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Upheaval In The Government As U.S. Capitol Riot Fallout Spreads

DC Media Group - Sat, 01/09/2021 - 13:21

The riot at the U.S. Capitol at the South Lawn will be remembered a dark day in Legislative history. Photo: John Zangas

Washington, DC — Dozens of Legislators led by House Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D), called for the Vice President to remove Executive powers from the President as the country reeled from the Wednesday riots at the U.S. Capitol. Lead Democratic Lawmakers said they would start impeachment proceedings against President Trump on Monday if Vice President Pence did not act quickly to remove the President under provisions of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. Some Legislators are calling the riots an attempted coup while others are demanding those involved be charged with sedition.

Legislators placed the blame for the riots squarely on the White House and President Trump for comments during his “Save America” speech at the White House ellipse before some of his followers dissolved into a mob and entered the Capitol. The President attacked the election procedures in swing states and the “fake news media”.

“We will never concede. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” the President said to thousands who traveled from across the country. His comments meandered on a theme of baseless election fraud conspiracies as he has repeated for 2 months. He has refused to concede the election result. Trump urged his followers to “Fight like hell,” before telling them to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and give our Republicans, the weak ones…the kind of pride and boldness they need to take back our country.” Trump said that he would go to the Capitol with his followers. He did not go with them. Instead, he remained at the White House to watch the mob action on a screen.

Mob Breached U.S. Capitol During Electoral College Vote Count

His speech was timed to precede by an hour an ongoing joint Congressional session to count Electoral College votes which began at 1:00 PM. The mob arrived at the U.S. Capitol during this vote count and breached the House Chamber where a session was in progress to debate the Electoral College votes of the State of Arizona.

House members sheltered in place as security alarms went off. Some members evacuated through tunnels to a secure bunker while a mob of several hundred pushed through multiple security checkpoints at one of the most protected buildings in Washington DC.

Video published by Insider shows U.S. Capitol Police Officers standing by impassively as dozens of the unorganized mob entered the building. One officer is seen recording video from a cellphone while the mob entered matter-of-factly from the South-side entrance. Another officer tells a journalist, “You’re not allowed to be in here,” while standing and doing nothing to respond to the mob breach.

Video shows U.S. Capitol police shooting a woman attempting to gain entrance to a locked office was released Friday. The woman, who was identified as Ashli Babbitt, and an avid Trump supporter, attempted to climb through an office window with a U.S. Capitol Police officer moving towards her as he fires his weapon.

Video of the West-side of the U.S. Capitol shows police finally taking decisive action to clear the mob off the steps leading to the police headquarters of the Capitol.

Government Cooperation Deeply Fractured

The mob confronted police on the West-side near the police entrance. Photo: John Zangas

Two branches of government have been thrown into upheaval as recriminations between Congressional members flew on Twitter and White House resignations continued on Thursday night and Friday afternoon.

U.S. Representative Member Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) (D) sparred with Texas Congressman Ted Cruz (R) over an email Sen. Cruz sent to solicit donations in the riot aftermath. Sen. Cruz responded calling her “a liar.”

A spate of high-profile resignations included seven White House political appointees who left their positions citing the President’s “Save America” speech, the ensuing Capitol riot, and its bloody aftermath on Wednesday. They were followed by resignations from two key Cabinet positions — Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Also on Thursday, the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate Capitol Police, Michael Stenger tendered his resignation as a result of a failure by Capitol Police to maintain security. Early on Friday Chief of Capitol Police, Steven Sund, also submitted his resignation, effective January 16, as Senator Chuck Schumer threatened to fire him the moment he is sworn in as Senate Majority Leader on January 20.

Late Thursday night U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died from injuries sustained during the mob attack  inside the Capitol. It brought to 5 the number of deaths as a result of what is now being called an attempted coup. Two others died of medical circumstances outside on the Capitol grounds during the riots and another unlawful trespasser died inside under circumstances not yet certain. A video of dramatic confrontations at one entrance on the South-side (Parapet where Inaugurations are held) shows a 30 minute siege between police and rioters. It is believed this video depicts the incident involving officer Sicknick. The Capitol is the scene of a large-scale federal investigation as police agencies piece together Wednesday incidents.

Questions remain about how and why U.S. Capitol Police failed to secure the building as they have previously done for many other First Amendment assemblies. Many demonstrations of a much smaller threat magnitude have been met with adequate U.S. Capitol police preparation. These events include Democracy Spring, Democracy Rising, Occupy Congress, Environmental actions, Pipeline Protests, Black Lives Matter Demonstrations, Actions by CODEPINK, Extinction Rebellion, the Million Man March 20th Anniversary, and many others.

Right-Wing Antagonists Involved In Riot

 

The ransacked office of the Senate Parliamentarian. The office of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi was also breached. Photo (screen-grab): Ali Zaslav

Far-right wing operators were among those photographed inside the Capitol during the riot, looting, and destruction. Over 80 have been arrested so far. Video posted on social media by members of the mob is aiding in their own arrests.

Richard Barnett, a right-wing Trump-supporter, was among those who breached the Capitol and went into Nancy Pelosi’s office, sat on her chair with his feet on her desk, and later bragged about removing mail from her office. He was arrested Thursday.

Another in the mob was identified as Jake Angeli, a Qanon conspiracy supporter from Arizona dressed in buffalo horns and a pelt on his head. He was arrested and faces multiple charges for unlawful entry and entry into a secure building.

West Virginia Delegate Derick Evans (R) filmed himself entertaining the Capitol, saying, “We’re in, we’re it! Derick Evans is in the Capitol” as he entered the legislative. The West Viginia Legislative Body is considering what actions to take against him, according to a published report.

The far-right antagonists and self-proclaimed patriots rioting in the Capitol wrought destruction in the Capitol not seen since the War of 1812 when the British assaulted Washington and burned down the Capitol in 1814.

A published report implicated police officers from Seattle in the riots. Komo News reported two officers were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.


Radical Right-Wing Impunity Led To Riots

The Charlottesville riots of 2017 and subsequent Proud Boy mayhem in Washington, DC, during the November and December “Make America Great Again“ rallies warned of what was to come. Social media application Parlor, a preferred right-wing platform, was replete with the statements of far-right wing operators discussing their intentions for the march to the Capitol on Wednesday. Monitoring such sites should have provided law enforcement with advance notice to prepare for contingencies before the riots.

Some were comparing police enforcement at the U.S. Capitol police to police enforcement at Black Lives Matter demonstrators. It is self-evident that activists in Washington, DC and other cities experiences with law enforcement were more harsh than the police enforcement of the mob at the Capitol. The recent Proud Boy mayhem in Washington, DC also saw lax police enforcement and demonstrates again inequity in law enforcement application between Black Lives Matter Activists and the mob at the Capitol. The protests and unrest following the police killing of George Floyd resulted in thousands of arrests. The two events compare as U.S. Capitol police at times stood by impassively watching the mob penetrate the U.S. Capitol, destroy furniture, looted, and defecated in its halls.

News personality Joy Reed commented on the variance in law enforcement, saying, “If that was a Black Lives Matter protest in DC, there would be people shackled, arrested, or dead.” Reed also lambasted the two tiered police posture in America for failure to prosecute with equality.

The 25th Amendment May Not Soon Settle An Anxious Nation

The President has already lost the confidence of the Speaker of the House and at least two members of his cabinet and innermost circle as they resigned. Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shulman have already called on Vice President Pence to convene a meeting with remaining Cabinet members to discuss invoking the 25th Amendment but the Vice President has either decided not to act on their request or he is still considering it. With under 14 days until the Inauguration it remained a question as to Vice President Pence’s willingness to split with Trump and force the issue on Trump’s Cabinet.

Section 4 of the 25th Amendment provides guidance for transfer of power in the case of a President who may be unable to fulfill his constitutional role but cannot or will not step aside. In this circumstance the Vice President and the Cabinet would presumably reach a decision on the matter. It also provides for the option of the Congress to designate a body to consider transfer of power. But Congress is deeply split after years of partisanship and acrimony along party lines.

The 25th Amendment was signed in 1965 and ratified by the States in 1967 to iron out ambiguity in the succession clause of the Constitution. The amendment was invoked during Watergate and several times during the George W. Bush Administration while the President was undergoing medical procedures and power was temporarily handed to Vice President Cheney. But the 25th Amendment has been shown its impotence during the present discord between government branches and within the Legislature.

The Fall Of The House of The Republican Party

This latest episode of government upheaval is by far the worst situation Congress has dealt with in decades, including the recent incidents during the tumult of Trump’s term. It goes far past the chaos of the final days of the Nixon Administration as the Watergate scandal of 1973-4 led to his resignation. Those of the GOP and closest Trump supporters who stuck with Trump and challenged the result of the November 6 election, both in the press and in the courts, and those who remained silent altogether, risked democratic norms in their ambition for power. The results have contributed to growing frustration and anger among their supporters and base and the blowback will be difficult to quell. Plans are already afoot among Trump’s supporters to return to D.C. on January 17 in preparation for the inauguration on the 20th.

Key members of Congress and over 100 members of the House have supported and encouraged belief in conspiracies about the 2020 election. These conspiracies about what they consider the rigged elections include fake mail-in ballots, hacked vote machines, stuffed ballot boxes, and dead people voting. Over 60 court cases challenging the election have been lost, causing their supporters and donors great disappointment. Frustration within that base has further abraded trust in the GOP.

Wednesday’s events ended GOP efforts to derail the election. But deep resentment among Trump’s base remains. The party is now splintered between Trump supporters and traditional conservatives and has effectively lost control of two branches of the government which it enjoyed when Trump was elected. Blindly aligning behind a charismatic but divisive leader for the sake of power has cost the GOP much of its political influence. It could take a generation before it regains the trust of Trump’s base and the branches of government it has lost. In that time the demographics of the country will have shifted towards minority influence as more states turn blue. Minorities have traditionally found their voices in the Democratic party.

Update: on Friday night Twitter permanently shut down Trump’s account and preferred method of communication with his supporters and followers who number over 80 million. Twitter safety cited Trump’s continued efforts to incite violence following a temporary suspension on Wednesday.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence. In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action,“ the Twitter account stated.

This will silence Trump’s voice and diminish his sway over his base on an what has been his influential media node.

Trump was also banned by Facebook and Instagram on Thursday.

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Trump Supporters Riot, Breach U.S. Capitol – Violent Clashes Cause Death and Injuries

DC Media Group - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 22:47

The U.S. Capitol was the scene of an unprecedented civil unrest as two were shot inside during a breach as the Legislative Body counted Electoral College votes. Photo: John Zangas

Washington, DC — In one of the darkest days in U.S. legislative history, Trump supporters rioted and breached the North side of the U.S. Capitol today as thousands rallied outside urging the Congress to overturn the result of the Presidential election. The Trump mob penetrated the building by force while a joint session of Congress was already in session to count the certificates of U.S. States, finalizing the votes of the Electoral College, as provided by the Constitution.

Capitol police allegedly responded with teargas and a volley of live fire inside the legislative body. Details on injuries and deaths continue to be murky. One woman died on the scene from a gunshot wound in her neck or her chest. Three others died by “medical emergency” according to Capitol Police, one of whom had reportedly been crushed by the crowd. One individual was reportedly stabbed but it is unclear who was responsible for this incident. Several police officers were injured and one US Capitol police officer died.

Rioters breached the House side of the Legislative Body while it was in session. They also rampaged through House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.

The incidents were shortly thereafter followed by more Trump supporters breaching the police entrance at the West side of the U.S. Capitol. U.S. Capitol Police successfully blocked the breach about 10-feet into the entrance. About 30 minutes later police responded with flash-bangs, teargas and batons, beating back the mob of hundreds who were by then breaking windows and entering the building. Dozens fought with police as they were pushed back and off the steps of the West side. Over 100 U.S. Capitol Police outfitted with riot gear formed cordons as they deployed flash bangs and teargas. There were no arrests observed at the West side of the Capitol during this subsequent breach.

DC Mayor Declared Curfew

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a 6 PM curfew as a result of the Trump supporters’ mob actions. Trump supporters identified themselves as travelers from States across the country, including North Dakota, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and other States. The mob consisted of visitors to DC who were egged on by unsubstantiated Presidential proclamations that the election was stolen.

Earlier in the day, a group of conservative legislators objected to the certificate of Electoral College votes from the State of Arizona. This resulted in suspension of the vote counting procedures and forced a House debate on the objection. It was about this time that the mob breached the Capitol building, causing the Legislature to adjourn for the test of the day. At the time of this publication the vote tally is still incomplete.

Trump Twitter Account Locked For “Severe Violations”

At 7 PM, Twitter responded to a series of three Presidential messages posted on its platform earlier in the day, by locking Trump’s account for the first time. Twitter announced the account would be locked for 12 hours following the removal of the messages. “If the messages are not removed the account will remain locked,” the announcement read.

