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Cash Bail 101

Grassroots DC - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 09:42

Systematic Effects on Low-Income Neighborhoods

Starmanie Jackson, a single mother of two, was seized during a traffic stop. While in custody, police found a three-year-old warrant prompting a speedy arrest. Within minutes of her hearing, bail was placed at $700, despite being unable to afford it and having no legal representation. As a result, Ms. Jackson lost her employment since she was unable to inform her job of the situation. She was jailed for a week because she could not afford the bail. Ms. Jackson is just one example of an individual who lost their job, custody of their kids, and housing because she could not afford bail.

It is quite easy to be apprehended despite what most people may believe. This is because police do not have to be “convinced” that you are guilty. If there is sufficient evidence for the police, regardless of the situation, you can be arrested and convicted. 

What is cash bail?

Cash bail is a price placed on civilians to ensure their release from jail. The accused will be detained until payment is made.  This collateral is an agreement that the arrested person will return to court. A judge typically places the bail after the initial arrest. There are seven types of bonds that each have a monetary value. Surety, property, citation release, recognizance release, federal, immigration, and cash bonds are all forms of bail. 

Cash bail should be abolished because it is unconstitutional. Bond and insurance companies are businesses and are not a part of the legal system. These companies violate equal protection rights under the 14th amendment and the act of prohibition under bond also violates the 8th amendment.

Bond companies operate to make a profit and not to help guarantee people’s freedom. While this system works for those with access to money, the multibillion-dollar bail industry does not provide adequate resources for defendants who cannot afford bail. There is a significant disparity in the price that bail can be set at, ranging from under $2,000 to around $500,000.

Additionally, there are incentives to set higher bails to ensure a profit.  However, higher bail amounts do not increase public safety. 

Many judges set bail without considering if the defendant can pay for it. As a result, one in six people in jail has yet to be proven guilty.  Many people lose their jobs, custody of their kids, and housing because they wait for trials for nonviolent offenses and cannot afford to pay their way out.  There are a lot of factors that can cause an arrest, and a warrant is the most common factor that causes a lot of people to be sentenced. Studies show that higher bail bonds are a primary driver for jail population growth. About 600,000 people step into a jail cell every year, and people are put in jail 10.6 million times a year.  One in four people arrested will return to prison within the same year. 

The bail system was created in 1789, the same year the Bill of Rights was implemented. Since then, this billion-dollar industry has charged more than 36% in additional fees to clients for minor offenses. 

On top of all of this, not all people released on bond are analyzed to see if they are a danger to society under our current system.  In many instances, people who have a violent past have continuously been allowed back into society. If the Founding Fathers put this system in place for the greater good of the community, why do the people who are not a threat suffer the most? And, why are most of these people Black and brown? 

Unfortunately, bail amounts have also doubled over the past 20 years.  This means that many people sit in jail while awaiting their trial. However, pretrial detention is also a significant factor in rearrest. Yet, being released on pre-trial did not increase the defendants’ likelihood of committing crimes. In Mississippi, bail agents can charge 10 percent on a bond valued at 100. They also can tax $50 on each bond. All of these extra fees are profits for the bail agents.  Once a bond is paid, the amount is typically in the custody of the court or the sheriff. The money the courts make through bonds is then distributed through the city and county. This money is spent on general government expenditures. Instead of relying on the bonds system, a wealth tax can replace or even provide more money. Rather than forcing poor and working-class people to pay for government programs through bail, placing a higher tax on businesses and the wealthy could help provide funding.

Many people argue that bail is necessary for public safety. In  New York, for example, after disbanding its bail system, many arrested people began to trend online. With their charges plastered on social media, it started a conversation regarding public safety and raised the question: Is cash bail good for public safety? Regardless of your financial status, the requirements regarding the bail amount are determined by numerous factors. There becomes an overlap of due process principles and equal protection. The process of waiting for a trial is very lengthy. Your court date can continuously be pushed back, and there is no way for you to organize your affairs.  Regardless of the extent of the crime, as long as you can post bail, you are free to go. This structural linchpin divides people based on wealth and not safety. 

There is no cash bail in the District, and a risk assessment algorithm determines a person’s threat to public safety. The algorithm gives judges a score that determines how likely the accused will be to return to court. Unless the defendant is dangerous or committed a severe felony, about 85% of defendants are released without bond. This assessment determined 99% of released defendants administered back into society have not been a danger. The success comes from local and state bail statutes outlining detention eligibility, restricting cash bail usage, and providing supervision options that match risk levels. 

Cash bail is a flawed system that does not protect the people. It is a system constructed around monetary gain.

Regardless of the severity of the crime, you can simply buy your way out. The conversation then changes from safety to wealth. The Bill of Rights targets incarceration as a means to protect criminal defendants. However, the cash bail system hinders the public by accumulating taxpayer money.

Furthermore, a person’s release based on income is an infringement upon the 14th amendment. Bail is not a significant factor in aiding crime. Environmental factors, poverty, revenue, and other disadvantages lead to criminalization. Rather than investing in pretrial detention, increased investment in violence prevention or community services can have a more positive effect. The focus should be made on prevention.   

For more information or resources to end cash bail practices check out some of these organizations.  DMV Bailout ​​has a locally focused inicative called End Money Bail you can find more information here.  Harriet’s Wildest Dreams has several programs and you can find more here.  Maryland 4 Justice Reform, here, has the Court Objection Project which is designed to educate people on the pretrial system while also changing the reliance on bail. These organizations provide ideas for alternatives to bail along with means to better assist defendants.

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Activists Support Ukraine with Light Projections on Russian Embassy

DC Media Group - Thu, 03/17/2022 - 00:36

Washington DC— Activists showed support for Ukrainian resistence fighters by projecting a light show on the Russian Embassy on Wednesday night. The lights were to demonstrate support for Ukrainian resistence fighters, despite the activists’ stand against war. They were also designed to embarrass the few Russian diplomats left in the U.S.

Activists used a high-power projector with a metal plate copied from a button design depicting a Ukrainian woman holding flowers while facing an onslaught of a certain violent end. The Ukrainian resistence has stood against overwhelming odds the last 20 days and captivated worldwide attention, while inspiring the support of nearly every nation.

Activists projected this image of a Ukrainian freedom fighter at the Russian Embassy. Image: Heidi Phelps ©️ use by artist’s permission

Bill Moyer, Executive Director of Backbone Campaign, said that the projection onto the Russian Embassy was “to escalate peace and show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” He also called for a ceasefire and withdrawal of all Russian forces. “We stand with the Ukrainian people who, like all people of the world, hunger only for peace and dignity,” he said.

Phil Atito, the light projectionist said he stood with solidarity for Ukrainian freedom fighters, and worried parties were moving towards nuclear war. He faulted NATO for its decades’ long ambitions that contributed to a war-footing situation. “We are not condoning Russia in any way,” he said, ”but the part of the puzzle that isn’t being talked about is NATO escalating the situation for the last [few decades].”

The projected image of a woman holding a sunflower was created by artist Heidi Phelps as a free non-commercial download to give the public a chance to show support for the Ukrainian resistence. The poster was inspired by Ukrainian vyshyvanka traditional folk dress, and Ukraine’s national flower, the sunflower, according to Phelps’ website.

Phelps said she created the image to stand with the Ukrainian people and stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “I made this poster available for free download on my website to make it easier for people to print and use as protest posters to get out on the streets and make themselves heard. By projecting this image, I’ll be creating a series of photos to use in a digital campaign to help raise funds for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and provide a list of resources where people all over the world can provide concrete help now,” she said.

The light projection was accompanied by an image of a Ukrainian flag behind it.

Activists renamed the entrance to the Russian Embassy ‘Zelinsky Way’ in honor of the president leading the ongoing resistence in Ukraine.

Moyer said that said that “no country’s greatness is elevated by violence and bullying. Neither the US role in NATO nor interference in post-Soviet Russia is an excuse for Putin’s immoral, delusional and dictatorial violence on the people of Ukraine and his endangerment of the entire world. We refuse to allow Putin to bait the world into further devastating violence or any escalation that might unleash unthinkable levels of nuclear annihilation.”

Moyers applauded the people of Russia protesting in order to halt the war being perpetrated in their name. He urged them to continue their courageous and necessary efforts to stop the war on Ukraine through general strikes or any other nonviolent means.

“There are so many threats to our children’s future and the planet. Those actual threats demand transnational solidarity and collaboration. Russia’s shameful war robs us all of the opportunity to address these challenges together.”

Other light images projected included ‘Stop the War Machine’ and ‘War Fixes Nothing.’ All images were projected over a color image of a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.

A video of the action follows below.



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Ukrainian-Americans Denounce Russian Invasion

DC Media Group - Sun, 03/06/2022 - 16:58

    Students from Hood College joined Ukrainian-Americans to show their support for the beleaguered nation. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG


Washington, DC—Hundreds of Ukrainian-Americans rallied at the White House Sunday on the 10th day of a brutal Russian invasion of their homeland and urged NATO and the Biden Administration to close the sky above the imperiled nation with direct air support. Many carried signs and wore painted Ukrainian flags on their faces while others were draped in blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and wore flowers in their hair. Speakers warned of much worse days to come for Ukraine and Europe if the invading military forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin are not decisively stopped.

