WASHINGTON – Hundreds of protesters, mainly women, marched 17 miles from the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax, Va., to the Department of Justice to protest recent NRA ads that they say encourages violence against people of color, women, and political activists.
Holding signs that read “Stop the war on women,” protesters yelled, “Hey hey, ho ho, NRA has got to go."
“The NRA feed gun lobbies, gun manufacturers, they feed the funeral industry more than any other industry,” said Tamika Mallory, co-president of the Women March, which organized the protest along with other activist groups, including those representing victims of gun violence.
The protesters came from across the country, including, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, and Texas.
In one of the ads, conservative TV host Dana Loesch says the NRA should use the violence of clenched fists to stop liberal activists “violence of lies,” while another ad has conservative commentator Dom Raso criticizing “organized anarchy” caused by protesters.
Sarsour said oppression of free speech is increasing under the Trump administration.
“We will not be silent in the face of oppression that is, unfortunately, increasing under this administration,” she said. The protest is a way to show NRA supporters and others “that we are not afraid of them.”
Florida resident Brandon Wolf, 28, said he was protesting because several friends have been killed by guns.
“I am here because gun violence is personal to me,” he said. “… I cannot find out why NRA continues to pump money into the system that kills us on the streets.”
At NRA headquarters, some gun rights supporters watched the demonstration.
“We do not ask AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] to comment on every drunk driving fatality, no matter how tragic,” said Paul Brockman, 50, from Maryland. “So I am not sure why they would want the NRA to comment on every law enforcement-involved shooting.”
The protesters planned to continue the demonstration on Saturday morning at Department of Justice and hold vigil for Philando Castile, a black motorist shot to death during a traffic stop by a police officer in Minnesota a year ago.
On Friday, one of the march organizers read a statement from Castile’s mother, Valerie, to the crowd.
“There’s nothing we can do to bring my son back, but we must keep fighting and standing up to make sure nothing like this happens to any of their other sons. It is time for the justice system to be changed. I want the black man who has license to carry to be treated the same way that a white man would be treated, instead of being treated like a criminal,” the statement said.
Castile also said NRA should have criticized the police shooting of her son — but didn’t because he was black.