Get Your Knees Off Our Necks by Raquel Natalicchio

Editor: Joshua Zamudio |  Written & Photographed by Raquel Natalicchio | Contributing Producer: Kemal Cilengir
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Get Your Knees Off Our Necks by Raquel Natalicchio

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I initially set out to DC to follow a caravan of dedicated activists, educators and motivators who were traveling on a protest tour starting in Los Angeles, CA to amplify the Black Lives Matter movement all across the nation, ending in Washington, DC for the Get Your Knees Off Our Necks Commitment March. I had met them in Los Angeles and after our first interview I was inspired to join them and witness this monumental day in person. Coming from Los Angeles, where the police come out in full riot gear ready to antagonize protestors, even to the smallest protest, I was nervous for such a mass gathering, especially in the nations capitol. I arrived the night before the march during the RNC and set out to Black Lives Matter Plaza. I remember the first strep I took on one of the giant yellow letters that I had seen painted on the news and immediately my nerves settled.
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The plaza was full of hundreds of people, families, protestors, speakers, food banks, art stations, Dj's, dancing, educating and an overall sense of genuine community. It wasn't until two white men, also, trump supporters began to antagonize people with hateful speech and physical violence that many protestors switched from peaceful to defense mode.
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The white men were chased out through police lines and were never seen again. Though the tension lingered against the police line that was made due to that antagonization. Even then, the local police seemed committed to deescalating the situation by moving back, giving protestors space and not once even holding a non lethal weapon. The vibe was much more peaceful than Los Angeles, I can tell you that.
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The next morning was the big day, the Get Your Knees Off Our Necks Commitment march. Thousands of people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear speakers such as Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III. It was really Martin Luther King Jr's. 12 year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, who stole the show. I witnessed so many children listen to someone their age and stand up mightily with fists in the air. I was reminded of this generations of young people who are living their entire life learning about not only racial injustice but knowing that they can stand up, march and use their voice to demand justice and be apart of making long lasting change in the world. I saw the faces of our future leaders light up during this march. 
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The march was led peacefully from the Lincoln Memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial where an empowering appearance from the NFAC ( Not Fucking around Coalition ) motivated people through the heat to continue to march, to protest, to speak up and to act in demolishing racism. The police were hardly visible through out the march, leaving all memory of the day to the power witnessed in mass movement. The march ended back at Black Lives Matter Plaza, where community came back together in music, art, education and even basketball. 
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