Many told of family back home hiding in subways and bunkers and unable to evacuate as bombs, missile strikes, and special forces control most of the throughways leading from the cities.

Andrii [surname redacted], an international student from Hood College who was joined by several other students, said he was concerned members his family were trapped in [city redacted] in a bunker without a safe passage and dwindling supplies of food and water and that power was cut. “My father is on the front lines fighting and my mom and sister are in a bunker,” he said. He also said he felt terrible not only because of their situation but because the war was not something they wanted. He also said it was necessary to fight not just for Ukraine’s sake but also for the survival of Europe.

He reasoned that “Putin was just going to go into Poland after he took Ukraine” so placating Russia by standing back while Ukraine was destroyed was making an wider regional war more likely.

Andrew Futiy, President of the Ukraine Congress Committee of America had a message for the citizens of his country. “Dear brothers and sisters of Ukraine: Let there be no doubt we are with you, we are fighting for you, and we’re doing everything to make sure that Ukraine remains free and independent, and that you are alive.”

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America is calling for more military equipment to be sent to Ukrainian fighters with deliveries of military fighters; continuing the crippling sanctions which have shut Russian banks from access to SWIFT, an international monetary transaction network; and supports closing the air space over Ukraine by creating a no-fly zone.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that any direct military action taken by NATO countries to create a no-fly zone would be taken as an act of war and would result in “catastrophic consequences” for the rest of the world,” according to a published report.

Putin further warned the West on Sunday that sanctions were tantamount to a declaration of war.

Andrii [surname redacted] argued that Vladimir Putin was already a significant threat and serious enough for Europe and NATO to engage Putin now and before he attacked Poland. He considered the situation serious enough that if NATO waits any longer it will give Russian forces a stronger hand in the coming weeks.

Video of Ukrainian-American action at the White House on Sunday:

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DC Area Peace Activists Discuss Ukraine Tensions

DC Media Group - Sat, 02/19/2022 - 21:24

Washington DC—Local Peace Activists spoke about the growing crisis in East Europe, characterized the crisis as avoidable, and recommended solutions to avoid conflict. As tensions between world powers reached a climax not seen since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and diplomatic efforts between stakeholders seemed all but doomed to fail, the activists drew on years of experience and understanding of global issues to draw their recommendations. Despite ominous developments they still held out hope that war could be averted.

Their recommendations came as President Joe Biden spoke to the nation on Friday afternoon, saying that diplomacy was still an option. His optimism however, was eclipsed by media reports of shelling in Eastern Ukraine from rebel-held territory, pipeline explosions, a car bomb explosion in Donesk, and the evacuations of most Western Nation embassies from Kiev. Another report flashed that Ukraine separatists had evacuated Ukrainians to Russia from rebel held territory, further complicating efforts to unwind regional tensions.

Superpowers are Responsible for Arms Reduction

David Swanson, Executive Director, World Beyond War, said that both Russia and the United States have played roles in the crisis.

“I think we’re dealing with a situation in which all the momentum is toward escalation. You just can’t line up two armies in front of each other, swear to each one that the other is about to attack them, commit each one to counter-attacking, throw in nationalistic and ethnic hatred, and then hope for peace. Both sides are guilty of this, not because they are equal in all ways, but simply because they are guilty of this. The main way in which they are not equal is that this is happening on the border of Russia, whereas the U.S. instigator is thousands of miles away. Russia’s demands for months have been perfectly reasonable and exactly what the U.S. would demand if the roles were reversed. Evacuating people to safety is a good thing, though unfortunate and not a complete solution.”

Swanson pointed out that the U.S. had already derived benefits from the situation by arms sales and the establishment additional military bases in Eastern Europe. He also offered possible solutions to deescalation.

“A complete solution would be to begin a reverse arms-race, a deescalation. But the reason Biden and gang don’t much care about their predictions of imminent invasions making them look dumb is the other purposes of such a crisis that are rarely talked about. The U.S. has gotten out of this already: new bases in Slovakia, billions in tank sales to Poland, billions more in other weapons to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, and along with all of that, more U.S. influence in a Europe kept at odds with Russia—plus a proposal to Congress for record military spending without the slightest murmer of diaspproval from anywhere. A success in moving toward peace would require undoing all of those successes for the military industrial congressional “intelligence” media academic thinktank complex. But if we can make it through 50 days of an invasion being imminent, we can make it through 100.“

Sustain Peace By Supporting International Monitoring Groups Like the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Michael Beer, Director of Nonviolence International, an Internationally recognized organization dedicated to building a global culture of nonviolence, said, “We need all governments to beat the drums of peace.” Beers further elaborated that the U.S. could do more to support peace monitoring support by strengthening the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

“While the US is concerned about the safety of its OSCE personnel it is at moments such as these when we most need peace monitors. It is critically important to maintain the personnel, who are currently involved in monitoring the situation along the line of contact and to take every possible measure to expand their capacity. Strengthening the Peace Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is something everyone can agree on.”

