Likening those killed or victimized by the drug crisis to "veterans of a domestic war," Jesse L. Jackson and several hundred others marched and rallied in Southeast Washington yesterday to commemorate those victims and call for a renewed effort to end the drug epidemic.
Isaac Entsua-Mensah, 10, who came from his home in Capitol Heights to join in the march, said he was there because, "I hate drugs because they'll mess up your brain, you won't have a good life and nobody will like you."
But many residents near the march route said they knew nothing about the event until the participants passed by and said they wished more neighborhood children had joined in.
The commemorative march was organized by the Ministers Action Coordinating Council, a coalition of ministers concerned with local issues and political empowerment in Washington, and attracted most D.C. Council members and mayoral candidates.
"I think this is going to make a difference," said the Rev. Delores Carpenter of Michigan Park Christian Church, general chairwoman of the group. "It is things like this march that show the community's concern, that let the police and other agencies know that we want something done about the problem."
As the march route wound through the community, beginning at Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Howard Road SE and ending at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church on Morris Road SE, residents watched from sidewalks, doorways and balconies. But few joined in.
Standing on the corner watching marchers assemble, Fred Echols, 37, and his friend, Randy, said yesterday morning was the first either heard about the event.
"I don't see none of the youngsters who live out here," said Randy, surveying the crowd. "Why ain't none of the neighborhood out here? That's pitiful. I don't even see none of their mothers and fathers."
"I really feel it's a good idea," said Dwayne Nowlin, a resident who joined in the march. "You got a lot of young babies out here. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but you can help the children."
Most of the people along the march route agreed with Nowlin's sentiments, but declined to join in. Alfonso Johnson, 17, standing with his friend Chris Hodge, 18, in front of the Paramount Market at 16th and W streets, across the corner from where two police cars crashed last Thursday, was surprised, both by the march and its purpose. "I thought it was because of the police car accident," he said.
D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr., Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) and several council members spoke at the rally, emphasizing the dimensions of the drug problem and the need for a united approach to finding solutions.
"Usually, Memorial Day focuses on veterans of foreign wars," Jackson said. "Here, we're focusing on casualties of a domestic drug war."
A young woman, who identified herself only as B.J. and viewed the rally from across the church parking lot, seemed to exemplify how the drug crisis has affected the community.
B.J. said she was surprised when she heard it was an anti-drug march, remarking, "I thought someone had found a body or something when I saw all the people and police cars."