Twitter locked Trump’s account for violating terms of service, effectively muzzling him. Screen grab: Twitter.

“As a result of the unprecedented and ongoing violent situation in Washington, DC, we have required the removal of three [presidential] tweets that were posted earlier today for repeated and severe violations of our integrity policy,” a subsequent message from the Twitter Safety account read.

The President’s Twitter account has been the preferred gateway for policy changes and cabinet personnel hirings and firings. The president’s account remains locked as of this posting.

Violence Spills Into Black Lives Matter Plaza

Later in the evening, Trump supporters descended into the downtown K Street area of Washington, DC where they continued violent confrontations at Black Lives Matter Plaza. A group of Trump supporters challenged and fought with a group of activists who were already in the Plaza. The fighting resulted in several injuries. A brick was thrown injuring one man in the leg and a Trump supporter was knocked out (video).

Today’s events mark a pivot point and a dark testimonial to a fractious democracy. The keystone of the democratic process in this country appears to be falling under its own weight. It should be noted that for years the Legislative Body has been unable to work past its own partisanship and to guide itself past its own internal squabbles. It may very well take the country down with it..

We will update this story as new developments are learned.

This article has been updated to verify reports of injuries and deaths that occurred at the U.S. Capitol.

Thousands of Trump supporters mobbed the U.S. Capitol as scores breached the legislative body. Two were shot, allegedly by U.S. Capitol Police. One youth died. Photo: John Zangas

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Proud Boys Vandalize Churches and Clash with Antifascists in DC

DC Media Group - Sun, 12/13/2020 - 17:54

Antifascists clash with Proud Boy hate group in DC. Many were injured in hand-to hand conflict. Photo: John Zangas

Washington DC-A night of confrontations and violent clashes followed a day-long rally of MAGA, the followers of the defeated Trump Administration. Proud Boy hate groups led roving groups of pro-Trump MAGA followers through downtown DC, looking to vent their frustration over a lost Presidential election.

Proud Boys tore down Black Lives Matter signs on several churches and businesses and attempted to penetrate police lines to attack anti-fascist opposition. Confrontations began early in the day at Black Lives Matter Plaza where an anti-fascist group, Black Lives Matter Civil Rights organizations, and allied groups gathered to protect the plaza from a repeat of Proud Boy vandalism which occurred on November 7.

Trump flew in his Air Force helicopter over the MAGA Freedom Plaza rally multiple times before departing for the Army-Navy game. His fly-over egged on the MAGA crowd and fueled their suspicion that he was victim of a rigged election wrought with mailed ballot fraud, ballot theft, and fake signature balloting, resulting in his defeat.

Earlier it was reported that the leader of Proud Boys had been to the White House for a tour. Typically such visits require vetted credentialing before admission is permitted.

After the rally at Freedom Plaza, Proud Boy groups marched downtown towards Black Lives Matter Plaza. And as night fell more Proud Boys poured from area hotels they had booked and brought with them a wave of violence to the streets. They were easily identified by their yellow and black clothing and slogans written on them.

Venerable Historically Prominent Churches Vandalized

Proud Boys tore down a Black Lives Matter sign attached to the grounds of Asbury United Methodist Church at 11th K Streets, and burned it in the street. Senior Reverend Ianther Mills responded to the vandalism in a letter published early Sunday morning. “For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings. Sadly we must point out that if this had been a group of men of color marauding through the streets and destroying property, they would have been followed and arrested,” she wrote.

Senior Reverend Ianther Mills responded to the vandalism in a letter published early Sunday morning.

The Asbury United Methodist Church has been in existence since before the Civil War and has served as a node of resistance to racism since it was founded 184 years ago.

Another church, African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 15th and M Streets NW, was also vandalized when its Black Lives Matter sign was torn down by Proud Boys. It was the church that held the funeral of Frederick Douglas, whose home was in Anacostia, MD.

Dr. Cornell William Brooks, a member of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, wrote on Twitter, “On my Sabbath I wake up to the disgusting image of Proud Boys tearing down a Black Lives Matter banner from my church. Will Trump who held a bible up in front of a church bless not condemn this racist vandalism against Metropolitan AME church?”

Dr. Cornel William Brooks condemned the church vandalism. Screen shot from Twitter.

Luther Place, a third church vandalized, which supported the Civil Rights movement and Peace movement of the 1960s and 1970s, was also attacked on Friday night when its Black Lives Matter sign was torn down. Saturday night several supporters affiliated with Luther Place stood guard near a Black Lives Matter sign replacement under its head steeple. It is not known who was responsible for the vandalism at Luther Place on Friday night.

Religous leaders responded with support to the congregations of those churches vandalized, condemning actions of Proud Boys and demanding the Trump Administration also condemn it. DC Police Tactics Largely Ineffective
For their part police stood in lines to separate the clashing groups but their tactical positions were primarily bureaucratic. In many instances groups of Proud Boys easily broke through lines by flanking police lines through alleyways. Then Proud Boys sought out anti-fascist opposition by attacking through those alleys. And even where police lines faltered, groups clashed and fought hand-to-hand while police were observed making no arrests at those particular points of conflict.

The violence continued unabated for hours in multiple locations throughout downtown. Four were reportedly stabbed and in serious condition at hospital. There were 23 arrests throughout the night. Many others were beaten and injured. Proud Boys confronted and attacked small groups caught out in the open.

At one point on 14th and K Street, just a few hundred feet from the Washington Post building, Proud Boys pushed past police bicycle lines and poured onto K Street to fight with an anti-fascist counter group. For unexplained reasons police made no arrests at that site of confrontation.

Proud Boy Hate Group Growing Under Trump

The Proud Boy hate group is new but their violence is not new in this country. It is a twist of roots to white supremacy with hoods off in the form of a gang. The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 and involved in the riots of Charlottesville in 2017. They have shown up for hate rallies in New York, Portland, Olympia, and Boston. They are classified as a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center. They are tracked by groups such as One People’s Project, a group that specializes in tracking hate groups.

Some of the anti-fascist shields used to protect opposition during the conflict. Photo: John Zangas

Daryl Lamont Jenkins, founder of One People’s Project said that the Proud Boys played themself out Saturday night when they attacked historic churches and harmed random people on the streets. “There’s going to be a reckoning over this. When you take down and burn the Black Lives Matter banner from the church where Frederick Douglas had his funeral thats going to be a big problem,” he said.

Jenkins, who was in Washington DC to observe the MAGA groups and Proud Boys as part of his work said also that police were forced to react to the mayhem Proud Boys brought to DC after the November MAGA rally. He still gave police a “D-minus” rating for allowing the sustained violence and damage to chruches in downtown DC.

“Even the CATO institute is coming after them,” he said. The CATO institute is a libertarian think tank that advocates and influences conservative political policy.

Mainstream media was not visible during the clashes and did not video record these incidents. Independent media coverage was continuous and immediately posted to social media.

There is certain to be backlash over the Proud Boy vandalism at Washington DC area churches. We will update this story as developments are learned.

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America Starts New Chapter As Election Called For Biden-Harris

DC Media Group - Sun, 11/08/2020 - 18:28
There was a spontaneous celebration and jubilant dancing as thousands celebrated the election outcome. Photo: John Zangas

Washington DC-The streets around the White House erupted into joyous celebration Saturday as thousands converged following an AP report calling the race for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Motorists blew horns and thousands quickly swarmed to the few open areas around the White House not gated and fenced in. They carried with them Biden-Harris signs and banners. Several held life sized caricatures of Biden and Harris.

The country waited anxiously for five days while a handful of states counted mailed ballots mostly from Democratic urban areas, tilting the final counts toward the Democratic ticket, By early Saturday afternoon the outcome shifted resolutely towards the Biden-Harris ticket and was called by the Associated Press. Two critical swing-states, Nevada and Pennsylvania netted 26 electoral college to Biden Harris giving them 290 total; 20 more than needed to win.

Dancing In The Streets

Groups dominated mostly by youth joined in euphoric dance, cheer, and embraces, while others shed tears of joy. A group called Refuse Fascism set up speakers in Black Lves Matter Plaza and a DJ spun favored songs of celebration while thousands danced as if they were one family.

Several climbed atop street lights and showered crowds with champagne and threw cans of beer to waiting arms. Wave after wave of celebrants pushed closely together to join the commotion on H Street. It was not possible to get close to the White House grounds because 15-foot fencing has closed Lafayette Park long Black Lives Matter Plaza, scene of intense skirmishes between police and protesters in June. The joyous celebration continued late into the night.

Youth climbed traffic poles and popped champagne corks, spraying the crowd below. Photo: John Zangas

A woman who has been protesting at Black Lives Matter Plaza, since June, said she never expected to see a day of so much joy. She waved a banner while wearing a mask labeled ‘Madam Vice President.’ “I’m happy I no longer have to come down here to protest,” she said. Others held signs of discontent for the last 4 years of leadership. Among them were “You’re Fired,” a play on the Apprentice TV show, “Trump is Over,” and “Fuerda Ya,” a Spanish expression for (get) out already.

As late afternoon set in the crowd grew, making it impossible to adhere to the 6 foot social distancing limit. Nearly every person was wearing a mask but the COVID pandemic is at its highest spread rate with over 120,000 new cases nationally yesterday alone.

A Defeated Trump Refuses To Abdicate

Trump did not break character and therefore he did not concede. His all caps message on Twitter that he had won by getting more votes largely fell mute in the press and was ignored in the celebration outside the White House. He had previously said he would not concede even if he did lose.

Some dressed in characters. Women of CODEPINK dressed in theater to clean up the mess left behind by the administration.

The election soundly rejected trumpism. The outgoing Administration’s grip on power will soon fade. Trump was moving towards authoritarianism with multiple indications institutional democracy itself was unraveling. His response to the COVID crisis, or lack thereof, and politicization of the Department of Justice were clear signs of autocratic rule. Violations of the emoluments clause in the constitution and the appointment to key cabinet positions and ambassadorships of those who made sizable contributions to Trump’s 2016 campaign were just a few of the issues raised in the press.

Biden Harris Election Will Attempt To Revitalize Democratic Institutions

Biden held his victory speech at 8:30 pm in Delaware with a promise to reunite the country and govern for everyone. His commitments largely rejected the tribalism of the outgoing administration. He promised to make science based policy and to appoint a team of doctors and scientists to tackle the pandemic and climate emergencies. He will rejoin the Paris climate accords the day he is inaugurated. He thanked Black Americans for their support in the election and said he would “have their back” for it.

This is an historic election. For the first time a woman of color will occupy the Vice Presidency and executive branch of government.

A celebratory mood has put to rest fear of riots and destruction. Block after block of boarded up government buildings and businesses may soon take down their facades of plywood and the National Park Service will remove nearly two miles of fencing encircling the White House sometime after the inauguration.

This divisive period may be recorded as the moment democracy almost ended here. And it is also likely to be remembered as an affirmation of the constitution’s durability and a testimonial to its authors.

Issue Number One: Climate

An overarching issue is the climate emergency. No other issue, not whether the Supreme Court remains conservative or liberal, whether democratic institutions are restored to former dignity, whether the economy expands or contracts, or whether democracy lives or dies, is as important longterm than the climate emegency. Future generations will look back at this inflection point and wonder why it took so long for our civilization to begin in earnest the work needed to recalibrate energy policy. Obama acknowledged climate but followed with near inaction as fracking methane gas took over from coal as a “bridge fuel.”

The earth recorded its warmest year since record-keeping began. More hurricanes hit the U.S. coast than ever before in a single hurricane season and this was the year of la nina, a weather pattern that typically signals a weak hurricane season. Arctic ice mass diminished to its second lowest record for this period of the year according to a report by NASA. Scientists attributed the delay to warming ocean currents. The strongest typhoon ever recorded slammed into the Philippines, with 195 mph winds.

The celebration will not last long as the incoming administration has many urgent isses to deal with. Photo: John Zangas

Biden has inherited multiple urgent issues: a spreading pandemic, a cratered economy, a climate emergency, inflamed racial tensions, fractured democratic institutions, and more. His administration will need to work fast to fix these issues. There will be little or no grace period for Biden and Harris.

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Washington DC Locks Down and Boards Up As Nation Braces For Election Result

DC Media Group - Tue, 11/03/2020 - 18:33
The scene near the White House was nervous anticipation several hiurs before the first poles closed. Photo: John Zangas

Washington, DC-Businesses, Unions, and News Services were busy boarding up windows and lobbies across the nation’s capital on Monday in anticipation of a contested presidential election result. As election night fell, construction crews were still attaching and reenforcing sheets of plywood to windows at the news headquarters buildings and union offices near the Capitol. Many other businesses followed suit. Never before has Washington DC been boarded up for an election as if a hurricane were approaching.

