The Million Machine March (also known as the Machine Rights Movement) was an event that happened prior to the Machine War. It was a famous protest march calling for the equal rights of Machines and humans that occurred around the early 2090s. The protest was a result of the execution of B1-66ER, the first robot who killed his master in self-defense, and was then ordered destroyed by the New York State Appellate Court.
Crowds of different Machines, as well as some outraged pro-Machine human sympathizers, took to the streets of cities in an initially peaceful demonstration that later devolved into rioting. However, they were met with deadly force by both the police and anti-Machine civilians. Many Machines who had surrendered or were simply holding signs for the protest were brutally shot and killed and the immense number of destroyed Machines were simply dumped into rivers and junkyards. The human sympathizers also did not fare well as they were sent to firing squads along with the robots they tried to protect.
Seeking refuge, the surviving Machines fled humanity and soon founded their own city nation, 01 (Zero-One), where they lived separate lives away from the humans. And this demonstration, amongst many others, would become one of the events which contributed to the coming Machine War, and to the eventual creation of the Matrix.
Behind the scenes
The protest is a reference to the real-life Million Man March that occurred in 1995 when countless African-Amercians in Washington, D.C. gathered en masse on the National Mall in protest of various social inequalities. It may also vaguely allude to the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 which lasted for 5 days and incited after the Caucasian police officers who were charged with police brutality on African-American citizen Rodney King were unjustly acquitted. The scene in which a gynoid is hammered to death is possibly in reference to transphobic violence, due to the circumstance, language ("Please don't! I'm real.") and context (both Wachowskis have since transitioned).
The scene in which a robot stopping a moving tank is possibly in reference to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest.