Among the several decentralized marches that flooded the streets of Washington, D.C. on Saturday afternoon, one stood out due to its very specific angle, makeup and appearance.
Dozena of doctors and health-care workers donned white medical coats and protested on Saturday, chanting, “White coats, black lives.”
WAMU reported that the March was co-organized by “White Coats for Black Lives” and medical students from local medical schools.
The protesters drew a positive reaction everywhere they marched in the vicinity of the White House. Some of the signs they carried included the messages, “Racism is a public health crisis” and “Racism is a pandemic too,” the latter a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duan Samuels, a black D.C. resident who’s worked as a respiratory therapist for five years, was among the participants. He wore light blue hospital scrubs beneath his white coat.
Mr. Samuels said racial justice and health care were interrelated because of unequal access to health insurance.
“It’s not due to the workers themselves,” he said. “It’s more of the insurance companies. And we (the black community) don’t get the same quality of coverage.”
Mr. Samuels said he also marched in a protest after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2015. This week’s protests were sparked largely by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police.
“I feel like I was finally at home,” Mr. Samuels said of the demonstration. “I felt like I could actually be proud to call America my country. It felt good to see other people that don’t look like me (marching).”
He had mixed emotions about the possible dangers of organizing public protests during the coronavirus pandemic, which kept Americans inside and working and studying from home for more than two months before recent Black Lives Matter protests broke out. The vast majority of protesters in the District wore masks, but social distancing was rendered impossible.
“As long as people are wearing their masks, studies show that it at least cuts the percentage (of community spread) down by 75%,” said Mr. Samuels, who has worked mostly with COVID-19 patients since the outbreak. “Most people out here are healthy. I think most folks also have the sense of self to know if they’re sick, stay at home.”
He added that he did not believe nationwide protests will lead to a second wave of the pandemic.