overcome” — the protest anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.
As the crowd slowly dispersed, activists from the local organization Men Aiming Higher arrived.
Concluding their grueling 10-mile march to the court house from Maryland, they inserted themselves into a remnant of demonstrators – hot, thirsty and spirited.
The freshly arrived demonstrators — competing for the crowd’s attention against gospel tunes played over the loud speakers — delivered a gripping spoken word performance and a rousing chorus that gathered strength the longer it was sung.
Among them, poetic activist and spoken word artist Kavon Ward passionately monologued her piece, “I am Trayvon Martin” — her interpretation of Trayvon Martin’s last moments.
Following Ward’s performance, the group sang a variation of the song, “Ella’s Song:” “We who believe in justice cannot rest, we who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes.”
The song lasted nearly 10 minutes, the singers progressing through refrains about justice, freedom, Trayvon Martin, God and a new civil rights movement.
“This is not an event! This is a movement,” William Murry, a local motivational speaker based in Maryland, said to those gathered around him after the song.
Using a megaphone, Murry encouraged his audience to use social media to tell others about about their experiences as African-Americans.
The ‘not-guilty verdict’ for George Zimmerman delivered on July 13 galvanized the African-American community, having internalized Martin’s tragic death and the outcome of the trial as symbolic of the community’s shared suffering since the nation’s inception.
Haunted by the eras of slave codes and Jim Crow laws, numerous protesters yesterday voiced their beliefs that the U.S. legal system is inherently prejudiced against African-Americans, devised by the slave masters of their recent ancestors.
However, Washington — himself a slave owner and fierce opponent of slave uprisings — became increasingly and quietly opposed to the institution of slavery following the Revolutionary War.
Martha Washington posthumously freed his 123 slaves according to the terms outlined in his will, which mandated the elderly to be cared for, and the younger to be educated and trained in an occupation.