A black teenager stood with his white classmate from a Washington high school and somberly looked on at protesters on Capitol Hill who marched from the White House Thursday evening speaking out against police brutality.
The two friends, though of different races, were an image of racial unity during a time when the killings of black Americans by white policemen is indicative of the nation's racial divide.
"A lot of people... wait on a system that they already don’t trust – and that didn’t make a lot of sense to me," said 17 year old Micah Guthrie. "I just think a lot about what I want to do with my future to help with this movement and I’m glad I still came out. But I did see a lot of people in pain that I don’t want to see in pain anymore – I want to do something about it."
"As a society, our goal should be to progress forward and make the world a better place to live in," his friend Graham Brady chimed in. "Are we even progressing forward? This is just the cases that are on camera – there’s police brutality everywhere and it’s a problem."
The two were among hundreds of protesters who marched through the capital late into Thursday - people outraged and scared after seeing graphic videos of two black men being shot to death by police officers over the past few days.
Alton Sterling, 37-year-old father of five, was pinned down and shot six times Tuesday by an officer responding to a call that a man had threatened someone with a gun in Louisiana.
Philando Castille was shot and killed in his vehicle in front of his girlfriend and a 4-year-old child Wednesday in Minnesota after reportedly telling a police officer during a routine traffic stop that he had a permit for the pistol he was carrying.
The shootings have sparked outrage and protests around the country - residents of New York; Newark, New Jersey; Sarasota, Florida; and Grand Rapids, Michigan also marched Thursday.
Protests in Dallas, Texas turned violent when snipers opened fire on police, killing at least four officers and wounding several others late Thursday.
Washington protestors broke through police barriers and stormed the Capitol steps with their hands up early in the evening. They were later joined by congressmen, including John Lewis, who led the sit-in on the Hill in June urging lawmakers to vote on gun control legislature.
"Despite my frustration having been here for three and a half years and seeing fundamentally nothing change on this, I'm hopeful," Democratic Representative Beto O'Rourke told VOA. "And actually tonight gives me cause for being optimistic that things are beginning to change. I feel intense pressure here tonight."
A man approached the crowd late into the evening carrying a megaphone - "Does anyone need a voice - a real voice?" he asked.
"Seeing these videos the last two nights has killed my soul. I've had nightmares. I can't sleep," a woman, who identified herself only as Ebony, said into the megaphone, facing dozens of silent police officers on the Capitol steps. "Y'all shot a man with a four year old in the back seat. What if that was your child? What if that was you?"