Michael Beer recently published his first book, Non-Violent Tactics in the 21st Century, which is a free update of Gene Sharp’s seminal text training the world in the value of nonviolent tactics, and is available online here.

Reduce Conflict Scenarios by Disbanding NATO and Cutting Military Expendatures

Medea Benjamin, co-founder and peace activist at CODEPINK! Women For Peace, said in a video that the roots of the current situation were tied up in continuing support for expanding NATO, while at home both parties in the Congress continued to green-light massive military spending. This along with silence among the voices of progressives has led to the present situation in Ukraine.

“Parties In the House and Senate fast-tracked bills calling for massive [amounts] of weapons to be sent to Ukraine. It just shows us once again that we have two war parties. We’ve seen this before and we’re seeing it now. The progressives in the meantime, are much more focused on domestic issues and you don’t hear them in Congress coming out and screaming ‘what the heck is going on’ and ‘what we need now is deescalation, diplomacy, and not to antagonize Russia’.”

Benjamin also said that progressives needed to discuss disbanding NATO and pointed to recent historic facts to explain why Ukraine’s intent to joint NATO led to Russia’s reaction.

“At the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union there were guarantees given to then President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move eastward and instead NATO move easteard and now NATO is on Russia’s border. So instead of progressives in Congress saying now is the time to talk about NATO there is all this talk about shoring up NATO.”

Benjamin discussed the limited role peace groups have in projecting a peace narrative because mainstream media was a much longer reach. “Peace groups are small and don’t have the ability to mobilize. The [mainstream] media consistently puts out the message ‘is Biden strong enough’ and ‘should he put sanctions on Russia now or later’, so we don’t have the mainstream media that can help us. We don’t have enough voices in the Democratic party so we have to work overtime to get the message out that it is insane what the Biden Administration id doing with the support of most of the congress.”

Benjamin also pointed out that most Americans do not want war with Russia, especially a war with a nuclear armed power, over the sovereignty of a nation next to Russia that most Americans cannot find on a map.

Commitments made During the Glasgow Climate Conference Demand Solutions for Deescalation

Margaret Flowers, Director of Popular Resistance, said that Western nations made a pact with the planet to preserve the environment for future generations but the signors of the COP26 agreements were sidestepping their commitments by posturing and moving towards conflict.

“The U.S. military is the greatest user of fossil fuel as a single institution and it is also the greatest polluter on the planet. There is a growing awareness in the climate justice and anti-war movements that these things are closely interconnected and we can’t deal with the climate crisis if we don’t address the U.S. military and the wars it wages.”

She also said that the world is changing geopolitically and the U.S. needed to accept that it is no longer the dominant world power it once was.

Flowers said that in terms of solutions we already know what they are and they include working within the international structures we already have in a good-faith way by respecting the framework of the Minsk Protocols, agreements signed by the key regional governments in 2014/15. She stated that the U.S. must stop funding and arming those in the Ukraine government it helped put into power by coup in 2014 and it must work earnestly with the U.N. Security Council to stabilize East Europe.

“The U.S. has been propagating misinformation to the U.N. Security Council but must use that body in the way it was intended to resolve the conflict that is going on in a peaceful and lawful manner.”

Flowers also felt the situation was a very dangerous period because it involved two nuclear powers with many at home distracted by other tangential crisis: the Covid pandemic and economic pressures which have created poverty and hunger.

“This could easily escalate into a world war, a devastating nuclear war with nuclear fallout and nuclear winter. This is really a moment people need to be aware and mobilizing,” said Flowers.

American Empire, Exceptionalism, and the Flames of Global Conflict

Lou Wolf, Co-founder and Director of Covert Action Magazine, said that American empire was devoted to the doctrine of American exceptionalism and was intent on expanding the 900 to 1000 military bases it already had in order to secure its access to natural resources.

“The daily bellicose drumbeat of war is blasting out of the White House and bespeaks the real agenda to encircle Russia and openly use NATO as a battering ram.”

Wolf said that Presidents Biden and Putin needed “to stop trying to out-macho each other with inflammatory and war-like statements.” He also criticized the Biden Administration for delivering planeload after planeload of weapons that further undermined the situation in Ukraine.

Wolf said it would be difficult to avoid conflict at this point with the accusations which were not designed to be diplomatic. “The elephant in the room is the distinct possibility of a nuclear exchange and if that level of conflict were reached, it would extinguish the human race,” said Wolf.