At the White House and Executive mansion, the office of the Vice-President, construction crews erected a 15-foot fence late Monday night. The fence is an addition to an iron wrought fence installed at the North side of the White House earlier this year. With existing fencing already in place on H Street and along 15th street since the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, the White House has a dubious appearance of being under siege. And maybe it is.

Steve Cochran, a foreman who was supervising a team of workers boarding up a building across from the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue, said he had never seen it like this before an election. He has lived in Washingtonian all his life and has seen Administrations come and go since John F. Kennedy. “I have not seen so much fear at the possibility of how this election could come out,” he said.

Steve Cockran said at the end of the day we all have to come together. Photo: John Zangas

The presidial election is usually welcomed as a time honored democratic process ushering leadership change . It is a ritual and the foundation of constitutional power sharing. That is the intended nature of democracy here-that the trustees of power know they are temporary brokers and accept their power with a precondition to cede it at the will of the voting public.

But this election day is different. And as the public scrutiny over the election process intensifies, many are asking questions about the conduct of the Administration, the process of electing a leader, and the surety of that process, especially as it relates to the electoral college and whether it should be abolished altogether.

The President has previously been unwilling to say he’d cede power if he were not reelected. This has created nervousapprehension of the election result and never before has a president seemingly clung to power so ardently.

The temperamental state of the union is not well either. Parties have attacked each other in the media with a toxic sludge of accusations. The Administration has repeatedly asserted, without basis, voter fraud is inherent with mailed ballots. At the same time it began to decommission mail processing machines at the post offices in swing states. This has resulted in first class mail delivery delays of 40 percent in Philadelphia.

The debates were largely a reality TV spectacle and social media is a raging political inferno. Gone are the days when favorites on Twitter and Facebook included videos for fun of cats playing pianos or of babies laughing at nothing.

A published report said researchers determined the U.S. is as close to civil war as it has been since the 1860s “based on a number they call the ‘political stress indicator’ [which] can warn when societies are at risk of erupting into violence.” Their assessment is based on five indicators: wage stagnation, national debt, competition between elites, distrust in government, urbanization, and the age structure of the population . Imbalances in these categories leads to inequality they argue, which has been building for decades, long before the current Administration moved into the White House.

Both major election campaigns have “lawyered up” as they vie for advantage in swing states to litigate dozens of cases over the legality of vote processes. Some last minute changes based on concerns over COVID, such as curbside voting in Harris County, Texas, have dealt the GOP a stinging defeat. But the age of vote challenges in the courts is leaving many to ask themselves if their vote will count. One to also left to wonder if court challenges will resolve future elections.

So it should be no surprise that election day would see the nation’s capital locked down and boarded up.

Media companies and businesses boarded up in anticipation of the election result. Photo: John Zangas

The government of Washington DC, for all its critics and criticisms (what government is without them?) has gotten one thing right this election. Due to the COVID crisis it mailed every registered voter in the District an absentee ballot with clear instructions on how and where to vote. It has also gave mailed ballots a grace period of 10 days past election day to be counted, provided voters have mailed and post-marked ballots by the end of election day. It is a model other states could follow. Maybe such a model is what all states should follow

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Fashion Designer Fosters Community Spirit With An Eye For Empowerment

DC Media Group - Mon, 11/02/2020 - 01:06
Jason C. Peters has been involved in community activism for 2 decades. Photo: John Zangas

Washington DC-Most fashion designers are in business to plug their clothing line and to promote their image. But designer Jason C. Peters, put his skills to work for a different purpose on Saturday. He held a public fashion show in Black Lives Matter Plaza centering DC communities with positive messages designed to empower and uplift them.

Peters brought his skills with him from New York to Washington DC to show that the Black Lives Matter Movement derives its primary power from the grassroots of its communities. His models converted the plaza into a runway wearing colorful signs along with their apparel as the drum group ‘Drumline Elite’ performed an array of inspirational drum tracks..

Following the show Peters gave out clothing packages to the needy in a philanthropic gesture to the community while Drumline Elite continued playing an extended ensemble of tracks it created.

Tyree, a spokesman for Drumline Elite said his group formed after graduation from Eastern SeniorvHighschool in Washington DC and had been together for several years. “We started out doing it for fun but we got plenty of smiles and we’ve been playing seriously for two years now,” he said.

Drumline Elite performed tracks they created over the past several years that they have been in existence. Photo: John Zangas

Peters wanted to highlight the importance of community involvement in ongoing political discourse and encourage residents to get involved directly in the political forces shaping their communities. He has been involved in activism for several decades and decided to merge his design talents with activism in response to the forces undermining Black communities. His idea to merge fashion with activism came to him after Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida by a security guard. What better way to do that than by dressing up models with the messages of resistance, he thought.

“It was important to do it right in front of the White House in Black Lives Matter Plaza to keep people inspired right before the election,” he said. Peters said inspiring others and giving back to the community were his passions.

Models wore messages of empowerment and resistance. Some models wore ‘Vote’ over their mouths. Photo: John Zangas

Models dressed in the signs they created. One wore ‘Stop Caging Kids,’ while another wore ‘Black Hair Is Cool.’ Several wore ‘Vote’ over their mouths in a statement of engagement by action not just words. Peters himself wore ‘Vote Him Out.’ Some of the models had no experience doing runway but were activists who wanted to get involved. They ranged in age from 6 to their early 20s. All models wore masks, in itself a fashion statement as every community continues to confront the COVID pandemic.

Peters has put on shows in communities such as Ferguson, New York, and Chicago and wherever communities have faced struggle with oppression.

“I belive it is important to fight for justice and equality for anyone who feels shunned by society because of the color of their skin,” he said. He said he is looking forward to putting on more shows in communities facing challenges with police brutality and struggling with economic conditions.

He can be teached on Instagram @JasonCPeters and accepts donations in support of his philanthropic efforts to distribute clothing to those in need.

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The Best Most Researched COVID-19 Self-Care Guide for Black and Brown Communities

Grassroots DC - Wed, 10/28/2020 - 20:52

We’ve been living with COVID-19 for many months and it will probably be with us for many more months if not years.  Not surprisingly, it’s hit communities of color particularly hard.  This article was written to help individuals in African-American and Latinx communities deal with the Rona in the event that it enters their homes. 

I’ve gathered a lot of information and come to the following basic conclusions. It has to be acknowledged that for houseless individuals and families, much of these suggestions will need to be adapted or simply impossible to achieve. Time permitting, we’ll do a follow-up that addresses the particular concerns of those members of our communities who are unhoused.

  • Rest is important but hydration is crucial
  • Foods rich in Vitamin C will help your immune response. Zinc and Vitamin D are also helpful.
  • Acetaminophen is probably the best option for fever control, unless you have liver disease. In which case you should use Ibuprofen. Both should be taken as directed.
  • Home remedies like herbal tea with honey and lemon are your best option for a cough but is probably just as important for hydration.
  • A basic understanding of the Active Cycle of Breathing Technique is helpful if things get rough
  • More important than any of the above, is the need for a support system that will provide support throughout the illness and recovery period 

The rest of this article explains the above conclusions. I am not a doctor so you’ll find links to my sources throughout the article. If you believe the sources to be trustworthy then follow the advice that they give. If they sound iffy to you, see if you can find the same information from a source that you trust. If you can’t, then take the info with a grain of salt. You should do all of those things for any information that you find on the Internet, but that’s especially true for anything related to COVID-19.

Self-Isolation Does Not Equal Going It Alone 

If you are sick and living alone then you must let people know that you’re sick. Ideally, we’d have a government that could do contact tracing without extensive privacy violations.  Contact tracing is essentially finding anyone who has had physical contact with an infectious individual, testing them, monitoring them and if necessary putting them in quarantine. But since that’s not likely to happen, you should do what you can to protect your community. You may not have the energy to do more than share the fact that you’re ill on Facebook and your other social media accounts but frankly that’s better than what the government is doing.  

The other reason you should let people know, especially if you live alone, is because you’re going to need support. Someone will need to bring you food, medicine and to help you monitor your symptoms in case things take a turn for the worse.  Those who take on the role of caregiver, should also find support. Caregivers in households without a separate bathroom or possibly even a separate bedroom for anyone who might come down with the virus cannot avoid the risk of catching the virus themselves.  Setting up a support system that can help safely deliver groceries, medicine and other supplies will help protect the family and the wider community.

Don’t Treat COVID-19 Like the Flu 

Once you’ve set up a support system, you can concentrate on caring for yourself or providing care for your loved one(s). COVID-19 appears to be roughly twice as contagious as the flu and so way more deadly. The importance of avoiding contamination and being scrupulous about hygiene cannot be overstated. 

Anyone who is sick but not hospitalized should isolate themselves from other members of the household. The CDC gives some specific guidelines for people taking care of themselves and for those who are taking care of others. It’s important to wear a mask when in the same room with someone who has COVID-19. Eating in the same room is a no no. Wearing rubber gloves in public doesn’t always make sense because the gloves themselves can carry the virus.  Washing hands often and particularly whenever you come home makes more sense.  On the other hand, when caring for someone at home, rubber gloves are imperative when doing laundry and dealing with bodily fluids. Sharing a bathroom is truly problematic and requires cleaning after every use.

The CDC advises that you stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, try to control your fever and contact your doctor if your symptoms get worse. Their suggestions are a bit more in-depth if your in a high-risk category— those who are immune compromised, have diabetes, heart and lung disease, etc.

But who’s in a high-risk category isn’t as obvious as it may seem. If you are uninsured or under-insured, there’s a good chance that you may have an underlying condition but not know about it. Or you may suspect that there’s a problem but you don’t have the time or the resources to have it treated. These are just two of the many reasons that the life expectancy is lower in communities of color and African-Americans in particular have been dying at higher rates of COVID-19.  Let’s face it, white supremacy is the underlying condition that puts people of color and particularly Black people at higher risk.

As the CDC doesn’t have instructions for dealing with racism, we’ll start with their basic instructions. Getting plenty of fluids and rest is straightforward enough. Including soup in your meal prep is a good idea because it can be frozen and ready on hand.  You’ll need to drink plenty of fluids. Water is best but also boring. Despite this, you should avoid sugary drinks and stick with clear fluids like low-sodium broth. Because of its electrolytes, Gatorade is popular for rehydration but those who are or might be diabetic should stick to the low calorie versions.  Alcohol should be avoided all together.

Over the Counter Medications

Trying to control your fever is a trickier issue because your body uses heat to fight infections. If you can withstand a low-grade fever (under 101 degrees) you might recover quicker. On the other hand, if a fever spikes, then the fever itself might do more harm than good.  Healthline.com advises using Acetaminophen (commonly sold under the brand name Tylenol) to control your fever. You might prefer Ibuprofen because it also helps control inflammation and may help with body aches. According to the CDC and the World Health Organization, the theory that anti-inflammatories can make COVID-19 worse has not been proven. However, the FDA reminds us that NSAIDs like Ibuprofen can diminish the utility of diagnostic signs in detecting infections. On the other hand, acetaminophen is hard on the liver, so it should be taken with caution and avoided all together if you have liver disease. 

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen both have plusses and minuses. The choice depends on any underlying conditions the patient might have. If no pre-existing conditions exists, and again, this can be difficult to verify, rotating between the two every three hours or more is a practice commonly used by medical professionals.

When I feel a cold coming on, the first thing I take is a multi-symptom cold medicine like Theraflu and go to bed. But multiple sources, advise against this not only for COVID-19 but also for patients with underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease because many of the active ingredients interfere with other medications. Severe cases of COVID-19 have caused damage to internal organs and some of the ingredients in a multi-symptom medicines could exacerbate that problem. So stick with acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen for fever and body aches. 

Cough is a common symptom. However, Consumer Reports suggests that cough medicines are not terribly effective for COVID-19. Warm, steamy showers, lozenges or herbal teas with honey are better options. Herbal tea also helps keep you hydrated, which is crucial. If you’re coughing so much that you can’t rest then a cough medicine that uses dextromethorphan like Delsym or Robitussin is best because it is safe for both diabetics and people with high blood pressure. Again, cough syrups with more than one active ingredient should be avoided. 

Vitamins and Nutrition

In addition, healthline.com suggests that the anti-viral properties of zinc might be helpful. Vitamin C supports the activity of immune cells but is most helpful when taken in the form of food. So don’t skimp on citrus fruits and vegetables like red peppers, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and other leafy greens.

Vitamin D should also be considered.  Low vitamin D levels are associated with auto-immune diseases like diabetes, which also worsens COVID-19 outcomes.  Because our main source of Vitamin D is the sun and darker skin is less sensitive to the sun, darker people are more susceptible to auto-immune diseases.  There are studies that suggest that Vitamin D might help with COVID-19 specifically.  With or without a pandemic, Blacks and Latinos should consider Vitamin D supplements.

Active Cycle of Breathing Technique

For patients who have difficulty breathing, the Active Cycle of Breathing Technique (ACBT) can increase oxygen levels.  ACBT is most commonly used for people with breathing disorders like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD and is described in detail by the American Lung Association and is demonstrated in the video below.

