They come from Alabama, and they've been marching since mid-April--members of a civil rights "Pilgrimage to Washington," here to pitch tents and attract attention. The tents will go up, all right, but will the attention level go up as well? Why a demonstration in 1982, right after a strong congressional vote to extend the Voting Rights Act? Besides, weren't there only about 250 people joining in yesterday's march across the bridge?
If head-counts and tent sites were a reliable measure of black discontent, there would no reason for people to pay attention to this latest march or to "Resurrection City, D.C. II"--the symbolic re-creation on the Ellipse of the 1968 camp-in by the Lincoln Memorial. But the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the modest core of about 80 marchers from the South found not only concern and frustation among blacks and poor along their route to Washington, but also disturbing evidence of racial injustices in several places.
Further north, on a street in Brooklyn--only hours before Dr. Lowery's march into Washington --three black men on their way home from work were attacked and one of them beaten to death by a crowd of 15 to 20 shouting, taunting, bottle-hurling white youths, in what police there say is the worst in a recent series of incidents with racial overtones. Is this merely a series of "isolated incidents," or teen- age trouble? Or is it a reinforcement of the uneasiness and sense of helplessness that Dr. Lowery and others seek to spotlight while they are here?
"This is not a march on Washington," Dr. Lowery emphasizes, "but a pilgrimage to Washington." There is not the financial support for a mass demonstration, nor should it have to take that to get an ear for what this coalition of civil rights organizations is talking about--not just for blacks, but for people whjo look for their survival to Medicaid, food stamps, job training and housing assistance.
That is why the martchers are here, and it's reason enough to welcome their mission and hear them out.