DC Folks: Time to Declare Sides

DC’s people face a dire threat to health and well-being in these post-election days. We deserve leadership that will protect all of us, and that means more of us, in- and outside of DC, will have to speak up now. [This piece, posted at 4:30 on 11/13, was updated on 11/15].

Virus Exposure

DC is at grave risk for spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus when our quarantine regulations are ignored, as with the planned #MillionMAGA gathering this weekend (11/13–15/20). The risk is greatest for those here who are least able to protect themselves, self-isolate if exposed, and to recover their health if infected.

We need government leaders who speak up for adherence to DC’s current travel restrictions and for proper face-coverings and appropriate distancing (even if they occasionally exempt themselves at whim). We all, including civic and faith leaders, can remind our leaders of what the public trust requires of them.

For anyone who wants to contact the mayor: (202) 727–2643. TTY: 711. Email: eom@dc.gov

UPDATE 11/15/20: Beginning on Friday and throughout Saturday, we continued to see many non-distancing, non-mask-wearing people. Here is just one image from a gathering on Saturday. (Image descriptions: crowd shoulder to shoulder, only a few with masks covering nose and mouth. Still from video of singing national anthem outside Willard Hotel, downtown DC, 11/14/20.)

(credit: still from Twitter video by Brendan Gutenschwager, independent journalist).

UPDATE as of 4:30 p.m. 11/13/20 — Plenty of people not distancing and without masks downtown already.

Sanctioned Violence

Many among our diverse population are threatened, physically and psychologically, when our town is used as a gathering place for white supremacists. This threat is compounded when public forces — including Metropolitan Police Department and government officials — align themselves, through direct action or complicit silence, with violent ideology.

This Saturday’s gathering is being promoted with many hateful slogans, including a fascist anthem: “…in our own towns we’re foreigners now...By God, we’ll have our home again. By God, we’ll have our home. By blood or sweat we’ll get there yet. By God, we’ll have our home.” Much work is needed to help protect those, in- and outside of DC, who are at risk from such rhetoric and the violence it promotes. We can begin by demanding more from all public servants, immediately.

Dangerous Disparity

Election week gave us blatant examples of MPD’s disparate treatment of protesters and large gatherings, depending on neighborhood and racial mix of the crowd: Compare MPD’s aggressive tactics around the Black-led gathering in Black Lives Matter Plaza on Nov. 3, e.g., with that of the Nov. 7 gathering, including large numbers of white people, on the same spot. Such differential treatment serves to criminalize Black people and undermine Black-led exercise of First Amendment rights.

In addition, MPD positively engages with hate groups, including the Proud Boys: Protecting Proud Boys while they party, joining in, and even supporting their false accusations of violence on the part of Black Lives Matter.

After polls closed on election night, in the wee hours of Nov. 4, MPD responded to a stabbing near a downtown bar. One of the participants in the altercation, Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, accused BLM members of the crime. MPD repeated these unsubstantiated claims to the press, and, although MPD later back-pedaled, some news reports have yet to be retracted. A few hours after the initial statements, MPD called the original report “preliminary in nature” and admitted that they had no evidence for the accusation against BLM.

BLM DC said at the time: "We condemn the MPD’s intentional spread of disinformation that emboldens white supremacists and undermines our movement in defense of Black lives. MPD's false statements endanger our lives."

USA Today adds a security expert’s perspective:

The department's willingness to echo the accusations of the Proud Boys is another example of law enforcement's deference to the group, said Michael German, a former FBI special agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program.

“This group has been involved in all kinds of violent activities, and it seems that law enforcement’s response to them has been reluctant,” German said. “That sends a message to far-right groups that their violence is sanctioned by the police.”

— “Police Echoed Proud Boys Claim,” by Will Carless, USA Today, 11/12/20

Public Safety Demands

We have not seen the “independent, fair, and impartial investigation” BLM DC demanded and the District deserves, regarding the November 4 incident and MPD response. MPD has yet to issue an apology or a full retraction. DC officials have not insisted on either one. And public outcry has been minimal.

Too many of us— including government officials, civic and faith leaders, the people of DC and our friends — have as yet failed to declare our side in this deadly matter. For the safety of BLM DC and other leaders, and for general public safety, we can no longer tolerate a police force that vilifies Black-led movements and cozies up to white supremacists, thus promoting violence toward the District’s people.

Going into this dangerous weekend and beyond, we need to know which side MPD will be on. We need to know whether we can count on the Mayor and DC Council. We need civic and faith leaders to join us in these basic, public safety demands.

(UPDATE as of 4:30 p.m. 11/13/20 — We already see people, many unmasked, gathering at BLM Plaza, tearing down memorials and other signs, climbing over barricades, and otherwise using the space — WHILE PROTECTED BY, rather than targeted by, MPD.)

UPDATE 11/15/20: Multiple reports from 11/14 describe aggressive policing of Black people and police protection of white 45-supporters. (One white woman tearing down wooden “Black Lives Matter” signs from LiUNA building downtown was gently escorted away but not arrested.) Here are just two of the many pertinent images from @ChuckModi1 on Twitter:

First image shows black youth, mask lowered to chin for interview, standing several feet from a police line at BLM Plaza; in the video, the youth tells independent journalist Chuck Modi how his father was arrested after arguing with a 45-supporter who was not wearing a mask. Second image shows masked MPD officer proudly posing with his arm around an unmasked woman in a red “Keep America Great!” hat in front of a TRUMP flag.

Still from video of ChuckModi1 showing young Black man whose father was arrested.
Still image from @ChuckModi1


Contact Mayor Muriel Bowser (Twitter: @MayorBowser). Contact MPD Chief Newsham (@ChiefNewsham). Contact DC Councilmembers to find out when and how they’re planning to exercise oversight in this matter. Contact leaders in DC faith communities and local community organizations. Ask them all: When it comes to protecting the District, including our local BLM DC, from white supremacists, which side are you on?

PS to Jews: See also JTA story and “Dear Jews who say ‘Black Lives Matter’”

PS to all who have not seen BLM demands from Election Night:

We demand an independent, fair, and impartial investigation into last night’s [Nov 3] violence triggered by white supremacist groups. Violent white extremists want nothing more than to antagonize and intimidate people who exercise their fundamental right to participate in public demonstrations.

We condemn the MPD’s intentional spread of disinformation that emboldens white supremacists and undermines our movement in defense of Black lives. MPD’s false statements endanger our lives. We also demand the MPD put an end to intimidation and suppression tactics that undermine the right of our people to be in the streets.

We demand an immediate and full retraction of the outright lie spread by the MPD that BLM had anything to do with what did, or did not happen [in the stabbing incident].

— full statement from BLM-DC at http://bit.ly/EN_BLMDC




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