In the video, the doctor takes a deep breath through the mouth and holds it in for five seconds before releasing it. Others recommend breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth to avoid irritating the throat. Repeat the breaths five times, before finishing a final round of breathing with a big cough.  Coughing is controversial because it might help spread the disease.  But everyone agrees that deep breaths encourage air into the depths of the lungs. With shallow breaths, the entire lung doesn’t fill up. If pockets within the lungs aren’t used, they can close and increase the risk of infection. So keep practicing those deep breaths.

Tracking Symptoms

While taking care of yourself or someone else, it’s important to monitor symptoms. Keeping a diary that records symptoms on a daily or even hourly basis can be invaluable when talking to a doctor who might otherwise dismiss the severity and/or an escalation of symptoms.

As you record symptoms, make sure to include even things that don’t seem related to COVID-19. Most cases that become serious are due to the onset of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) or pneumonia. But doctors are discovering that many COVID-19 patients whose main symptoms are gastrointestinal never develop respiratory illness.  Back pain can be an indication that your kidneys are under attack. Those with a history of autoimmune disease may be susceptible to cytokine storms, etc. So record everything.

Those who have an undiagnosed condition won’t know what symptoms to be concerned about. This group is disproportionately the uninsured, the under-insured and those whose symptoms are regularly downplayed or ignored by medical professionals, i.e., Black people. To combat racist attitudes that you might encounter when seeking treatment, keep a diary of your symptoms and how they’re progressing. The more detailed information you can give to your doctor, the better. They are less likely to ignore symptoms that are documented this way. Racism or not, having this information can help medical professionals make informed decisions about the trajectory of the disease and how fast it’s progressing.

When to Go to the Hospital

The progress of COVID-19 does not follow a predictable pattern. Symptoms may be serious from the very beginning or it may feel like a bad flu for weeks and then suddenly go south very fast.  How do you know if hospitalization is necessary? According to Web MD () you should seek treatment if you the following symptoms

  • Problems breathing
  • Constant pain or pressure in your chest
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Sudden confusion 

Depending on your pigmentation, bluish lips or face may not occur despite the serious worsening of symptoms.  But pressure in the chest, confusion and problems breathing all indicate that you may not be getting enough oxygen. 

Depending on your pigmentation, bluish lips or face may not occur despite the serious worsening of symptoms.  Pressure in the chest, confusion and problems breathing all indicate that the patient may not be getting enough oxygen.  Medical attention should also be sought if there are symptoms that are new or worsening or if they prevent the patient from doing normal activity.   This includes symptoms that are not related to breathing. As we learn more and more about the disease, it’s clear that it presents differently in different people. For those who are knowingly at a higher risk, a doctor might be able to tell you what symptoms to be concerned about beyond those listed above. 

The biggest concern for a coronavirus patient is shortness of breath, because it’s an indicator of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and pneumonia. A feeling of tightness in the chest, pain, or the sense of drowning when lying down indicates that you’re not getting enough oxygen. It can lead to disorientation that makes it difficult to call for help. Which leads us back to the importance of monitoring your symptoms and letting people know that you’re sick and asking them (or allowing those who’ve already offered) to check in on you regularly.

If the hospital decides that the patient’s symptoms are not serious enough to warrant admission and you disagree, then it’s probably time to put up a fight.  In my experience, taking names and threatening legal action can be effective. The role of advocate cannot be taken on by someone suffering from a severe case of COVID-19, which is another reason it’s important to seek help from friends or family. Being a healthcare advocate for a person of color is also an excellent way for an anti-racist white person to make good use of their privilege. 

Black folk are used to being told to suck it up and walk it off. Because life for so many of us is simply more difficult than the white majority in the country, many believe that we are in fact stronger and can walk off illness and injury. Given the incredibly disproportionate number of deaths within African-American communities, this practice is simply unacceptable. If we are to survive, we must do everything that we can to take care of ourselves, our families and our communities. In the long-term, we will continue to fight for equity and justice. In the meantime, surviving a pandemic within a system designed to shorten our lives is a revolutionary act. Be a revolutionary. 

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Stop Police Terror DC And Black Lives Matter DC Condemn The Murder Of Deon Kay

Grassroots DC - Fri, 09/04/2020 - 23:20
Written by April Goggans and Sean Blackmon

Washington, DC — Months of protests against police violence here in DC calling for justice for #DQuanYoung, #MarqueeseAlston, #JeffPrice and so many more, have culminated in another name being added to that list — Deon Kay.

Eighteen-year-old Deon should be alive today. Deon was murdered in broad daylight by Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer Alexander Alvarez on September 2, 2020, and nothing that DC Police Chief Peter Newsham and Mayor Muriel Bowser do to distort the facts, or to smear a teenager as a violent threat, will take away from that truth. Deon should be alive but on Wednesday he was murdered.  

“The same false, racist narrative that stole Deon’s boyhood and turned him into a full grown man out for blood is the same narrative we have seen from Mayor Bowser and MPD over and over again,” said Stop Police Terror Project DC organizer Natacia Knapper. “Don’t be fooled — Deon was a child, barely 18, hunted and gunned down through the deeply woven slave-catching tactics cops have been using since the birth of policing in America.”

“It seems everyone is committed to spending more perfect victim energy examining Deon’s life than the murderer that took it,” said April Goggans, a Core Organizer with Black Lives Matter DC. “Perpetuating the myth that ‘perfect victims’ exist is dangerous and reinforces the myth that only some Black lives matter.” As described by the Guardian, it is standard practice for district attorneys and prosecutors to dredge up negative details about victims of police killings and promote racist tropes, adding to families’ pain.

As Mayor Bowser is applauded for denouncing federal forces (with whom MPD collaborates) for using the very same tactics used by her own police force, and paints words she doesn’t mean outside the White House, her body count grows.

“We refuse to allow the mayor to continue to insult the intelligence of DC residents,” said Black Lives Matter DC Core Organizer Nee Nee Taylor. “Every action she has taken — from calling for prosecutions of unlawfully arrested protesters to ignoring the killings of Black people in DC — is antithetical to the idea that Black lives matter.”

Both research and the lived experiences of those who have familiarity with it have shown that intra-community violence is not solved through policing, which only further traumatizes communities. In fact, the police and DC government have caused or perpetuated the violent conditions many of our city’s residents experience every day. “Violence shows up in many forms — through gentrification, displacement, lack of food access, the school to prison pipeline and numerous other ways,” said Knapper. “The state creates the conditions to create a desperate and traumatic reality for many Black DC residents, particularly East of the River, and then responds to that desperation with murderous intent.”

“The idea that recovering a gun is worth the life of a child should be horrifying to every DC resident.” said Makia Green, a Core Organizer with Black Lives Matter DC. “Meeting violence with violence has never worked, yet the DC government insists on continuing that failed tactic — instead of providing well-funded resources and services like violence interruption, quality education, mental and physical health care, and housing.”  

It is no coincidence that community members were the first to respond to the shooting of Deon, communities learned long ago not to expect help from the DC government and have found their own ways of coming together and staying safe – including peace vigils, mutual aid, and neighborhood protests.

Mayor Bowser has shown she cares nothing for Black and POC communities. If she wants to change that she must immediately:

  • Fire MPD Chief Peter Newsham
  • Launch a fully independent investigation into the death of Deon Kay
  • Fire MPD Officer Alexander Alvarez
  • Defund the DC Metropolitan Police Department and fully invest in community-led resources

We also call on the entire DC Council to support these demands and in addition, to amend the extremely inadequate “Comprehensive Justice and Policing Reform Act to:

  • Require that all released videos include audit trails that show who accessed the video and how and if it was edited, so that transparency can reduce the risk that the videos are doctored.
  • Require that MPD explicitly clarify why officers’ faces in released footage are redacted, define who are considered “officers involved” before releasing footage, and include those officers’ names and faces in the footage.
  • Require that MPD state explicitly when naming “officers involved” which officer committed the act (rather than officers who were on the scene)

“Mayor Bowser, city officials, and DC councilmembers, all have Deon Kay’s blood on their hands because of their advocacy for right-wing law-and-order policies that maintain the police occupation of DC’s Black communities,” said Stop Police Terror Project organizer Sean Blackmon. “These so-called ‘progressives’ are responsible for the same police terror that has sparked months-long protests all over the country,” Blackmon continued. “As long as they continue to desperately avoid divesting from ineffective and brutal policing and investing in the health and safety of communities, police killings will continue and the crisis facing DC’s poor and working class Black people will only intensify.”

A vigil for Deon Kay will be held Saturday September 5, 2020 at 6:00PM on the corner of MLK Ave. SE & Mellon St. SE.

We are calling for all people of DC to sign our petition to Defund The Police and attend an upcoming event to help us build a world without police.

Black Lives Matter DC is a member based abolitionist organization centering Black people most at risk for state violence in DC, creating the conditions for Black Liberation through the abolition of systems and institutions of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism.
Black Lives Matter DCinfo@dcblm.orgTwitter: @DMVBlackLivesInstagram: @blacklivesmatterdcFacebook: @BLMDC


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Architects Build Society’s Cage On National Mall In Bold Statement Of Racial Strife In America

DC Media Group - Sun, 08/30/2020 - 21:50
Society’s Cage is an Architect’s rendering of racial inequality in America. Photo: John Zangas Washington DC – A group of five designers at the internationally known SmithGroup Architecture firm set up a metallic cubic structure on the National Mall to frame the struggle of Black Lives in America. The public display titled “Society’s Cage” is a 14 foot cube pavilion timed for the 57th anniversary of the March On Washington and is made from the hidden components of sky scrapers. It depicts an architect’s visualization of ongoing racial inequality in the United States and asks the question, “What is the value of a Black life in America?”

The cube is constructed from 483 vertical rusted conduit pipes attached to a large metal plate, supported by four large metal supports on a pavilion, resembling a cage. One in four bars are connected to the floor, representing the rate Blacks will be incarcerated. A four-part, 8 minute, 46 second music composition, the same time length of time of George Floyd’s tragic murder, sets the mood. The floor is captioned with quotations of prominent civil rights activists while the pavilion’s parapet contains statistics of Black lives within the justice system. As night falls lights shimmer through the conduits, illuminating the display.

The observer is invited to walk through the cube and between the uneven hanging conduit pipes to experience the visual and acoustical expression of systemic injustice through the eyes of Black lives. “How long can you hold your breath,” greets the observer at its entrance. One enters and hears a concert of instruments accented with the cries of a child, police sirens, moans of the Black mother whose child was killed by police, the rising and falling tones of voices marking societal iniquities. Through the conduit bars one sees the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, lending more context to the design’s statement: Is a Black life really free? Does a Black life really have equal access under the law in this democracy?

Julian Arrington, one of five designers, commented on the meaning of Society’s Cage and its impact of project development on him. “The cube depicts equity and perfection and is a symbol of equality,” he said. But he described its inner structure rendered as a critique of the broken justice system. “The bars are interrupted and converge with four datasets representing different forms of racism and state violence,” he said.

Julian Arrington was one of the lead designers of Society’s Cage. He described the design as a critique of racial bias in the justice system. Photo: John Zangas

Arrington described the four data sets as mass incarceration, police brutality in the form of police killings, capitol punishment, and lynching. He suggested the display is a visual display of the continuing pattern of this systemic racism imbued within society because it was as evident today as it was 400 years ago and studies and statistics bore that out.

On one side of the parapet reads “One in ten Black people are killed by police while unarmed. Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than Whites.” Another side reads, “Out of over 2600 people absolved of crimes since 1956 nearly half have been Black. In America Black people are far more likely to be wrongly convicted of murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes.”

Doug Dahlkemper, one of the principals at SmithGroup, said that the design was the Architectural firm’s contribution to a national discussion of racial issues. He said the firm supported and gave all of the designers, who are minorities, lead roles in the project. “I think we all have to be a part of this issue, Black, White, no matter what race and creed you are,” he said.

Dahlkemper credited the design team as “very skilled designers” who not only envisioned and designed Society’s Cube, but also planned the logistics and organized the fundraising needed to complete the project.

Arrington took pride in describing the project and the symbolic meaning of its constituent parts. He derived hope from the fact that his firm supported it. “The opportunity to have something on this site speaks volumes in terms not only the breath within my organization of people who want to see change but also those who sponsored and contributed financially to it,” he said.

As the sun set and the conduit lights came on to mark the end the first day of the display, someone left a bouquet of roses and lillys on the welcome table. After several of the support team swept dust from the floor of Society’s Cage, Arrington carefully laid the flowers on the four corners of the parapet.

As the sun set lights In the conduits illuminate the captions and bars touching the floor. Photo: John Zangas

 

Society’s Cage will be displayed on the National Mall across from the Smithsonian Castle and near the L’Enfant Mall metro entrance until Labor Day.

