Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Sunday became the first Republican senator known to march in one of D.C.’s anti-racism demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis nearly two weeks ago.
Wearing a mask and garnering little overt notice from fellow protesters, the former presidential nominee marched alongside hundreds of evangelicals in a crowd that eventually swelled to more than 1,000 demonstrators.
Romney said in an interview that he wanted to find “a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.”
Democratic Sens. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) have waded through the throngs of outraged yet largely peaceful protesters in the District, and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) toured the city’s newly named “Black Lives Matter Plaza” on Sunday morning with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).
Last week, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.) marched in his state. But Romney is the first Republican senator to publicize joining a demonstration.
Fellow Republican President Trump, by contrast, last week declared himself “your president of law and order,” and retweeted a letter from his former attorney John Dowd that referred to the protesters as “terrorists.”
Under a beating afternoon sun, protesters around Romney waved signs with biblical phrases and chanted: “Do justice! Do justice!”
At one point in the march, Romney held up his phone and — like so many other Americans have done in the past week — snapped a selfie of himself protesting. His quickly went viral.
The protesters marched from the U.S. Capitol’s reflecting pool along Pennsylvania Avenue in a demonstration planned by a handful of evangelical churches in the D.C. region, including some of the most prominent.
Organizers said they did not know that Romney planned to attend until they saw him. Romney said that he attended the Christians’ rally before the march. There, Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of the Anacostia River Church, called for “fighting systemic injustice and being for personal responsibility.”
“We don’t have to settle for half the coin,” Anyabwile said. “We’re Democrats and Republicans.”
Romney marched quietly amid the hundreds of Christians streaming toward the White House, stationing himself toward the front of the column and directly in its center. He wore a white checkered button-down shirt tucked into dark jeans and a large white N95 mask that almost fully obscured his face.
No one pointed or whispered, and people seemed too busy chanting and singing to ask for a photo, the way other senators had been approached in crowds.
It is unclear exactly when Romney joined the marchers, many of whom had started the day across the Anacostia River in miles-away neighborhoods in Ward 7 and Ward 8. It is also unknown when he left the group. But he was present when the group passed by the Trump International Hotel and — led by a cantor with a megaphone — broke into a loud rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”
On Saturday, as more than 10,000 people crammed into D.C. streets for protests, Romney tweeted about his father, former Michigan governor George W. Romney. While in office, Romney’s father marched in civil rights demonstrations outside Detroit in the late 1960s.