Washington Marchers Vow to Defend Civil Rights Under Trump

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Marchers look on as the Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during the National Action Network's "We Shall Not Be Moved" march in Washington, D.C., January 14. Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

U.S. civil rights activists vowed on Saturday to defend hard-fought gains in voting rights and criminal justice during the presidency of Donald Trump, kicking off a week of protests ahead of the Republican's inauguration.

About 2,000 mostly black protesters ignored steady rain to march and rally near Washington's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, as speakers urged them to fight for minority rights and President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, which Trump has vowed to dismantle.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the rally's organizer, said Democrats in Congress needed to be sent a simple message: "Get some backbone.

"We march in the driving rain because we want the nation to understand that what has been fought for and gained, that you're going to need more than one election to turn it around," he said.

Trump, a New York real estate developer, won with a populist platform that included promises to build a wall along the Mexican border, restrict immigration from Muslim countries and dismantle President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.

His choice of Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, to become attorney general has raised concern among many on the left that Trump could weaken voting rights for minorities and roll back criminal justice reforms.

"We will march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice," said Cornell William Brooks, president and chief executive of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The rally, which drew fewer attendees than organizers had expected, also included the Hispanic group La Raza, politicians, relatives of African-Americans slain by police, the National Urban League, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights.

About 30 groups, almost all of them anti-Trump, have gotten permits to protest before, during and after the inauguration. Thousands of demonstrators have vowed to shut down the inauguration.

Washington police and the U.S. Secret Service plan to have some 3,000 extra officers and an additional 5,000 National Guard troops on hand for security.

By far the biggest event will be the Women's March on Washington the day after the inauguration, which organizers say could draw 200,000 people.

Washington Marchers Vow to Defend Civil Rights Under Trump | U.S.