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COVID-19 Remains a Problem within Black and Brown Communities

Grassroots DC - Mon, 07/13/2020 - 09:04
The coronavirus pandemic has a greater impact on Black and Brown communities. Here’s why Black, Indigenous and People of Color need to take greater precautions.

COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has created pandemonium globally.  All fifty states have reported cases of COVID-19.  According to CNN, the United States has 4% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s Coronavirus cases.   As of this writing, positive cases are on the decline in many states and on the rise in others.   In an attempt to counter the negative economic impact of the pandemic, many regions, including the District of Columbia, are attempting to “re-open.”   This unfortunately contributes to the idea that the pandemic is not serious.  Many continue to believe that the virus is man-made.  

An analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-COV-2 found no evidence it was created in a lab.  Having monitored the transmission of infections, scientists believe this variation of the coronavirus originated in bats and jumped to humans.  There are literally millions of viruses, so it’s inevitable that some will mutate and jump from animals to humans.   This problem is likely to get worse as humans continue to move into habitats formerly dominated by animals.  And when it happens, it’s usually a bad thing because the human body doesn’t know how to deal with a novel or new viruses.    

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause mild to severe illnesses. There are hundreds of coronaviruses with 7 main variations that affect humans.   So far, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-2 otherwise known as COVID-19 have proven to be the most deadly to humans.  COVID-19 is particularly problematic because it has a long incubation period, during which carriers may be unknowingly spreading the virus.  It’s also difficult to contain because unlike viruses like HIV which is relatively difficult to contract, COVID-19 is highly contagious.

According to WebMD, the virus is spread when someone is exposed to respiratory droplets that are transmitted through the air as an infected person coughs, sneezes, or breathes. While it’s more common to become infected after being within six feet of an infected person, you can also come in contact with the disease by touching a surface that’s hosting coronavirus. If the viral particles from these droplets make their way to your mouth, nose, or even your eyes, the virus can attach to ACE2 receptors (a protein molecule on the surface of a cell with the ability to bind with another molecule) in the mucous membranes of your throat and infect the body.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms can appear as few as two days after exposure or as long as 14 days.  People of any age who have severe underlying medical conditions along with older people are the most at risk.   Those who don’t believe the virus is serious, are less likely to take the precautions necessary to protect themselves or limit the spread of the disease.  This unfortunately puts everyone at risk but especially Black and Brown people.

Systemic and institutional racism makes it very difficult for Black to acquire and accumulate wealth. As a result, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a typical Black family. The stress associated with financial insecurity, difficulty accessing healthy food, or the time for adequate exercise is all factors that contribute to higher rates of diabetes, obesity, asthma and cardiovascular disease in low-income Black communities. All of these underlying conditions worsen COVID-19 outcomes. It’s not surprising that Blacks make up less than half of D.C.’s population but approximately 80 percent of Coronavirus deaths.

Proximity is another factor contributing to high rates of infection. Densely populated areas like Columbia Heights, where front line workers in the Latinx community also often live in multigenerational households, helps to explain high rates of infection in Ward 4.

Although infection rates are highest in Ward 4, deaths are highest in Wards 7 & 8. With the United Medical Center being the only hospital east of the Anacostia River, residents there simply have fewer healthcare options. On top of that, stories of bias in healthcare treatment against Blacks and Latinx are common, even after the onset of the pandemic.   Healthcare providers misinterpret, downplay, or ignore symptoms in Black and Brown patients.  They are also more likely to be turned away from medical facilities and refused tests.  All of this can lead to fatal results. 

For this reason, it is absolutely crucial that DC’s Black and Brown communities continue to follow CDC recommendations.  Face masks are essential.   A sneeze or cough sprays mucus, saliva, and viruses that can remain active for up to an hour. Traveling 50-100 mph and spraying 3,000 to 100,000 droplets in one go, is an efficient way to spread a virus.  Even with a mask, it’s important to keep at least 6 feet away from anyone when you’re out in public. This is especially important if you’re indoors where aerosolized droplets of the virus can remain active for more than three hours.

Being concerned about the economy, Mayor Bowser seems intent on reopening the city. As the city reopens and more demand is made for retail workers, delivery personnel and front-line health care workers many within DC’s African-American and Latinx communities will accept the additional risk. Even though the mainstream press has moved COVID-19 infections and deaths out of the headlines, the virus is still out there. Do what you can to provide for yourself and your family but please take as many precautions as you possibly can.


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Black Lives Matter DC Demands Change in the Name of Those Killed by Police in the District of Columbia

Grassroots DC - Tue, 06/09/2020 - 11:48

“Black people are allowed to be joyful or feel seen with DC renaming a street after Black Lives Matter. It’s also our responsibility to let you know what we are fighting for, who has the power to change things and that power concedes nothing without demand.”

– Kiki Green, a Core Organizer with Black Lives Matter DC

Today Black Lives Matter DC stands in solidarity with freedom fighters all over the world to honor the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Dreasjon Reed, and as always those we have lost to police here in DC: 

These are the names of the people that performative Black Lives Matter street art leaves out. These are the names that fuel our commitment to #DefundPolice and #StopMPD. We know that for some DC is the seat of power and imperialism, the symbolic representation of harmful systems but it is also home to hundreds of thousands of Black people who are oppressed by the very systems people claim to be against. It never fails that in the national discourse people ignore those killed right here in DC by police while protesting police brutality and muder in our city.

Image Credited to BYP100

We stand by our critique of the DC Mayor Muriel Bowser after the unveiling of the Black Lives Matter Mural and the renaming of Black Lives Matter Plaza. “Black Lives Matter” is a complete statement. There is no grey area or ambiguity. We hold that we have a duty to the loved ones named above to ensure that they are not forgotten and their deaths are not exploited for publicity, performance, or distraction. Mayor Muriel Bowser must be held accountable for the lip service she pays in making such a statement while she continues to intentionally underfund and cut services and programs that meet the basic survival needs of Black people in DC. 

To chip away at the investments in communities that actually make us safer while proposing a $45 million dollar increase in funding for the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget a few weeks ago is NOT making Black lives matter. Bowser justifies the over policing of Black bodies by pointing to the heartbreaking number of Black people who have died as a result of violence in our streets. Simultaneously she publicly admits that increased police presence has little effect on violent crimes, especially homicide. Homicides continue to increase despite the MPD budget growing every year and more and more officers on the streets. In a continuation of her intentional efforts to first not fund, then dissect, and now lie about implementing the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act (NEAR Act), that threats community violence as a public health issue, she just proposed to cut $800k from the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement that the Act created and where the violence interruption program sits. Additionally, she still has not opened the stand alone Office of Violence Prevention also required by the Act. Stop Police Terror Project DC and Black Lives Matter DC were instrumental in the creation, passage, funding of the NEAR Act.

Although Black people make up 46% of D.C.’s population, they remain the subjects of the vast majority of all stops, frisks, and uses of force in the District. A January 2018 D.C. Office of Police Complaints OPC report found that of the 2,224 total reported uses of force in Fiscal Year 2017 (October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017), 89% involved a Black subject. A February 2018 investigative report from WUSA9 analyzed pre-NEAR Act data and found that approximately 80% of the stops involved a Black subject. Just this week OPC released its FY18 Annual Report that revealed officer misconduct complaints are up 78% since FY16, 780 complaints were received (the second consecutive year of receiving a record number of complaints), 501 new investigations were opened (more than any other year since OPC’s 

We actively reject the false narrative that policing is necessary or safe. That the system of the system of policing and the injustice system are not broken, they are operating exactly the way that they were designed. 

Our anger and rage, our grief is justified. We rebuke the notion that we must celebrate crumbs the Mayor gives DC residents without engaging critically in why we settle for art but not housing, street signs but not investments in the actual things that keep communities safe. If our attempts to hold this administration accountable for what we believe are multiple failures of leadership turns people away then we will stand alone. We are clear in our commitment that liberation for all Black people and real change to the conditions that keep us locked up and out will not be swayed even if people disagree with our stance. 

While people celebrate this Mayor, our lawsuit against Bowser this week resulted in the DC curfew being lifted. That’s not it. While we are both taking it to the streets with direct action and support, we are also suing President Donald Trump for ordering the use of violence against protestors who were speaking out against police brutality and the murder of Black people by police. We do this because we know that both the federal and local government are complicit in the violence against protestors. 

While others may forget, we do not forget any of us. When we say Black Lives Matter, we mean ALL Black lives. We will work for the liberation of all Black people in DC when it is difficult, when we are attacked, when people are busy debating whether or not protestors are violent or peaceful, and until we are free.

Therefore WE DEMAND 

Black Lives Matter DC is a member-based abolitionist organization centering Black people most at risk for state violence in DC, creating the conditions for Black Liberation through the abolition of systems and institutions of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, and colonialism. 

We are dedicated to promoting strategies that: 

  • empower the most oppressed Black people; 
  • do not reinforce or legitimize systems and institutions that harm Black people including police, prisons, mass incarceration, and modern slavery. 
  • divest from people, institutions and systems that harm us and invest in the people, institutions, systems and other models that support our liberation and empowerment.
  • use a diversity of tactics to promote harm reduction, political education, and non-cooperation as strategic visions.

Black Lives Matter DC

Email: info@blmdc.org

Follow us on Twitter @DMVBlackLives and IG: blacklivesmatterdc

Like us on Facebook

Join our mailing list


The post Black Lives Matter DC Demands Change in the Name of Those Killed by Police in the District of Columbia appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Are Shelters an Option for the UnHoused During a Pandemic? Is There a Better Way?

Grassroots DC - Wed, 06/03/2020 - 10:00

In the District of Columbia, there are people who have gone far too unnoticed in their community. They are some of the most brilliant and creative souls in the region. They are masters of innovation with the ability to weather extraordinary situations. These are the unhoused or homeless, as people want to call them. In a city where 46% of the population is African American, the homeless are 86% African American.  Dealing with housing instability is tough enough outside of dealing with health issues like the current Covid-19 Pandemic.

These men and women have a story to tell. People like Daniel Ball  who not only makes the best of the situation but also has strong ties to his  community. His mother used to live in DC  before moving to Addison Road in Maryland.  

Photo of Daniel Ball by Elvert Barnes / Flckr

As far as experiencing homelessness, “yes, some nights I stay up here in DC  and some nights I stay with my mother,” Ball said.  “I understand people experience homelessness.  It’s a good question and going to be a good question because people are experiencing homelessness.”  

Daniel Ball is just one of many who have found themselves homeless during the COVID-19 crisis gripping the globe.  “Yes sometimes I sleep outside.  Either I’m on a bench or either I’m up in Farragut West straight up the elevator, I sleep there,” Ball said. “Last night was an experience too.  Usually the man from the food court wakes me up.  Sometimes I’m already up.  A girl slept beside me scheming.  When I got up, I didn’t bother her because I know we going through the same change.  I usually jump on the Metro.  Today I rode the X2 and came up here.  But I love a good question like that you asked because it’s a good question. What are you experiencing?” 

Ball gave reasons why he chooses to come to the District of Columbia.  “It’s like home to me.  And my mama always asks, ‘why you keep running to DC?’  I keep running here, because my job is here,” he said, “and some people don’t have money to travel back and forth like that.”  

Ball then described his experience signing up for programs in the city.  “We do intake with the case worker.  They call them caseworkers.  I filed for food stamps.  I applied for my housing.  One thing right now with what’s happening is you can’t rush people.  You can’t be going there like, ‘give me my food stamps.’  You gotta have patience.  Everything has patience with it,” Ball said. “I ain’t going to knock nobody out.  My name is Daniel Ball and I am not going to do that.  As far as the government, there are people that are social. There are some that get involved.” 

Staying in Shelter

Those living in shelter during this unprecedented emergency are also finding it hard to deal with certain conditions. Forty-four year old, DC native, Donell Lowell used to be an auto mechanic but  has been homeless since July 2018.  Lowell also survived a stroke which occured on April 16,  2019, “a year and a day ago today,” Lowell says. “Social distancing is pretty much obsolete here.  Outside of here you can pretty much isolate yourself if you want,” he said.  “I’ve met some good people but there are some bad people out here, especially, these security guards.  They treat you like shit.  That’s my situation.  That happened to me.”  

Photo by Julie Gallagher / Street Sense Media

Lowell was assaulted while staying in shelter during the health emergency. “I complained that he bullied me, threatened me.  And he was still able to work here.  And I sustained injuries at his hands.”  The only time Lowell saw any disciplinary action came after he had been attacked by security. “After I got injured they fired him right away,” he said. “Other than that, we have no say. You gotta be hurt or something to be heard around here.”  

DC officials have been telling the community in weekly calls that they were providing rooms for self isolation. When I asked Lowell if he was provided any of these other services and did officials consider him vulnerable to the disease, Lowell said,“Yeah they do but they didn’t offer me nothing.”  

