Protesters of police killings march on DC

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Thousands Gathering in Washington to Protest Police Killings

WASHINGTON (AP) - Thousands of protesters made their way down iconic Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday, marching to the Capitol to call attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police and call for legislative action.

With signs reading "Black Lives Matter" and "Who do you protect? Who do you serve," the crowd gathered in Freedom Plaza before the march.

"Let's keep it strong, long and meaningful," Esaw Garner - the widow of Eric Garner, killed by an officer in New York City in July - told the group.

The rally was interrupted briefly by more than a dozen protesters who took the stage with a bullhorn. They announced that they were from St. Louis and Ferguson, Missouri - where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by an officer - and demanded to speak.

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Protesters of police killings march on DC
A demonstrator with a shirt painted 'Fight the Power' stands before a crowd of other demonstrators during the 'Justice For All' march in Washington, DC, December 13, 2014. Thousands of people descended on Washington to demand justice Saturday for black men who have died at the hands of white police, the latest in weeks of demonstrations across the United States. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold up a giant placard of a man with his hands up during the 'Justice For All' march in Washington, DC, December 13, 2014. Thousands of people descended on Washington to demand justice Saturday for black men who have died at the hands of white police, the latest in weeks of demonstrations across the United States. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Colin Kirk (R) and Margaus Van Allen (L) hold placards as they march during the 'Justice For All' march in Washington, DC, December 13, 2014. Thousands of people descended on Washington to demand justice Saturday for black men who have died at the hands of white police, the latest in weeks of demonstrations across the United States. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator with gloves that read 'Stop Killing' chants during the 'Justice For All' march in Washington, DC, December 13, 2014. Thousands of people descended on Washington to demand justice Saturday for black men who have died at the hands of white police, the latest in weeks of demonstrations across the United States. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators chant during the 'Justice For All' march in Washington, DC, December 13, 2014. Thousands of people descended on Washington to demand justice Saturday for black men who have died at the hands of white police, the latest in weeks of demonstrations across the United States. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: Lesley McSpadden, mother of police shooting victim Michael Brown helps lead the 'Justice For All' rally and march in the nation's capital against police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men by police, December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Organized by Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, this march and other like it across the country aim to tell Congress and the country that demonstrators will not stand down until there is systemic change, accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct. Sharpton said the demonstration is happening in Washington 'because all over the country we all need to come together and demand this Congress deal with the issues, that we need laws to protect the citizens in these states from these state grand jurors.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: Thousands of people gather for the 'Justice For All' rally and march in the nation's capital against police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men by police, December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Organized by Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, this march and other like it across the country aim to tell Congress and the country that demonstrators will not stand down until there is systemic change, accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct. Sharpton said the demonstration is happening in Washington 'because all over the country we all need to come together and demand this Congress deal with the issues, that we need laws to protect the citizens in these states from these state grand jurors.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: Thousands of people participate in the 'Justice For All' rally and march in the nation's capital against police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men by police, December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Organized by Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, this march and other like it across the country aim to tell Congress and the country that demonstrators will not stand down until there is systemic change, accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct. Sharpton said the demonstration is happening in Washington 'because all over the country we all need to come together and demand this Congress deal with the issues, that we need laws to protect the citizens in these states from these state grand jurors.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 13: Thousands of protesters participate in the 'Justice For All' march against police violence on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. Protesters held a rally at Freedom Plaza before marching to the U.S. Capitol. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A demonstrator holds a placard during the 'Justice For All' march in Washington, DC, December 13, 2014. Thousands of people descended on Washington to demand justice Saturday for black men who have died at the hands of white police, the latest in weeks of demonstrations across the United States. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US film director Spike Lee (R) holds a US flag as thousands take part in the Justice for All March and Rally down Pennsylvania Avenue through downtown Washington, DC, December 13, 2014, to protest the killings of unarmed African Americans by police officers and the decisions by Grand Juries to not indict them. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands take part in the Justice for All March and Rally on Pennsylvania Avenue through downtown Washington, DC, on December 13, 2014, to protest the killings of unarmed African Americans by police officers and the decisions by Grand Juries to not indict them. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters fill Pennsylvania Avenue during the 'Justice For All' march December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Thousands of people descended on Washington to demand justice Saturday for black men who have died at the hands of white police, the latest in weeks of demonstrations across the United States. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Reverend Al Sharpton (C) stands alongside US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (L), Democrat of New York, and family members of unarmed African-Americans who have been killed by police offiers, join thousands as they take part in the Justice for All March and Rally down Pennsylvania Avenue through downtown Washington, DC, December 13, 2014, to protest the killings of unarmed African-Americans by police officers and the decisions by Grand Juries to not indict them. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands take part in the Justice for All March and Rally on Pennsylvania Avenue to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 13, 2014, to protest the killings of unarmed African-Americans by police officers and the decisions by Grand Juries to not indict them. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands take part in the Justice for All March and Rally on Pennsylvania Avenue to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 13, 2014, to protest the killings of unarmed African-Americans by police officers and the decisions by Grand Juries to not indict them. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands take part in the Justice for All March and Rally on Pennsylvania Avenue to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 13, 2014, to protest the killings of unarmed African-Americans by police officers and the decisions by Grand Juries to not indict them. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands take part in the Justice for All March and Rally on Pennsylvania Avenue to the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 13, 2014, to protest the killings of unarmed African-Americans by police officers and the decisions by Grand Juries to not indict them. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at Freedom plaza in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All march and rally. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All march. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All march and rally. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators march toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All march. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All march. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators chant at Freedom Plaza in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally and march. In the past three weeks, grand juries have decided not to indict officers in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The decisions have unleashed demonstrations and questions about police conduct and whether local prosecutors are the best choice for investigating police. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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Large numbers of protesters on the ground supported the group, some chanting, "Let them speak."