Video of a peace rally held at the White House in opposition to war in Ukraine at the White House last week:

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Peace Groups Say No to War Between U.S. and Russia over Ukraine

DC Media Group - Sun, 02/06/2022 - 00:12
Peace Groups rallied at the White House on Saturday February 5 over escalating tensions between the US and Russia in Eastern Europe. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Washington DC—Groups opposed to war rallied outside the White House to condemn the Administration’s role in a military buildup in Europe and warned war between superpowers would come at great cost. Speakers questioned why the U.S. is involved in yet another conflict less than a year after the end of the Afghanistan War — its most recent and the longest war it ever fought — while many families can not afford adequate housing, food and healthcare, and communities buckle under crumbling infrastructure.

Speakers from anti-war groups Answer Coalition, CODEPINK Women Against War, Caudia Jones School for Political Education, World Without War, and others hammered at the social and economic implications another war would bring. They called out the excessive funding for defense as a misguided policy that inevitably leads to war with results serving only those who profit from it.

Arianna “Afeni” Evans, an anti-war activist who rose to prominence during the Black Lives Matter protests in DC June 2020, said that war funding by “the richest country in the Americas” ignored the plight of working families and left children without food and healthcare, and communities with broken infrastructure. “There are a thousand bridges that are structurally unsound in the United States of America but for some reason we can find money to build another fighter jet,” she said. “Fifteen million people got kicked off health insurance at the beginning of the pandemic and most of those people didn’t get their health insurance back because they can’t afford COBRA. Their priorities are ‘lets go to war with Russia’ because war makes us money.”

Afemi, a Peace Activist said that war comes at the cost of families and communities. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG



Evans also admonished peace groups for the same strategy of resistance against the arms industry. “It is not enough to continue chanting and screaming. We cannot just continue to protest. The only way they’re going to listen to us is when we withhold our labor, withhold our taxes and actually challenge the structural power of this country.”

Rafiki Morris, of the Black Alliance for Peace and a long time Peace Activist, said the costs of war would take the lives of families that could least afford it. “When the war starts they’re gonna send these little black boys out here on the streets that are joining the Army,” he said.

Morris spoke about his past involvement in the anti-war movement and told those present to take the messages home with them and speak to their families about them and ask them to join the movement. “When the war starts, thats who they’re going to send. Thats who is going to die.”

David Swanson, Director of World Without War, an anti-war activist from Charlottesville, said the evil forces that need resisting are not in Moscow. “They’re over there working at Lockheed-Martin, and Boing, and Northrup-Grumman, and Fox News, CNN, and down the street at the Washington Post. They’re toiling away in the U.S. Government dealing weapons around the globe and insisting on more and more bases and missiles because it’s better for business.”

Swanson stated we need a department of defense against the war-mongers and “in its absence we’ve got to build it ourselves and do it ourselves.”

On Friday night, President Joe Biden committed to send 3000 additional troops to Eastern Europe to augment the troops already being mobilized earlier in the week. Meanwhile video footage reportedly from Belize, showed dozens of Russian Special Forces tank units moving towards the border of Ukraine.


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Reverend William Barber Leads Moral Monday Action at U.S. Capitol

DC Media Group - Mon, 12/13/2021 - 23:57
Reverend William Barber demanded Senate action on voting rights and economic bills now pending. Photo: John Zangas


Washington DC—Community organizers and faith leaders from 33 States converged on the U.S. Capitol to demand passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) and the Build Back Better Bill (H.R. 5376), now pending Senate approval. They chastised West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for his role in delaying passage of the legislation which would provide protection for voting rights and financial relief for millions of impoverished Americans.

Reverend William Barber called out Senator Joe Manchin by name for playing a “trick” on his constituents by delaying a vote in the Senate on the voting rights bill. Barber said that by delaying the vote until March it would give State legislatures time to gerrymander districts and allow passage of more restrictive voting laws. He acknowledged the voting rights act had some good provisions but for the first time in the nation’s history, it would mandate voter identification at the poles.

“We are here today to say to the Senate and the White House that they must pass voting rights protection, not in January, not in March 2022, They’ve had the entire year to do it and they haven’t gotten it done and its time to get it done now,” said Barbara Arnwine, President of Transformative Justice Coalition, and an internationally recognized human and civil rights leader.

Arnwine has been heavily involved in supporting voting rights nation wide for over 20 years and was a founder of Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, according to her website. Election Protection is a coalition of 100s of groups lauched in 2004 to assist historically disenfranchised persons to exercise the fundamental right to vote.