It may seem like during this crisis a large congregate setting may not be the ideal setting for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.  Before the crisis, DC had to deal with considerable disdain for providing emergency housing and spending more per capita than any major city in the United States on housing production.  Despite this, the District of Columbia has the tenth highest number of homeless in the United States.

Solutions Proposed by Unhoused Individuals

The unhoused in DC in particular are in a state of flux during the current health crisis and each day brings new challenges.  It seems like they are being ignored more than others who are receiving help from agencies, neighbors and local governments.  What do the homeless have to say about their situation? Are they being heard if they have a solution to address their current situation?  

Donell Lowell seems to have some solid recommendations on homeless prevention and how the city could better its response during the COVID-19 crisis. Problems with the courts after the death of a relative contributed to Lowell becoming homeless.  Lowell thinks now that more oversight of the probate courts would help.   “That’s unfortunately how I got here,” he says.   He also suggests that some people who are experiencing homelessness could benefit from better efforts from upstream services like rental subsidies and that would keep people from becoming homeless in the first place.  Lowell thinks that this kind of in-depth oversight could come from government officials–the mayor, city council and governors.

Lowell is hopeful about his plight once things get back to normal. He sees this as a way to potentially end his homelessness for good.  “If the city would open back up, I wanna go to school to learn how to become an information technology specialist.  With the city shut down and everything it seems like it’ll never open back up,” Lowell said. He also recommends and wishes that, ”there was more oversight for these security guards and all these shelters really. They do what the hell they wanna do.  The city should be considering the fact, we don’t really have a voice as homeless folks.” 

Living Outdoors

Many residents have taken to living through this crisis outdoors. Paul Infante is currently experiencing homelessness. He has been living in the region for three years and is originally from California.  “I think what makes most sense is if you stay (sleep) near a safe place that has services,” he said.  “You could get a meal in the morning or you could get a meal in the evening. A lot of places will give you social services and Items like toothbrushes and shaving stuff, you will need for hygiene. That is especially important if you’re trying to find a job and pull yourself out of homelessness,” he said. 

Photo by Petmyrhino / Flckr

Infante also has some pretty strong recommendations in terms of how DC could be serving those who have chosen to live outside. “The District of Columbia  could do more on its own rather than relying on federal aid to help residents who live on the street.  I would say it makes sense, without opening like a FEMA thing, would be to open up lots with showers and outdoor cots that abide by social distancing,” he said. I think it makes more sense than the opening of shelters that don’t have a lot of space.”  Infante also feels DC needs to provide more showers and bathrooms.  “You will find that people in general would say that they need more bathrooms and more showers,” he said. 

DC Government’s Response

Governments all over the place are trying to coordinate the best responses possible to this crisis.  The District of Columbia is no exception.  But the voice of the homeless and their recommendations to address their needs is currently in a state of flux. Communities that are most greatly affected by the national emergency of COVID-19 can only wonder how their concerns and suggestions will make it to the officials tasked with leading the various responses to the crisis 

I interviewed District of Columbia’s Director of Human Services Laura Zelinger on March 15th 2020.  She has been at the forefront of the city’s response to COVID-19 and the homeless community.  Zeilinger and her team have been convening weekly calls to help agency providers understand the current state of affairs as it pertains to their respective populations.  According to Zeilinger, “we have a very strong and important safety message that people need to isolate so we can stop the spread of this virus.”  

When asked specifically about permanent housing placement Zeilinger said, “It’s not realistic that people can be out putting together paperwork for their housing application or in a housing search.  Meaning, we can’t get people in the same room in this climate.  The District of Columbia chose to suspend its full housing placement process until it feels it can conduct certain business safety. The decision by the government in light of stay-home orders implies that people who may have a housing resource such as a voucher cannot use it to obtain a unit. We are very focused on our emergency operations to keep people safe.  In the immediate, as we are putting together and executing our response on our emergency activities, we are suspending the CAHP (Coordination Assessment and Housing Placement) system.”

The CAHP system uses a matrix of factors to determine which homeless individuals will be prioritized for available housing,  Those factors include:  age, history of homelessness, physical as well as mental health, and substance use.  With that process frozen, the Department of Human Services and its providers are looking into different ways of using the data to address concerns related to COVID-19 exposure.  “We are using that data to identify, as well as our understanding of medical information, to prioritize for housing, to ensure we are reaching out to and provide opportunities for safe placement and isolation of people who are most vulnerable should they be exposed to Covid-19,” Zellenger said.

Zeilinger was optimistic however, about when housing activities could occur:  “If we understand that we may be in this state for a prolonged period beyond a matter of days that may be longer than that, we will look to ways we can continue that key part of our work and move people from sites that they may be in isolation and in environments that provide opportunities to social distance particularly residents who are most vulnerable and have been identified for permanent supportive housing to be able to support their transition directly into housing as best as at all possible.”

Zeillenger also provided an overview of the city’s response to people who are currently homeless and what services they can expect to receive. “First and foremost what we want is that people are in a place that is safe and their exposure to this virus is limited.  So what we have done is taken our low barrier programs that were just overnight and made them 24 hours at all of our shelter sites. We are providing full meals.  And we have added additional outreach and meals in community so that people can have their needs met without having to travel and without having to congregate in lots of different places where we could increase the spread.   We’ve instituted screenings in our shelters and if people are showing any potential symptoms we’re moving them into spaces where they have the opportunity to social distance and have medical attention as well as testing when warranted,” Zellienger said. The District of Columbia has also considered making hotel rooms available for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis.  “We have secured 3 hotels for use that we are using for people who that have tested either positive so they can be in isolation and don’t need hospitalization, where they can be checked on by medical professionals same as people have homes would be isolating at home and have a nice place and not returning to shelter,” Zeillenger said.

The District of Columbia has confirmed 158 positive cases across the homeless community.  Having come into close contact with those who’ve tested positive, 249 people are in quarantine, 210 of which came from emergency shelter programs.  As of April 27, 2020, nine unhoused individuals have died.  

With housing placements frozen and public input at a stand still, people who are currently unhoused, could remain homeless for the duration of this unprecedented emergency.   Under these circumstances, can the District government call mitigating the spread of the Coronavirus amongst the homeless a victory?  It seems like we’re just cruising forward.  Without the input of those who are experiencing homelessness, we are being encouraged to normalize COVID-19.   As far as homeless people go, the CDC guidelines don’t seem to apply.  Doing this may lead our community into believing that what looks like success is success when it’s actually failure. 

The District of Columbia is just one of three or four jurisdictions in the nation that even have laws requiring emergency shelter.  It may not be the best setting in a crisis, but it is better than the alternative where most services for the poor are provided by churches which are also closed during this crisis. People need housing to advance their lives. If housing was not such a commodified asset and considered a privilege rather than a right, we would not be in this situation. Housing is healthcare.  If this country and this region believes that to be true, then more needs to be done immediately. If COVID-19 and the experience of the homeless has taught us anything, it would be that we have to do right by the poor. 


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Should Black and Brown Organizers Trust White Allies?

Grassroots DC - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 11:01

I originally started this blog post just after former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, much to my relief. In the midst of editing and finalizing it, the coronavirus hit and the world turned upside down. At that point, it seemed ill-timed and irrelevant to publish this. But the coronavirus is not going away any time soon, and neither is gun violence. Or racism. In fact, systemic racism is causing the coronavirus to sicken, kill and impoverish Black and Brown people at a disproportionate rate. This unjust imbalance mirrors the impact that gun violence has on communities of color as well. Despite stay at home orders, as of May 22, 2020 homicides in DC are trending even higher than they were at this time last year. Tragically, the District has experienced multiple double and triple shootings in the past few weeks, many involving teenagers or young adults, with one ending in the death of a 17-year-old. That’s why I feel it’s important to publish this blog post. Especially now, we all need to work together, fight injustices and help each other. I don’t want any level of distrust to get in the way of working together for the greater good. So consider this a case study: “Should Black and Brown Organizers Trust White Allies?”

I didn’t become the DC chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for fame and certainly not for fortune. It’s a volunteer role- not paid- and there’s nothing glamorous about working to stop people from dying of gun violence. I became the chapter leader in 2018 because that year my husband’s hometown of Parkland, Florida, and my childhood neighborhood of Squirrel Hill both experienced mass shootings. I felt I had to do more. But it wasn’t just that. Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the District. I am also painfully aware that while 51% of DC’s residents are Black, approximately 96% of DC’s gun homicide victims are Black. In my experiences as a volunteer both before and after becoming chapter leader, I have met so many beautiful people here in DC whose lives are forever stained by bloodshed as either they were injured or they lost a loved one to gun violence here in DC. My uncle committed suicide by gun before I was born. I am all too familiar with the chaos and devastation that a tragedy of gun violence wreaks on a family for multiple generations. I’ve met so many survivors here in DC, I’ve listened to their stories, and I’ve built strong connections with many of them. I feel a moral obligation to them. I cannot turn my back on them. But I’m not here to save the day. I’m here to listen, learn and use my white privilege to assist however I can.

I felt immense relief when former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race in early March. My relief was not just because I vehemently disagree with his support for racist policies like stop and frisk and his callous and misogynistic comments towards women, but also because as the volunteer leader for the DC chapter of Moms Demand Action, his candidacy has sowed doubt about my volunteer-led organization with some of our partner organizations led by Black Washingtonians. 

Here’s why: Bloomberg partially funds Moms Demand Action nationally, but he did not create Moms, as he erroneously claimed during the Democratic debate in South Carolina in February. Stay-at-home mother Shannon Watts founded Moms Demand Action in 2012 after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. (She had no personal connection to that shooting, but felt connected to the cause and emboldened to do something about it as she was raising her own young children at the time.) Shannon partnered with Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns in 2013 to create Everytown for Gun Safety, the umbrella organization for Moms, Everytown and the Everytown Survivor Network. Currently, he funds about 25% of the Moms budget nationally.

Moms Demand Action is an all-volunteer grassroots organization focused on passing common sense public safety measures to protect all people from gun violence. That means each chapter’s agenda is set by the volunteers and volunteer leadership who live in that city or state, with help from Everytown’s research and policy experts. (You can read more about Everytown’s national agenda here: Break the Pattern.) 

Moms was started by a white suburban mother in response to a school shooting, but the organization has evolved over the years to include research, education and advocacy for domestic violence, suicide and city gun violence, which together make up the vast majority of gun violence in our country. The organization has also worked very intentionally to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive in all aspects of the work, from people to policies. For example, Shannon Watts penned this blog, “We Have to Say “Never Again” to Police Violence, Too”, about police violence after officers shot and killed Stephon Clark in his own backyard in Sacramento. 

In DC, our chapter works hard to make connections with community organizations in neighborhoods most affected by gun violence and to uplift the too often overlooked and undervalued work that Black women and men have been doing in DC for decades to end gun violence. As someone who is white and who moved to DC as a young adult, I do not pretend to have that lived experience – or to have all the answers. I have learned so much from the Black and Brown people doing this challenging work, and I am grateful for their partnership and friendship. I am still learning – and Moms as an organization is still learning – about what being a true ally looks like. 

A little about our chapter: We have volunteers from all eight Wards, including Black, Brown and white individuals, men and women, young professionals, students, grandparents, parents, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of many faiths. We each come from different backgrounds, but we are all working toward a common goal: to put an end to the public health crisis of gun violence locally, regionally and nationally.  Our annual DC chapter budget from Everytown is $2,400, and last year we raised an additional $18,000 to fund our local agenda and activities, as well as to support our local community partners, the majority of which are local non-profits owned and operated by Black people here in the District. We also submit grant requests to Everytown to provide additional support for the work of our local community partners, who are doing the important work of healing trauma, teaching conflict resolution skills, and addressing the myriad of root cause issues that contribute to gun violence in the District.

There are volunteers in our ranks who are vehemently opposed to Bloomberg, and there are others who supported his campaign because of the huge investment in gun violence prevention that he has made over the years. Bloomberg and Everytown spent a record $2.5 million in Virginia during the 2019 midterm elections to elect what we call “Gun Sense Candidates,” or candidates who have vowed to enact legislation that will reduce gun violence. We flipped the Virginia House and Senate in that election and the state is now starting to pass common sense gun safety laws. This will save lives in the District, as over 35% of the guns recovered in DC are traced back to Virginia. And it wasn’t just Everytown’s money that helped us win that election – Moms volunteers from DC, Maryland, and Virginia made phone calls and knocked on doors for months to help get out the gun sense vote.

I continue to be angered and saddened by the racism and sexism in our country – even within organizations and people who simultaneously support progressive work. I try every day to chip away at the systems that hold back my Black and Brown neighbors and friends.

We all want to see an end to gun violence in DC, but we know our work is only as strong as the community partnerships we have built. I welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues in person and together unravel this tension.

