Guardians of the March: Origins of Black Law Enforcement Associations

MUSEUM Public Programs

Public Programs of the National Law Enforcement Museum

Guardians of the March: Origins of Black Law Enforcement Associations

The New York Police Department Guardians Association, founded in 1943, played a key role during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. The Guardians were part of the legion of 1,500 unarmed, off-duty police officers tasked with providing protection for the event’s speakers as well as the 250,000 demonstrators who assembled on the National Mall during what is regarded as one of the most momentous displays of civilian activism in United States history. Their role in the March on Washington was featured prominently in the recent award-winning Netflix biopic Rustin.

This Black History Month, the National Law Enforcement Museum will host a program to highlight the triumphs of the Guardians Association and the experience of the officers who are members of the fraternal organization – both past and present. We will examine their achievements, the hardships they’ve faced, the impact they’ve had on the experience of black law enforcement officers in the NYPD and beyond, and their influence on organizations like the National Black Police Association (NBPA) and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

Introductory Remarks

  • Gary Smith, Senior Director Assets Protection, Target Corporation

Keynote Speakers

  • Rodney Bryant, President, NOBLE
  • Willie Williams, National President, National Black Police Association


  • Ronald Hampton, Former Executive Director, National Black Police Association


  • Haneef Nelson, NYPD (retired)
  • Terry Watson, Founder, Strategies for Justice, BWMP LLC
  • Ali Al-Rahman, Ph.D. Professor, SUNY Nassau
  • Charles Billups, NYPD (retired)
  • Sgt. Patrick Gordon, NYPD, President, The Guardians Association’s NYPD Chapter

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