Ultimately, rally organizers allowed Johnetta Elzie of St. Louis to address the crowd. "This movement was started by the young people," she said. The group, mostly in their 20s, left the stage after she spoke.

Organizers called the interruption unnecessarily divisive. But some in the Missouri group said they were disappointed and found the rally staid and ineffective.

"I thought there was going to be actions, not a show. This is a show," Elzie said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton addressed the interruption and told the crowd, "Don't let no provocateurs get you out of line. ... We are not here to play big shot. We are here to win."

Then, block after block of tightly packed people moved through the city. Organizers had predicted 5,000 people, but the crowd appeared to far outnumber that.

Protests - some violent - have occurred around the nation since grand juries last month declined to indict the officers involved in the deaths of Brown and Garner, 43, who gasped "I can't breathe" while being arrested for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in New York. Some protesters held signs and wore shirts that said "I can't breathe" Saturday.

Politicians and others have talked about the need for better police training, body cameras and changes in the grand jury process to restore faith in the legal system.

Terry Baisden, 52, of Baltimore said she is "hopeful change is coming" and that the movement is not part of a fleeting flash of anger.

She said she hasn't protested before but felt compelled to because "changes in action, changes in belief, happen in numbers."

Murry Edwards said he made the trip to Washington from St. Louis because he wants to make sure the momentum from the movement in Ferguson reaches a national stage.

"This is the national march," Edwards said. "We have to get behind the national movement."

Sheryce Holloway, a recent graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, attended a smaller gathering outside Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington ahead of the main rally. She said she also has been participating in protests at her alma mater.

Holloway said the goal of the protests is "ending blue-on-black crime. Black lives do matter."

Saturday's march is sponsored in part by the National Action Network, the Urban League and the NAACP. At the Capitol, speakers will outline a legislative agenda they want Congress to pursue in relation to police killings.

While protesters rally in Washington, other groups including Ferguson Action will be conducting similar "Day of Resistance" movements all around the country. A large march is planned in New York City.

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Online:

Justice for All March http://nationalactionnetwork.net/march-police/

National Day of Resistance: http://fergusonaction.com/day-of-resistance/

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