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Thousands Rally Against Perceived Bias in Prosecutions

Billie Lopes, left, of Upper Marlboro and Cardelia Maupin of Silver Spring join the thousands of protesters at Freedom Plaza in Northwest Washington.
Billie Lopes, left, of Upper Marlboro and Cardelia Maupin of Silver Spring join the thousands of protesters at Freedom Plaza in Northwest Washington. (Photos By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

At yesterday's protest, one man wore a shirt on which was printed: "A noose is not a prank or a joke. It is a terroristic threat and a weapon of mass destruction."

At one point, demonstrators paused to sign a huge piece of cloth stretched in the street and painted with the opening words of the preamble of the Constitution, "We the people. . . ."

The Justice Department said yesterday that it is committed to prosecuting civil rights cases.

"The Justice Department shares with those who demonstrate today their objective of bringing to justice those who commit criminal acts of hate," Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said in a statement.

"It shares their vision of eradicating hate in our society," said Mukasey, who was sworn in as attorney general this week. "At the same time, the Department must follow the law and the principles of federal prosecution in every case it investigates and prosecutes."

But marcher Ellis Maupin, 62, a retired Energy Department worker from Southwest Washington, said he thinks the department has not treated all citizens equally.

"After we stopped marching, the justice stopped," he said. "We're now saying: Look, you've got to get your judicial system together. You've got to get your police forces together. Because we're all citizens and we expect to be treated like citizens. That's not happening right now."

Of the turnout, he said, "This is, I think, emblematic of just how tired people are."

Patricia Austin, 58, a minister from Richmond, said she had come with several busloads of people from her church. "It's been a long time," she said. "And until we get the justice that we need in America, I'm going to continue to march."

She said she was not surprised at the size of the crowd. "Too much injustice is going on right now," she said. "Too much. And we need to speak out against it. . . . If we don't speak out, nothing is going to get done."

She noted some of the slogans carved in the stone of the Justice building as she marched past.

"To render every man his due," said one. "Justice in the life and conduct of the state is possible only as first it resides of the hearts and souls of the citizens," read another.


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