Hundreds of faith leaders and community organizers from 33 states marched in the Moral Monday action and dozens were arrested blocking Pennsylvania Avenue. Photo: John Zangas

Other community organizers were more blunt in their criticism of Senators responsible for delaying voting rights legislation, especially Joe Manchin. Catherine Jozwik, a community organizer from West Virginia, said Joe Manchin had a history of putting corporate interests before his constituents.

“I represent the thousands of West Virginians who are tired of being ignored and poisoned by Manchin and his corporate overlords. You should stand with the ordinary people of West Virginia and the country,” she said. Jozwik described how Senator Manchin “did nothing [while] Rockwool, a Danish company wanted to export its polution from Denark to the U.S. by building a coal and fracked gas fueled factory directly across the street from a Title I elementary school.”

Jozwik told how the residents of Jefferson County fought the Rockwool project while Senator Manchin ignored their requests to intervene. They visited his office to meet with him but he did not show up.

Maryanne Smith, an organizer from Oklahoma, told how the Build Back Better Bill would help many impoverished children get healthcare they need. “Even though Oklahoma citizens voted to expand medicare in 2020, our politicians have yet to abide by the people. This affects thousands of children who need and deserve this legislation,” she said.

Other speakers told of homelessness and deteriorating economic conditions in their communities due to stagnant wages. They also urged passage of the legislation as a moral imperative.

As the speakers finished the Moral Monday Marchers slowly walked while singing the same songs sung during the civil rights marches of the 1950s and 1960s. Voting rights and economic challenges communities faced then are the same as those faced today.

As faith leaders and marchers blocked Pennsylvania Avenue, U.S. Capitol Police moved in to arrest them. Reverend Barber asked the marchers to pray for the moral conscience of the police leadership for arresting those fighting for the good and better conditions in their communities while having allowed the January 6, 2021 insurrectionists to rampage through the U.S. Capitol.

On January 6, 2021, there was not one arrest on a day that resulted in five dead and scores of police injured and maimed. On December 13, this day, several dozen faith leaders and community activists were arrested on misdemeanor charges of obstruction.


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Police Reform: What went wrong? Part 3

Grassroots DC - Mon, 11/08/2021 - 09:07

Part 3: Body Worn Cameras and the Police Chief

Among the Emergency Amendment (covered more in part 2 of this article series) was also language on one particular reform that has often been talked about these past few years throughout the country: Body Worn Cameras (BWC’s). The act requires that police release BWC video within five business days at the request of the Chairperson of the Council or if it involves serious use of force and/or an officer-involved death. This should make it easier for BWC videos to be made public and hopefully also hold police accountable. The logic often applied to Body Worn Cameras when people call for this reform is that the threat of having misconduct recorded will prevent police from carrying out said misconduct. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. For years we have had videos of police brutality, yet the problem has not gotten better. 

MPD has one of the largest BWC programs in the country, with over 3,200 cameras for their 3,800 members, yet they also know that the program alone does nothing. On their website, they highlight the randomized controlled trial with The Lab @ DC that they ran to find the effectiveness of BWCs. But they fail to show clearly what that study found, seemingly because they concluded that BWCs had no noticeable effect. 

“Our experiment suggests that we should recalibrate our expectations of BWCs. Law enforcement agencies (particularly in contexts similar to Washington, DC) that are considering adopting BWCs should not expect dramatic reductions in use of force or complaints, or other large-scale shifts in police behavior, solely from the deployment of this technology.”

BWC Report from The Lab @ DC

Quoted directly, from a study that MPD ran itself, where 6 out of 8 people running it worked directly for MPD. They also based their results on police officers’ reports of incidents written after the fact (under the assumption that they were telling the truth). Despite this, they had no choice but to report that BWCs are not enough to affect significant change. The BWC program at MPD has received nothing but more support and more funding. Instead of investing in programs proven to work like ONSE, they are throwing money at things that have proven to do nothing.

One more major change that happened last year was the appointment of a new chief of police, Robert Contee III. Some believe that Contee’s appointment will lead to the reforms that MPD needs. But is he committed to these changes? On the one hand, Contee talks about the need for change, on the other hand, he talks about how much great change has already happened within MPD over the past decade. Contee is also a big fan of a community policing model, which unfortunately means more police interactions in communities that are already over-policed. Both Contee and Mayor Bowser would like to expand the police force (even though, MPD is one of the biggest police departments in the country). One of his first measures as chief was to increase the police presence in “six historically crime-ridden neighborhoods” in an effort to deter crime. Although this is not something unique or new from Contee, it is not the policy change that many have been saying he represents. 

