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Organizing the March

By August 26th, two days before the march was supposed to take place, there was much expectation for this demonstration. Not only was it to be nationally covered, but many newspapers and magazines covered it internationally. Experts were predicting that it would be one of the, if not the, largest gathering of people ever. Over 150,000 people were expected to attend the march. Over 40,000 of these were expected to be white Church groups and labor unions.

With such large numbers, that can become uncontrollable, there was the concern about violence breaking out. All leaves were cancelled for Washington's 2,900 police, and 1,000 police in nearby suburbs for the date of the march. There were to be 2,000 National Guardsmen on duty in the area. Not only were the police and Guardsmen to be swarming there, but in case of serious trouble there were Army units, trained in riot control, stationed at nearby military posts. Also, sponsors of the march provided some 2,000 civilian "marshals" of their own, including 1,500 Negro policemen from New York City who would be acting as private citizens on their day off.

Some 40 railroad trains and 2,500 buses were chartered to transport demonstrators to and from Washington. Special planes would be routed to fly delegations from the West Coast. Since all the marchers were due to arrive in Washington between 6 and 11 a.m. on the 28th, colossal traffic jams were expected to increase the already mad morning rush. Railroad men were wondering where to park all the special trains, and D.C. officials were wondering where to park all the buses and cars. The traffic jam for those leaving would be even worse.

Another dilemma that was anticipated was the housing problem. Negro families in the area were pressed to open their homes to the visitors. Some churches were to be used as dormitories. The visitors were being asked to bring box lunches- and some money.

The whole march was an extremely expensive demonstration- for taxpayers and for Washington businessmen as well as for the Negroes. Since most of the shops were closed this day, the local stores were also going to lose considerable money. There were 120 portable toilets and 16 first-aid stations in the march zone. Ambulances were to stand by. Spouts were to be attached to fire hydrants to provide drinking water. The cost to federal and D.C. taxpayers was estimated at a minimum of $100,000.

Sponsors of the march, also, had money problems. While the transportation costs-running into hundreds of thousands were borne largely by individuals, there were other costs: for leaflets, radio equipment for the marshals, $16,000 for a public-address system. Buses had to be hired to transport marchers from Union Station.

Some of the organizations sponsoring the march were: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Urban League, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and the Negro American Labor Committee. Some labor unions, also, helped the Negro organization pay for the large bill.

The AFL-CIO executive council, however, refused to endorse the march. The President of AFL-CIO, George Meany, once said, "In my judgement, there is a great question whether the march will help legislation".

No matter how prepared anyone was, no one was sure as to what the effects of this march would be.