Civil rights leader angry he was cut from ‘March on Washington’ ceremony

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
Font Size:

The leader of a prominent civil rights activist group expressed outrage after he was prevented from joining President Obama in speaking at the 50th anniversary commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington on Wednesday.

“This morning, my time as well as that of Sofia Campos, leader of United We Dream, was cut from the march. But we still have much to say. They told me that they had run out of time, but I believe that our time is now,” Phillip Agnew, leader of the activist group Dream Defenders, said in a video posted to Youtube Thursday in which he criticizes urban violence in Chicago, veteran homelessness and U.S. foreign policy in a performance suggesting how he would have used his speaking time.

“Phillip Agnew of Dream Defenders, and Sofia Campos, young leader of United We Dream, have been cut from today’s March on Washington roster. But our generation will NOT be silenced,” Dream Defenders, which gained national prominence during the Trayvon Martin controversy, announced on Facebook.

Agnew had been slated to speak for two minutes at the event, where President Obama delivered a speech.

“By the time we finish our conversation this morning, another black boy will lay bleeding in the streets of Chicago. And as we rest our heads tonight, 300,000 of our veterans will lay their heads homeless. And I would love to explain to you how the hate we spread abroad is the real reason that hatred washes upon our shores, but I only have two minutes,” Agnew said in his remarks in the video.

The commemorative “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial was organized by the 50th Anniversary Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom, which is comprised of organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the King Center, National Urban League, National Park Service, Rainbow Push Coalition, and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

A Coalition spokesperson said that she has “no information about this matter” and referred The Daily Caller to a spokesman for the King Center, who did not immediately return a request for comment.

“understand that as symbolic as the march is/was, it also has POLITICAL motives. and when politics and ‘big names’ are involved, it’s the little people that often get told to have a seat,” one commentator said on the group’s Facebook page, while another suggested that Agnew was bumped so as not to steal attention away from President Obama.

Dream Defenders recently staged a 31-day sit-in at the Florida Capitol demanding an end to the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law in the aftermath of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The group forced an emergency meeting with Florida governor Rick Scott.

A division of the U.S. Department of Justice facilitated a meeting between Dream Defenders and Sanford city officials in 2012, while Dream Defenders was campaigning for a criminal case to be brought against neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Dream Defenders also advocated for the removal of Sanford police chief Bill Lee, who was eventually fired. The meeting was convened to discuss changes to the Sanford Police Department.

Follow Patrick on Twitter

Patrick Howley