WASHINGTON — In the span of five days, what was once a battlespace within sight of the president’s doorstep transformed into a public theater, a setting where protesters made defiant declarations that progress is still possible.
The name "Black Lives Matter Plaza" was still sinking in Friday evening, hours after D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser re-christened the 1,000-foot stretch of 16th Street.
Downpours met the second week of demonstrations, but in interviews throughout the day, protesters said rain could not deter them from meeting the moment — as they gathered to find their places in history.
“What brings me joy, is that everybody is here,” Jiah Waldon said, seconds after she surprised herself by leading the crowd in a call-and-response chant. "It kind of makes me look at my arm and think, ‘we do matter!’ We matter today, we matter tomorrow, we mattered before, and we will always matter.’"
Umbrellas blended together under lowering skies, the echoes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” address emanating from a speaker in the heart of the plaza.
The words from 52 years ago were punctuated by thunder, underscoring demonstrator’s steadiness of purpose before Saturday’s historic march across the District.
“It just inspires me how we came here, didn’t stay home, and just seeing everybody together,” said Lucy Wondwosen. “You can feel the energy of everybody coming together as one.”