Foyle MP Elisha McCallion told thousands of people who completed the originally intended route of the October 5, 1968 march on Saturday that mass rallies for civil rights needed to become a regular occurrence.
Speaking to a huge crowd of supporters and women’s, disability, gay and Irish language activists in Shipquay Street following the march from Duke Street, she said: “While it is extremely encouraging to see so many people on the streets today, the message is clear: the job isn’t done.
“There is so much more we need to do. I would like to encourage every one of you to get involved in the campaigns because there are many campaigns out there, whatever your particular interest.
“Make yourself known to some of the Sinn Féin members or some of the activists that are here today. We need to make sure that we are out mobilising like this regularly.
“It’s not good enough that we meet like this once every 50 years. I would encourage you to keep up the spirit and thanks ever so much to every single person for attending.”
Earlier Mrs. McCallion has marched at the head of the party’s ‘March for Equaliy’ alongside Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, vice-President Michelle O’Neill, MEP Martina Anderson, Foyle MLAs Raymond McCartney and Karen Mullan and East Derry MLA Caoimhe Archibald.
They were accompanied hy a range of activist groups and campaigners including An Dream Dearg, Destined, Borders Against Brexit, Take Back The City and Martin McConnellogue, Chair of Unison LGBT and a member of Foyle Pride.
Although there are no official attendance figures for the mass rally, Sinn Féin had projected up to 5,000 would participate. Several thousand certainly took part as the demonstration took over nine minutes to wind its way around Carlisle Circus after making its way across Craigavon Bridge.
The rally met with a counter-protest by a few dozen members of the Cherish All The Children Equally Human Rights Association - including former Sinn Féin MLA Franice Brolly and Dr. Anne McCloskey, when it arrived at its terminus at the bottom of Shipquay Street.
Several dozen anti-abortion campaigners from the ‘Precious Life’ organisation, in a protest against any move to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to the North, meanwhile, marched at the rear of the parade, demanding ‘civil rights for the unborn.”
Several of these campaigners were interspersed throughout the crowd wielding anti-abortion placards during the course of the main addresses.
After Martina Anderson led a rendition of the civil rights anthem ‘We shall overcome,’ Mrs. McDonald told a packed Shipquay Street how republicans like Mary Nelis, Francie Molloy and Mitchel McLaughlin, who had all marched on October 5, 1968, were proud to claim a part in its heritage.
“It is an honour to be here in Derry. The city of Martin McGuinness, John Hume and now of Elisha McCallion. This proud city stands on the shoulders of giants,” she said.
Mrs. McDonald said the civil rights campaign of the 1960s helped achieve the dismantlement of the old ‘Orange’ State but that the fight for equality was yet to be won.
“While so much has changed, so much progress made, we have much further still to travel: For women, bodily autonomy. For our LGBT+ community, the right to marriage equality. For victims of conflict, truth and justice.
“For the rights and recognition of our Gaeilgeoirí. Rights are not orange or green issues. The blocking of rights by the DUP is an injustice to all. All facilitated by a British Government hell bent on Brexit, dependent on the DUP.
"They have learnt nothing. Discrimination was wrong in 1968. It is wrong in 2018. It was fiercely opposed in 1968. It must be fiercely opposed in 2018,” she said.
She warned power-sharing will only be restored “on the basis of equality, rights and respect.
“We will have full civil rights and we will have equality. And we will have a new and united Ireland. We face the future in the sure knowledge that equality will prevail. That we shall overcome,” she said.