All of these increases in policing are being justified by talking about high rates of crime. Contee claims that more officers are needed because there simply are not enough to effectively respond to all of the calls being made. Nationwide focus on gun violence and homicide is used to pressure people into giving police more power, even though evidence shows that police do not solve these problems. Nevertheless, the MPD budget has been steadily increasing. Many police supporters will point to the budget cut in 2020, from $591,313,726 to $559,526,918, as well as the supposedly rising crime rates. However, this one cut does not represent the overall trend in the rising MPD budget. The proposed 2021 operating budget of $578,069,493, is less than the budget in 2019, is still $8 million more than the budget in 2018 at $570,087,037. Looking at MPD’s crime data, we see that the overall crime rates in DC have been falling. The homicide rate this year is higher, going from 99 by July 14th in 2020, to 101 by the same date in 2021. But that represents only a 2% increase while the overall number of crimes, both violent and property, are down by 2%. All this is with the large budget cut. This is also after a huge decrease in crime from 2019 to 2020, where the total amount of crime decreased by 19%. Despite the trend of decreased crime each year, homicides have increased, from 116 in 2017 to 160 in 2018, and then from 166 in 2019 to 198 in 2020. Rhetoric that tries to tie a lack of funding to increased homicide rates is wrong – rates have been going up well before any cuts were made in MPD’s budget. Despite what Contee wants people to believe, more policing does not solve the issue of gun violence and homicide. 

While the reforms in both the NEAR Act and the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act are steps in the right direction. These have been undermined through a lack of funding or police just ignoring them. What we ultimately need is to decenter the police. The recommendations made by the Police Reform Commission speak about centering communities rather than the police to prevent crimes from happening in the first place. The first step towards a safer DC is to push back on Contee’s calls for an increased police force by making sure that the Council follows the recommendations made by the PRC. If we have learned anything from 2020, it is that public pressure campaigns do work. We need to hold the DC Council and Mayor Bowser accountable because it is not the police who will keep us safe. We keep us safe.

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Police Reforms: What went wrong?

Grassroots DC - Mon, 10/25/2021 - 12:29

Part 2: Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020

Following the murder of George Floyd and the mass protests that he inspired, DC passed the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. This act prohibits the use of neck restraints like chokeholds. It increases access to body-worn camera videos, limits consent searches, restricts MPD’s purchasing and use of military weapons, as well as limits the use of “internationally banned chemical weapons (tear gas), riot gear, and less-lethal weapons (rubber bullets),” and created the Police Reform Commission. Limiting consent searches, restricting military weapons, and prohibiting neck restraints are changes that immediately impact how police officers carry out their jobs. Decreasing the use of tear gas, riot gear, and rubber bullets is a step to protect people’s first amendment right to freedom of assembly. This particular provision has a loophole, where it states that these aggressive items can be used if there is “an immediate risk to officers of significant bodily injury.” Considering that cops use this excuse all the time, this provision might not be as helpful as it seems. Nevertheless, these are changes we should ensure are carried out. 

One of the most interesting parts of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act was the creation of the Police Reform Commission (PRC). The Commission was composed of 20 representatives, none of whom were affiliated with MPD in any way, who would examine the policing practices in DC and recommend reforms. Formed in July of 2020, they would only have until the end of the year to report to Mayor Bowser. Although they did not have much time, the Police Reform Commission published a lengthy report with many great recommendations to change how police operate within DC. They recommended replacing police with behavioral healthcare professionals as “the default first responders to individuals in crises.” Calling on police only in dangerous crises where weapons are involved, and even then, the response is in conjunction with the behavioral health professional. The PRC also recommended strengthening social safety nets. Including increasing funding for the Department Of Behavioral Health, addressing the housing needs of all DC’s residents, and decriminalizing low-level offenses like panhandling, among other recommendations. Rather than criminalizing certain behaviors, the PRC calls on DC “to expand and create community-based services and other resources that meet people’s underlying needs.” Many of their recommendations spring from what they called “Reducing and Realigning.” Meaning that the size of the MPD should be reduced, and that money that usually goes to policing should go to building community programs that help people instead. As they pointed out in their report, 

“While many cities have significantly reduced funding for police, MPD funding has increased by 12 percent since 2015. MPD’s budget dwarfs the District’s budgets for affordable housing, employment services, physical and behavioral health (and is less than human services).”

Police Reform Commission Report

Reduction and realignment are in their proposals through removing police from schools and taking special measures to protect young people from over-policing and criminalization. Funding the ONSE, holding police accountable, and building a community-centered MPD with a harm reduction approach to policing.  This report is very long and goes much further into detail than this article. There is a move away from policing communities and towards building communities. Policing has never worked to bring about material improvements for working-class people. Community-based approaches like the ONSE are proven to work. The Police Reform Commission is an important step in this direction and their recommendations should be put into effect. 

