The Million Man March turns 20: The new rallying cry is 'Justice or Else'

  • Thousands gathered in Washington D.C. on Saturday for the “Justice or Else” rally, led by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, for the 20th anniversary of the first Million Man March, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • An American flag flies at the “Justice or Else” rally, led by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • Men and woman of different races and from across the country gathered for the Million Man March in Washington D.C. on Oct. 10, 2015, renewing a call for justice that started with the first march, 20 years ago. 
  • Members of the Fruit of Islam, the security force for the Nation of Islam, join the “Justice or Else” rally in uniform, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • An unidentified man holds a print paper that reads “The Final Call: Justice or Else” at the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. where thousands gathered on the 20th anniversary of the 1995 march, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • A man holds a poster board displaying a photograph from the 1995 Million Man March, which took place 20 years ago, Oct. 10, 2015, Washington, D.C.
  • Thousands gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C. on Saturday for the “Justice or Else” rally. 
  • Attendees listen in on speakers at the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2015.
  • A man is wrapped in a New Nation of Islam flag amidst a crowd of thousands gathered on the Washington, D.C. mall on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • Attendees hold signs and waves flags at the “Justice or Else” rally, led by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • Thousands came from around the country on Oct. 10, 2015, and gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C. to join Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in marking the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. 
  • Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan booms over a crowd of thousands on the Washington, D.C. Mall as his address is projected onto a large screen on the lawn, Oct. 10, 2015.
  • Thousands gathered in Washington D.C on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March for a renewed a call for justice, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • A man waves the New Black Panther Party flag at Saturday’s “Justice or Else” rally in Washington, D.C. 
  • A young woman on the lawn of the Mall in Washington D.C. 
  • A woman flexes her bicep at the Million Man March in Washington D.C., Oct. 10, 2015, on the 20th anniversary of the first Million Man March in 1995. 
  • An attendee at the Million Man March, Oct. 10, 2015, Washington, D.C. 
  • Young people on the lawn of the Washington, D.C. Mall for the “Justice or Else” rally, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • Thousands gathered in Washington D.C on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March for a renewed a call for justice, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • An obscured attendee of the Million Man March waves a Moorish flag in Washington, D.C. The star’s five points stand for Love, Truth, Peace, Freedom and Justice. 
  • Members of the Nation of Islam sit before the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., during the “Justice or Else” rally, led by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • Seen from behind, thousands attend the “Justice or Else” rally to hear Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan speak on Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • Thousands listen in on the “Justice or Else” rally in Washington D.C., Oct. 10, 2015.
  • Attendees of the “Justice or Else” rally rest on the lawn of the Washington, D.C. Mall, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • Thousands gathered in Washington D.C on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March for a renewed a call for justice, Oct. 10, 2015. 
  • Members of the Fruit of Islam, the security force for the Nation of Islam, join the “Justice or Else” rally in uniform, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2015. 

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Updated

WASHINGTON, DC— They poured in from all across the country, a trip that harkened back to decades earlier when on the heels of the crack era and the churn of the war on drugs the Minister Louis Farrakhan called on a million black men to gather in the nation’s capital. It was a call for black men to atone, reconcile and take responsibility in their homes and communities.

This time the call was much wider, to men and women, black, Native, Hispanic and America’s marginalized. And the focus was less internal than external, a figurative call to arms against forces that many, including Farrakhan, believe have literally gotten away with the murder of non-whites.

The 20th anniversary of the Million Man March was commemorated on Saturday under the banner, Justice or Else. 

While there were no official estimates of the crowd as of Saturday night, the unnumbered thousands flowed from the Capital steps and down the National Mall like a wave of humanity rolling over and through a busted levee.

Little boys and girls waved red, black and green flags, a symbol of unity among the African Diaspora. Some Native Americans came dressed in their traditional garb, lauded by Farrakhan as the descendants of the original owners of this land and the victims of perhaps the largest mass murder experienced on what is now American soil. A group of Mexican-Americans took to the lectern and expressed solidarity with the call for wider justice for people of color.

The family of unarmed young men and women who were either killed by police or died in police custody stood on the stage before the crowd, including Sybrina Fulton the mother of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown Jr.

Speaker after speaker said now is the time to push, now is the time for the beleaguered to rise. At times a low ripple of applause or a collective murmur of approval bounced through the crowd.

Yet, around 1:30 p.m. as Minister Louis Farrakhan began his speech, the final speech of the day, the massive audience was stock-still and quiet.

He said the very ground the rally was being staged on once housed pens where enslaved Africans were held and talked of black folks shaking off the yolks of slavery, including their former masters last names. The Minister spoke of a freedom begat to the fearless, unbought and uncompromised by corruption and greed.

He called for community elders to support younger activists, including those from Ferguson, Missouri who rose up and sparked national rebellion in the wake of Brown’s killing their last year. Farrakhan said those young activists “ignited it all.”

Among other pronouncements the minister called for 10,000 “fearless” black men to return to their communities and act as barriers between the community and bullets fired from other blacks as well as those fired by “rogue” police officers.

In this last note, he struck a chord that strummed directly to this crowd who came to hear a plan of action around justice.

“America has now entered the time of divine judgment,” Farrakhan said, as a low rumble spilled from the rapt crowd.

Above, photographs taken by Carlos Javier Ortiz capture the renewed call for justice in Washington D.C.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

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