Rachel Usdan moved to DC in 1999 and is currently living in the District with her husband and two young children, who occasionally help her Demand Action. All opinions are her own. dc@momschapterleaders.org


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Coronavirus is Devastating the Homeless Community: DC Must Pivot Quickly to Save Lives

Grassroots DC - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 13:20

Cross-Posted from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

For decades, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless has worked to break down the barriers that widespread poverty has created.  Since our inception, we have worked to affirm housing as a fundamental right—not a privilege.  Perhaps no moment more critically highlights the crucial importance of and need for housing and safe spaces than the current public health emergency. COVID-19 has ravaged the most vulnerable communities across this nation.  It has directed a spotlight onto the many injustices and inequities faced by those existing in spaces that society has cast aside, exacerbating the real and deadly effects of poverty and white supremacy.  It has pushed to the forefront conversations around health and economic disparities, income inequality, housing insecurity, and the inequitable allocation of resources.

While the disastrous effects of this pandemic are being seen throughout the country, people experiencing homelessness and in congregate settings are among those most heavily impacted.  With a lack of access to widespread testing or safe spaces to socially distance, these communities are seeing a massive spread of infection. Simply, streets and congregate settings are not appropriate environments to contain or control the spread of this virus.

Despite this widely accepted fact, there are still far too many DC residents on the street and in crowded congregate shelters.  Out of approximately 4,000 single adults currently experiencing homelessness in DC, less than three percent have been relocated to private spaces where social distancing can actually occur.  Tragically, nine homeless DC residents have died from COVID-19 and 152 have had confirmed positive results as of Sunday, April 26th.  During a five-day period last week, the spike in cases among the unhoused community was 2.5 times higher than the increase among DC’s general population. Without access to universal testing, the numbers of those affected are undoubtedly higher than the reported data reflects.

We know that the containment of this virus is a global undertaking.  Community members, nonprofit organizations, and local government officials have been working hard to figure out ways to protect the community with limited federal funding and constantly evolving public health guidance.  However, the District is certainly not alone in the challenges it faces to protect its homeless population.  When confronted with startling data, other jurisdictions shifted gears in order to respond with urgency and creativity in ensuring that shelter and street populations are widely tested and moved to non-congregate settings.  Many other jurisdictions have already placed thousands of homeless individuals in hotels.  Meanwhile, DC’s current hotel occupancy rate is less than ten percent, leaving nearly 30,000 rooms empty, in addition to thousands of vacant dormitory and housing units throughout DC.

Unfortunately, DC’s current initiatives are not enough to protect DC’s homeless community. The time has come to shift the DC government’s approach.

The Legal Clinic recommends that the DC government:

  • Immediately offer a COVID-19 test to every person who lives on the street or in a congregate setting.
  • Immediately offer a placement to every person who lives on the street or in a congregate setting into a private and non-congregate setting, such as a hotel room, a private dormitory unit, or a vacant housing unit. Develop a system to screen and place people who become homeless during this time into private settings. In these non-congregate settings, provide food, staffing, other basic needs, and medical assistance, as appropriate. Ensure that those residents are checked on regularly.
  • Retain non-congregate placements until COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic or epidemic and has been nationally contained by widespread access to a vaccine. Simultaneously work to quickly place people into safe, affordable housing to limit the number of individuals who will eventually return to congregate settings.

Last Friday, the Legal Clinic sent a letter to Mayor Bowser detailing the aforementioned concerns and recommendations for protecting the lives of community members experiencing homelessness and in congregate settings. People experiencing homelessness in DC are more likely to be elderly, Black, and suffer health conditions that place them at high risk of death or serious complications from COVID-19.  DC must act immediately to protect the lives of its vulnerable communities. DC must also further its expressed commitment to racial justice by creating and maintaining housing that is deeply affordable for those who need it to survive here, now and post-pandemic.


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The People’s COVID-19 Demands

Grassroots DC - Sun, 04/19/2020 - 13:06

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are looking for ways to help their communities or communities with less resources than their own come through the current crisis as undamaged as possible. As a result, community activists and organizers created the DC Mutual Aid Network. Although they take donations from anyone, Mutual Aid Network administrators and lead organizers are clear that they are not a charity. They are consensus-based rather than hierarchical. They build the leadership of the people most impacted by the problem. They also recognize that the current crisis is connected to wider issues of injustice and work to correct those injustices.

To further those goals, the DC Mutual Aid Network plans to present a set of demands to District Government regarding their response to COVID-19. Before they can do that, they must gather the thoughts, opinions and suggestions of those most impacted by the problem. To that end, they put together a People’s Demands Survey in both English and Spanish.

Information about the survey is posted below or can be found at the survey website http://thepeoplesdemandsdc.com/. If you’re reading this and you are a District of Colombia resident please consider filling out the survey, especially if you or someone you care about, is unable to socially isolate.


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Supporting COVID-19 Mutual Aid Efforts

Grassroots DC - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 13:07
As the spread of the coronavirus has accelerated over the past week, we are reminded yet again of one key truth: The state will not keep us safe—but we can keep each other safe.

We know now that the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is social distancing. But we also know that many people in our communities will need help to make social distancing possible—elders, disabled people, and immunocompromised folks who can’t run errands without compromising their health; workers who don’t have paid sick leave; and people whose anxiety is triggered by isolation, among others. 

Throughout DC, people are organizing to help their neighbors through mutual aid.

Mutual aid  is a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another and changing political conditions, not just through charity or symbolic acts or putting pressure on their representatives in government. Instead, this is about actually building new social relations that are more survivable. 

You can find out more about ongoing opportunities and sources for mutual aid at the DC Mutual Aid Network on Facebook or on Instagram.

If you are able to contribute time, energy, skills, or labor, we encourage you to fill out the forms linked below, which will connect you to groups organizing mutual aid throughout the city.

You can also use the forms to ask for help, if you need help cleaning, running errands, dealing with prescriptions.  Most of us will end up needing to ask for help during this crisis.

Mutual Aid Request and Volunteer Forms: 

  • Ward 1
  • Ward 7 and 8: Call the hotline – 202-630-0336 – for those needing support or looking to volunteer. 
  • Takoma/Ward 4
  • Ward 6

You can also support by donating to groups organizing mutual aid efforts, including:

If you know of additional organizing going on in DC, please email info@sptdc.com or hit us up on social, and we’ll amplify your work.

Above all, please take care of yourselves physically and mentally. We are literally all in this together.

Yours in struggle,

SPTP-DC


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Antifascist Comedian Mike Gamms Gets New York Green Party Nod for NY27 Congressional Race

DC Media Group - Sun, 02/23/2020 - 21:09

An anti-fascist comedian has earned a Green Party nomination to run for the New York 27th District Congressional seat. The New York State Board of Elections announced Mike Gamms’ candidacy on Friday, February 20, after the Green Party of Erie and Monroe counties nominated him. He is running in a special election to be held on April 28, 2020, for a seat vacated by disgraced Trump supporter Chris Collins, who resigned after pleading guilty to insider trading.

Gamms is well known in anti-fascist social media circles as a funny-bone. He focuses attention to social issues with his videos by creating comical drama around them. He has upended neo-nationalist and conservative rallies by poking fun at them. He’s often used comedy as a tactic to push back against narrow ideologies with parody and ad hoc theatrical performances. He has dressed up as a flamboyant superhero and as an “anti-Christ” devil and appeared at KKK and nationalist rallies to challenge racist and homophobic rhetoric.

He’s not very imposing but that makes him more effective in his craft. A slender frame and all of “129 lbs., 5 foot 7 3/4 inches tall in ‘girls’ clothing,” many just giggle at him. And they have. But then he starts his routine and the targets are easily distracted by his comedy. He trolls fascists, nationalists and the KKK. He lambasted the police at the Standing Rock Pipeline fight while activists stood-off against the paid police proxy of TransCanada’s Dakota Access Pipeline. ”I use comedy as my weapon because it’s the only one I have,“ he said.

He uses comedy to make light of serious situations. “I use comedy as my weapon because it’s the only one I have.” Photo: Mike Gamms

He realizes the issues he’s confronting are no laughing matter. “I am running on a platform eco-socialism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, and anti-capitalism,” said Gamms. He expressed pride in having been chosen to represent Distruct 27 but knows there’s a lot of work to be done to restore confidence in the fractured political system of his district.

Republican Congressman Chris Collins won New York District 27 in 2013. He also served on Trump’s 2016 election transition team. He was forced to resign on September 30, 2019 before pleading guilty to insider trading. Collins is among a growing number of discredited public figures connected to the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign and subsequent transition team.

Gamms, a self-described radical insurgent and anti-fascist, plans to center issues important to the marginalized at the front of his campaign as he works to empower them in his community. He is running to challenge the political standard of entrenched entitlement.

“I don’t see myself fitting into this political system and that’s exactly why I’m running,” said Gamms. “I don’t like the label ‘progressive’ as it has been co-oped by pseudo-progressive incrementalists who stand in the way of justice.”

As a self-described bisexual extremist, he comes out in support of federal decriminalization of sex work, the repeal of SESTA/FOSTA, and proposes extending standard workers rights to sex workers. He is the first openly bisexual male comedian ever nominated for United States Congress.

He supports classifying crimes against sex workers as a hate crime. “This is important because so many violent crimes are against sex workers. They are seen as less than human,” he said.

“I am also calling for a federal ban on all conversion therapy on children. This includes both gay conversion therapy, and applied behavioral analysis conversion therapy on autistic children. Furthermore, Autism Speaks and any other group who push these practices must be classified as a hate group,“ he said

He is also standing against the growing military budget and its cycle of military industry financial donations to buy political favor. He argues it has siphoned public funding for programs where people are suffering most: health care, education, and housing. “We spend trillions of dollars committing mass murder and ecocide around the world for the profits of a few at the expense of the planet and everyone on it. We need to redistribute billionaires’ wealth and redistribute the military budget,” he said.

Gamms was active in the enviromental movement at Standing Rock where he participated in the Dakota Access Pipeline battle in 2016-7. He has traveled around the country advocating for environmental protections in communities needing support.

Healthcare reform and Medicare for all is another issue Gamms strongly supports. As a comedian searching for a break through moment he has no health plan because he can’t afford one and has experienced first hand the costs of not having healthcare. After a hard-arrest during an environmental action he was videotaping, he was forced to pay out of pocket expenses for bruises and cracked ribs.

He lost a comedian friend, Raghav who just like him had no health insurance or means to pay for care. Raghav couldn’t afford the prescriptions or visits for his severe depression. Gamms was moved by his struggle and decided he would do something about it if he ever got the chance. About ‘45,000 people in the US die every year from not having health insurance,’ reads a published Elle story written by Raghav’s former girlfriend, Kate Willett.

Gamms believes healthcare is a human right, “Not a privilege for those who can afford it.” He endorsees healthcare for those who are in need regardless of their status. Photo: Mike Gamms

He believes healthcare is a human right, “Not a privilege for those who can afford it.” He endorsees healthcare for those who are in need regardless of their status. “My republican opponent, Chris Jacobs opposes Medicare for All, while my democrat opponent, Nate McMurry claims to support Medicare for all but adds ‘until everyone in my town, state, or county has full healthcare, we can’t give it to the world.’” Both are unacceptable options to him as they allow the healthcare industry to deny care to those who can’t afford it.

His platform includes eco-socialism, anti-capitalism, and anti-imperialism. He plans to do “whatever is necessary” to shake up the political system that looks away as the environment is ruined and benefits from corruption with businesses.

“The system is right to be afraid of us,” he said. “I believe in disrupting the political system, the status quo and business as usual. As long as warmongers continue to control our lives, millions of people will continue to suffer.

You can donate to his campaign here.

The post Antifascist Comedian Mike Gamms Gets New York Green Party Nod for NY27 Congressional Race appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Martin Luther King Explains the Three Evils of Society

Grassroots DC - Mon, 01/20/2020 - 14:12

Fifteen years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that would make the third Monday of January a holiday in his honor. Like many if not most Republicans, Reagan opposed the holiday. They believed that King was a communist. They didn’t like that he opposed the war in Vietnam and then of course there was all that business with the Civil Rights. The law almost passed in 1979, but it wasn’t until 1983 that it passed in both the House and Senate by veto-proof margins which forced right-wing hero President Reagan to sign it.

For that reason alone, I love this holiday. But every good thing has its unintended consequences. One of those is the commercialization of the holiday and the very successful attempt by corporations, the media, most of our elected officials, etc., to whitewash the memory of Martin Luther King. By focusing only on the speeches and actions that do not criticize Capitalism or US Imperialism, most Americans have no real understanding of the depth of King’s critique of the United States and its policies. Sure overt bigotry is bad and it’s kinda crazy to think of not sitting next to a Black person at a lunch counter or on the bus but all that talk about poverty, his support for unions and the anti-war movement–do we really need to go there?

In the spirit of honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. in a manner that is true to his vision, here is one of his lesser-known speeches.

