As the uprising in response to the brutal killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore continues, it brings to the forefront the need for substantive action to address widespread systemic oppression of low-income communities of color by law enforcement across the United States. The DCFerguson Movement calls on the D.C. Council to dedicate the $2.9 million in new funding for police in the FY 2016 budget to community-led security initiatives. Currently, the Bowser Administration is proposing that $2.9 million be dedicated to put 48 new police officers on the streets. This proposal comes in addition to the egregious allocation of $5.1 million for body cameras on police officers, to collect footage that Bowser wants to make exempt from open records law.
Such proposals demonstrate with great clarity that the Bowser Administration and Chief of Police Cathy Lanier have not headed calls for police reform that have reverberated around the country, including here in D.C. Therefore, the DCFerguson Movement is launching a public campaign to demand significant funding, believing that the $2.9 million currently earmarked for new officers should be redirected to initiatives that actually reflect a commitment from the District to empowering communities, rather than continuing the current flawed, racially biased, militarized model of policing that has been so rightfully criticized around the entire world.
DCFerguson has written a letter that has been signed by at least 30 community stakeholders, including Organizing for Neighborhood Equity DC, Empower DC, Justice First, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Workers United-DC, National Black United Front, We Act Radio, Working Families Party, DC Jobs with Justice, NAACP-DC Labor Committee, Alliance of Concerned Men, Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the Brothers and Sisters, National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens, Re-Entry Network for Returning Citizens, Employment Justice Center, Restaurant Opportunities Center-DC, American Friends Service Committee-DC, Fair Budget Coalition, American Federation of Government Employees Local 12, Washington Peace Center, Many Languages One Voice, George Washington Roosevelt Institute, Ecolocity Inc, AU Student Worker Alliance (USAS Local 21), Georgetown Solidarity Committee, GWU Progressive Student Union, DC Statehood Green Party, Metro-DC Democratic Socialists of America, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the ANSWER Coalition. The letter reads as follows:
We, the undersigned, are very concerned that the proposed FY 2016 budget contributes to the forms of policing so widely condemned around the nation by the Black Lives Matter Movement. Specifically, the budget proposes to spend $2.9 million to place 48 new police officers on the street. The strategy of increasing police presence to address social ills is not only ineffective, but highly threatening to our communities, particularly those who already suffer constant harassment and occupation of their neighborhoods by law enforcement.
As such, we believe the time is right to try something new. As close as Baltimore and as far as Brazil communities across the Western Hemisphere are creating new, community-led initiatives, to reduce violence, and ease re-entry. In Baltimore, Maryland the “Safe Streets” program has been widely credited with having a significant impact decreasing community violence. This has been accomplished by employing “violence interrupters” who mediate disputes in “high-crime” areas including many where one or both parties are armed. In one neighborhood, Safe Streets reduced murders by 56%! Unsurprisingly, cities like Richmond, California, and New York City employ similar programs.
We are calling on the D.C. Council to appropriate that $2.9 million dollars for similar initiatives.
In particular, we want the money to be used to establish a council made up of representatives from community organizations, the Council, and the Mayor's office to develop in FY 2016 a working pilot program focusing on institutionalizing community-led peacekeeping efforts and restorative justice initiatives.
Our nation is in the midst of a massive conversation about how to keep citizens safe while respecting the human rights of all and the District needs to become part of this conversation in a real way. More police and tougher laws have been tried for the past 35 years, isn't it time we try something new?
The reactions of the Bowser Administration and Chief Lanier to widespread public concerns have ranged from indifference to outright denial. DCFerguson will be present at the May 4 Committee on the Judiciary FY 2016 Budget Oversight Hearing to protest the ineffective and harmful budget proposals put forth by the Bowser Administration, and to demand that the community’s voice be heard. Is the District of Columbia willing to own up to its own history – and present use of – brutal occupation-style tactics in Black communities? Here is a perfect chance; we hope they take it.
The #DCFerguson Movement was initiated by the National Black United Front, ANSWER Coalition, We Act Radio as well as organizers affiliated with ONE DC and of no particular affiliation. Our central organizing core is made up of Eugene Puryear, Salim Adofo, Yasmina Mrabet, Sean Blackmon, and a representative of We Act Radio.