A group of social justice activists, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, rallied in Washington Monday to protest the Obama administration and its so-called "war on drugs," which they say has unfairly targeted black communities across the country.
The Institute of the Black World 21st Century's "Day of Direct Action" drew a crowd of more than 500 grassroots leaders and community advocates on the 42nd anniversary of the war on drugs, which they say has become a "pipeline" for mass incarceration in black communities.
Black people are 3.4 percent more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates, according to an American Civil Liberties Union study published earlier this month.
"State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against black people and communities, needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at tremendous human and financial cost," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the Criminal Law Reform Project at the ACLU and one of the primary authors of the study, in a release. "The aggressive policing of marijuana is time-consuming, costly, racially biased, and doesn't work."
The Institute of the Black World wants President Barack Obama to issue an executive order to end the war on drugs, as well as publicly support decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Those gathered Monday also sought to raise awareness about other crises affecting black communities that they say Obama has failed to address, including high unemployment rates and gun violence.
"This is about what he hasn't done," said Ron Daniels, the institute's president. "There is a state of emergency in Black America and President Obama has hardly issued a whisper about it."