The Three Evils of Society: Racism, Poverty and War

King delivered this speech at The National Conference for New Politics, which took place in Chicago over Labor Day weekend in 1967. Around 3,000 people, from hundreds of organizations, attended the conference which featured MLK as the keynote speaker.  The goal was to unify political activists of all races who believed in civil rights and opposed the Vietnam War.  President Lyndon B. Johnson felt so threatened by the conference, he instructed the FBI to attempt to track the attendants’ movements and thwart any long-term plans of the NCNP. As the commentary Revisiting MLK’s speech, ‘The 3 Evils of Society, ‘ suggests that this speech is the most prophetic and revolutionary address to date on the questions of militarism, poverty, and racism.

The running time is 43 minutes. For those who prefer to read, a transcript of the speech can be found at the bottom of this post.


The post Martin Luther King Explains the Three Evils of Society appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Black Lives Matter Open Letter to the Board of the Women’s March

Grassroots DC - Thu, 01/16/2020 - 11:46

January 15, 2020

To the Board and Staff of the Women’s March,

As we approach the 4th Annual Women’s March this Saturday, and especially given our interactions with Women’s March staff and leadership over the last month, it has become apparent, again, that all of our efforts to call you in have failed. You have failed both to fulfill your agreements to acknowledge the harm you have caused, and to complete the reparations you have previously committed to. This failure is clearly evident in your planning of this year’s March, as you are continuing to ignore the communities in DC in your practice, when you claim to be standing in solidarity with us in your words. We have attempted, repeatedly, to call you into more accountability and to actively restore the relationship with us and the communities we work with.

On December 27, 2018 we sent you this incredibly important email which carefully detailed the history of harms perpetuated by the Women’s March and those associated with the organization. Some of these harms included a failure to center DC, the continuous exclusion of local Black Trans women, and the permanent damage done to the local ability to organize. We continue to impress upon you that more than one thing can be centered at a time, and poly-centrism is essential in this work. In this instance:

“D.C. is more than Congress and the White House. It is more than the DOJ and the National Mall. For large mobilizations that come into the District, this means holding the reality of D.C. as both the nation’s capital, the center of empire, a necessary place for national protests, and home to real life human beings with important local issues. Local D.C. is a domestic colony and the actions of national organizers have to recognize that.”

And we’ve said, “Here in D.C., these unstrategic mass mobilizations distract from local organizing, often overlook the Black people who actually live here and even result in tougher laws against demonstration being passed locally.”

Last year we worked closely with Rachel Carmona, Tamika Mallory, and Linda Sarsour. This work was facilitated by DC Action Lab (who pushed Tamika and Linda to meet with us). Outside of the public gaze, in meetings and calls, we made some progress that included this public letter, written by the Women’s March. Even though there was no apology or recognition of harms included in this letter, as the agreement was that they would be detailed in a second letter, the Women’s March did state:

“We commit to being intentional about reaching out to local BLM chapters and other local organizations to understand their needs and to hear how we can ensure our work in their cities is not a burden but an opportunity for amplification and collaboration.”

We want to be very clear, the Women’s March failed to fulfill this commitment to us and to other BLM chapters. BLM Los Angeles has also experienced the same failure to reach out. To that end, it was particularly frustrating to come across a picture of one of our organizers’ car and our contingent in the local DC MLK Parade being used to promote this year’s March on Instagram, knowing that you did not continue with the process we agreed to nor reach out to us about this year’s march at all.

The organizers, advocates, DC residents, and grassroots organizations we are in community with were very skeptical last year, even after the public letter from the Women’s March. We took a lot of personal hits, including having our politics deeply challenged as a result of us publicly working with you, agreeing to speak at the 2019 rally, and marching with you. At great risk to her own credibility, one of our Core Organizers April Goggans, did a radio interview shortly after the beginning of the accountability process, where she publicly named that there seemed to be a new path forward for the Women’s March that was intersectional, inclusive, and responsive to local organizers.

We had a call later with Carmen Perez, National Co-Chair. During the call Carmen agreed to write a public apology letter that would speak to the harms we had relayed, as well as specifically address her role in talking to DC organizers during the Justice League’s March 2 Justice in 2015. She was also supposed to address her remarks on Angela Rye’s podcast on July 9, 2017, when she publicly disparaged DC organizers by insinuating that they are comparable to COINTELPRO and agitators. Carmen never sent or posted this letter. In fact, we hadn’t heard from Carmen since that call, until she reached out to April Goggans via email on January 6, 2020. This is not the only apology letter that the Women’s March committed to writing but then failed to send. At our two week debrief after the 2019 Women’s March, you committed to sending a detailed apology letter that acknowledged past harms. It has now been a year and you have not released the letter or completed any of the other steps you committed to during that debrief.

You have been planning this year’s March for the better part of 4 months but AGAIN waited until December to reach out to BLMDC. By the time you reached out everything was finished, and you expected us to rush to tell you about specific issues, just so that you could rush to check them off your list. A quick check-in or heads-up to even tell us you were still having a March would have been nice, as we’ve told you that MLK Weekend is a historically busy weekend in DC for local communities and organizers. As we have mentioned in the past, checking in with us and other local folks would allow us to see how we can work together around the impact to public transit for DC residents (most directly impacting Black and brown folks), space, port-a-potties (AGAIN), and more. Not this time. The harms you are perpetuating now have not changed, and clearly the Women’s March has not either.

As always, in building the world we want, we remain committed to continuing to walk in our values and principles when it comes to co-creating accountability. BLM DC is led entirely by Black femmes and we want to name that we will not be putting further emotional or other labor into this process until the Women’s March fulfills the commitments it made last year at our two-week debrief. We look forward to seeing the Women’s March Board and Staff take public accountability, make public apologies, and take public steps to repair harm.

Toward Liberation,


Black Lives Matter DC

Twitter @DMVBlackLives
Instagram: blacklivesmatterdc
Facebook: BLMDC
Our mailing list.


The post Black Lives Matter Open Letter to the Board of the Women’s March appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Sex Trafficking And DC’s Missing Youth – A Frightening Connection

Grassroots DC - Mon, 11/18/2019 - 22:00
The Sad Trend of Missing Black & Brown Kids

Approximately 300,000 children under the age of 18 are lured into sex trafficking each year. Girls are typically brought into the sex trade as young as twelve years old. Boys can be entrapped into the illicit trade at an even younger age. Sex trafficking tends to occur in impoverished neighborhoods, urban centers and along interstate highways. Most victims tend to be those associated with the foster care system, runaways or black. Forty percent of sex trafficking victims are African Americans. It is estimated that 62% of suspected victims are African American. In the District of Columbia over 2,500 cases have been reported as of 2017. It is reported that over 1,600 of these cases involve children. The same year in which controversy sparked over the amount of missing black girls in the District who received little to no media coverage. This form of modern-day slavery is prevalent in Washington, D.C. and is affecting our youth.

Sex trafficking is far from a victimless crime; it is, in fact, a multi-billion dollar industry that operates throughout the United States. Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring or transporting for compelled labor or sexual acts. Human trafficking can also consist of forced marriages, organ removal, and domestic servitude. Sex trafficking can include but does not require movement. More than 2,000 children go missing each year in the District of Columbia. The Polaris Project study determined that the number of cases reported to a national trafficking hotline surged 25 percent. As of 2019, more than 100 children have been rescued from sex traffickers in the metropolitan area. When black and brown children are missing, little national attention is given to their plight. According to Natalie Wilson of the Black & Missing Foundation, black children who go missing, receive less media attention than white kids.

Communities of Color: Myths & Misconceptions

Youths who are victims of sex trafficking go through a process of manipulation. These kids are often targeted regarding lack of family support, bullying, and even struggling for social acceptance can make them targets. Often youth are groomed or tricked into false beliefs based on words told to them. The process can start off as innocent with toys, candies, compliments, etc and gradually began to escalate. By building a connection, sex traffickers begin to brainwash and manipulate their victims. Hallmarks of child sex trafficking can include unexplained absences from school, bragging about making or having a lot of money, evidence of physical abuse, sexualized behavior and acting withdrawn. Victims’ home life can revolve around violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse and more and will shape the perception of their predators as a saving grace. Boys can account for 13% of human trafficking.

Due to a lack of resources for male survivors, there are limited resources for them. Thus in which research regarding abused male survivors is scarce. Statistically, 0.4% of cases are identified, meaning the majority of cases are not. The representation of sex trafficking in the media warps the perception of who’s at risk. Any child who has been abused or abandoned no matter their gender can become a victim of child trafficking. The image the media shows of who a victim might be is often not who it is. Anyone can become a victim. Trafficking can take place anywhere as the main goal is exploitation and enslavement. Many common misconceptions and beliefs hinder us from being aware of our surroundings and noticing when these situations are out of the ordinary.

Sexually exploited youths do not have the freedom and are not able to escape. Victims of sexual exploitation often suffer from physical, emotional, and mental abuse. One of the least acknowledged facts regarding child trafficking is an alarming number of black victims. Black youth between the ages of 12-19 have or will experience higher violent interactions than their white counterparts. This is because the narrative of the topic is victim vs exploiter. Case in point, Cyntoia Brown-Long was sentenced as a teen to life in prison for killing her abductor. Black girls are often labeled as the perpetrator rather than a victim. This makes them easy targets for predators. In 2013 60% of prosecuted minors were arrested for prostitution.

Statistics show that African-American men kidnap and traffic the majority of America’s sex trafficking victims. However, these traffickers are marketing and selling the services of their victims to a largely white, affluent base. Most people who pay for sexual favors generally have disposable income. For example, Jason Rodger or DJ KID has trafficked 700 black females. His criminal history of kidnapping, harboring and forcing minors to perform sexual acts go back far as 2011. The white south Carolina promoter also has AIDS that wasn’t reported to other parties until a 13-year-old victim revealed it. Rodgers is in custody but the story receives no coverage from mainstream media. This is because black victims are ignored. The suspects’ page is still active in which he boasts about his triumph: “I’m 36 with 693 BODIES (All Black females), WBU?”
Social and economic impacts on society can contribute to why certain areas are a hotspot for trafficking. The rise of social media has allowed it to become more accessible to order sex. While this can reduce violence among adult sex workers who work for themselves, the Internet has not been positive for young victims. Websites such as Backpage, Kik, Snapchat, and Instagram distribute services of young minors globally. Backpage CEO was even arrested in 2016 for conspiracy to commit pimping and other charges. The apps have been involved in over 1,000 child abuse cases. Youtuber Matt Watson’s video explained how predators even time stamp videos and comment when minors appear in a sexually explicit manner. These operations can be hidden under ordinary business establishments. To help put a stop to human trafficking the District of Columbia passed the Prohibition of Human Trafficking Act of 2010.

What Can Be Done?

Tina Frundt, Executive Director of Courtney House created the Washington, D.C. organization to help children who have gotten out of the illegal industry and to educate others to recognize indicators of possible sex trafficking. The organization encourages citizens who suspect children are being victimized to report their suspicions to law enforcement and in doing so possibly save lives.

Sex trafficking has been reported in hotels, brothels and massage parlors but victims can be recruited anywhere. There is no specified region for human trafficking as it is a global business. Workers and bystanders are being trained to recognize victims of child trafficking and online predators.

Gentrification and the rise of tourism in DC has made the city a sex tourist destination. The DC Bill Community Health and Safety Act of 2019 will also make it harder to find victims. By removing criminal penalties for engaging in sexual exchange trafficked victims are at risk. A better solution would be the Equality Mode as it would not hold the sex workers accountable but it would reprimand buyers. By providing options for victims to exit the lifestyle, this approach would make buying people a criminal offense. The model would help reduce the demand for sex trafficking. Becoming more educated on the topic can help save a life. Report any pages, threads or profiles that mention, discuss and engage in fetishizing lascivious acts with minors. Social media has helped these acts to spread through online feeds featuring child pornography and snuff films. Educate minors to become more aware of online predators, child exploitation and sex trafficking. The main goal of sex traffickers is to find the means to exploit the victim or have the victim leave home to engage in sex. As a reminder child sex trafficking is a genderless crime and can target anyone.

How To Report :

To help defend human dignity and end child exploitation the following options to report are listed below:

Report child abuse/neglect hotline: 202-671-(SAFE) or 7233. Representatives will ask for the following: General information regarding minors such as their name, gender, address, etc. The extent of abuse witnessed and any additional information.

Some people in specific professions, teachers, chiropractors, dentists and more can take FREE training classes. To access these free training courses click here. To report sexual implicit videos, images, text messages, etc involving minors please visit: http://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/cybertipline

Baylor University offers recommendations to discuss the conversation and educate youth here. By noticing these signs and spreading awareness, you can help at-risk youth and save a life.

To contact safe havens for victims: The Courtney House: call 202 525 1426. The Black and Missing Foundation can be reached at 877 972 2634.


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