Thousands of Americans led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and other civic leaders rallied for easier access to jobs on Saturday as they gathered against the backdrop of the Washington Monument and marched to the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
The rally was intended to drum up support for President Barack Obama's jobs plan, but speakers used the platform for causes as varied as condemning voter identification laws and last month's execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.
Davis was convicted of killing an off-duty police officer. He maintained his innocence until his death, and thousands around the world rallied to his cause. But state and federal courts repeatedly ruled that there was not enough evidence to exonerate him.
Sharpton, the featured speaker at the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, blasted the U.S. Senate for its failure to pass Obama's $450 billion jobs bill. The measure includes an extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, as well as money to help local governments keep teachers and other workers on the job.
"If you can't get the jobs bill done in the suites, then we will get the jobs bill done in the streets," Sharpton said to cheers and applause.
He said Martin Luther King would have supported their cause. King's son Martin Luther King III was also among the speakers.
"Over 45 years ago, my father talked about a redistribution of wealth. In fact, that is probably why he was killed," King said. "Because he said if America is going to survive responsibly, then it must have a redistribution of wealth."
Among those who attended Saturday was Kathie Williams, a part-time administrator for the Howard County, Md., parks and recreation department. She's been struggling to land a full-time job despite an active search.
"No one has responded to me," Williams said.
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