WASHINGTON — In the sweltering heat, hundreds gathered in front of the National Rifle Association on Friday to tell the gun lobby "no more".
“I’m here to say to you to those across the street, ‘we’re not trying to take your guns away'. We’re saying, ‘don’t use them against people who are standing up even for your life,’” Tamika Mallory, co-president of the Women’s March said.
Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and other organizers of the Women’s March rallied in front of the NRA before starting a 17-mile march to the Department of Justice. The march comes after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Philando Castile.
The organizers and Mallory called on the NRA to make a statement defending Castile’s Second Amendment and civil rights. The NRA released a series of ads, including an ad narrated by conservative talk show host Dana Loesch called Violence of Lies.’ Mallory said the ad is a fear tactic.
The rally was peaceful, with roughly a 1,000 people sweating in the summer heat and sun. One woman was overcome with what appeared to be heat exhaustion and taken away in an ambulance.
Counter protesters marched between those rallying and once the march began, people drove by honking and yelling at the marchers. Mallory and other organizers told people not to engage them, citing Martin Luther King, Jr. nonviolent resistance principles.
“The ad that they put out with Dana Loesch saying they were going to meet us with a clenched fist. That ad was to say to you 'Be afraid'. That we will meet you with our guns and we might in fact take your life,” Mallory said referring to a controversial ad featuring the conservative television host and NRA spokeswoman.
Mallory and other activists called for the NRA to take down the “dangerous and hateful” ads and apologize for “inciting violence.”
“They should speak on behalf of Philando Castile and other communities who are marginalized and dealing with police brutality and other issues,” Mallory told NBC News. “All they’ve been putting out doesn’t address the real issues that we want to talk about. So we encourage them to start focusing on the issues at hand that people's live are in danger and their advertisement is putting blood on their hands if someone is hurt at one of these protests.”
Reverend Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds, civil rights attorney and mayoral candidate of Minneapolis read a letter from Philando’s mother Valerie Castile.
“He took a class to be licensed. He passed a background check and did everything he was supposed to do, but did the NRA stand behind my son? Hell no. They should've made a statement the day my son got slaughtered. Now. they're a day a late and dollar short," Levy-Pounds read from the statement.
The march also comes a day after the two year anniversary of the death of Sandra Bland and days before what would have been Castile's 33rd birthday.
Though the people who marched are calling for action for Castile, some said they are also standing for victims of gun violence such as those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation said she is standing in solidarity with the Women’s March. She said the justice system is broken and “there are too many guns this country.”
“Justice is about having fairness and being able to know that our judicial system is here for everybody,” Campbell said. “We’re all Americans and the American justice system is not balanced. We need to change it or we are going to continue to have an escalation of violence in this country.”
Holding a sign with her grandchildren's hand prints, Dianne De Laet of Hagerstown, Maryland said she is protesting because she wants gun violence to end.
“I would like to see stricter regulations. I’d like to see positive change and more appropriate advertising and less hate,” De Laet said. “If we’re silent nothing will change.”
The march will end at the Department of Justice where organizers and supporters will spend the night in an undisclosed location. They will continue the rally at the Department of Justice in the morning.