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Police Reforms: What went wrong?

Grassroots DC - Mon, 10/11/2021 - 13:53

Part 1: The NEAR Act: Has it been implemented?

By Grassroots DC

For years now, police reform has been a mainstay in public discourse. Ever since the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, we have been discussing how we should reform our justice system. Outside of mainstream outlets, calls for changing the system of policing and mass incarceration have been around for even longer. In the almost 10 years since the inception of BLM, what reforms have been happening here in DC? And have those reforms been effective in, if not ending, reducing police brutality?

One of the biggest reforms passed in DC was the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act in 2016. Among the reforms proposed in this act are more officer training, improved stop and frisk/use of force data collection, and the creation of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE).  ONSE was created to provide support for “individuals determined to be at high risk of participating in, or being victim of, violent criminal activity.” The ONSE can provide these individuals with programming, access to mental and physical health care, and even stipends.  

In addition to the creation of the ONSE, the NEAR Act also mandates that MPD provides more training on various things, including community policing. While the language on community policing in the NEAR act is vague, it manifests as more interactions between police and community members. The reforms in the NEAR Act are just first steps towards holding police accountable and even moving towards proactive crime prevention measures. If you were to check this site, it would say that everything in the NEAR Act has been implemented with a big green check mark as if to say job well done. However, if we look closer into some of the individual titles, we see a different picture. After the NEAR Act was enacted, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) did not release the data that the act mandated. It was only after the local chapter of the ACLU sued MPD that they finally released some data for 2019 in February of 2020, almost four years after the NEAR Act was implemented. 

The numbers do not tell a good story for MPD. MPD seems to have purposely made the report long and hard to understand, using a generous amount of space explaining why they feel that stops are necessary and the risk that cops are exposed to on the job. One great example is the page titled “Why isn’t stop data comparable to Census data?”  Accompanying these paragraphs of text trying to justify MPD’s actions are misleading graphs that show data in a way that is hard to compare and even understand sometimes. Earlier in the report, MPD claims that 60% of stops were made on Black people, without giving the context needed to evaluate that number.  After wading through the colorfully confusing graphs and nonsensical talking points, the real number is printed one time in tiny font at 72%.

This is just from the report of 2019. The report that was put out in 2020 is a lot less detailed. While the report in 2019 was 24 pages long, 2020’s report was only 2. And where the 2019 report tried to hide the data, 2020’s report just doesn’t have the data at all. They kept the language about why stops are important, then took out any data on who was being stopped. According to MPD a more comprehensive report was due to be released April 2021, but it has yet to be released.  

The data on stops was also accompanied by a report of MPD’s special Gun Recovery and Narcotics units mandated by the DC Council. This report found that 87% of those stopped were Black, 91% of those arrested were Black, and 100% of those hurt in use-of-force incidents were Black. In 65% of the stops on Black people there was no contraband recovered. Unfortunately these numbers show us what we already know; police have always and still to this day disproportionately target Black people.

In a sense, improved stop and frisk/use of force data collection was successful. We have more data. Having this information is vital to supporting activists in their efforts to create meaningful change.  Unfortunately, these changes are slow and are continuously slowed down by MPD’s unwillingness to follow the NEAR Act. The Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, on the other hand, does directly affect people’s lives in effective ways. Among those individuals that they are able to reach, the ONSE has been able to make a difference and reduce violent crime. Their flagship program, the Pathways Program, provides those at risk of participating in and/or being victims of violence with temporary employment and training in a three-phase model. 

“The first phase is an intensive, nine-week classroom-based training that focuses on life and job skills. Phase two offers six months of subsidized employment, which helps participants gain real work experience, build positive work habits, and establish a record of employment. The third phase offers long-term retention and support services aimed at ensuring participants successfully transition to permanent unsubsidized employment, retain said employment, and continue to pursue their other self-identified personal and professional goals. Throughout every phase of the program, Pathways participants are offered a host of wraparound services including: transportation benefits, nutritional services, mental health services, housing assistance referrals, clothing and/or uniform assistance, access to a variety of pro-social extracurricular activities, and more.” 

Pathways Program

Another important part of the ONSE is their violence interrupters. Not only do these interrupters refer individuals to the Pathways program, they are also responsible for developing neighborhood plans for violence intervention based on the specific needs of a community. More recently, the ONSE started a pilot program at Anacostia High School to help repeat 11th and 12th graders by providing them “attendance, course performance, and behavioral support.” Although this program was only started in 2020, and thus cut off by the pandemic, it was able to help 40 students. Over half of these students were able to graduate in the spring of 2020. This is just one of many successful programs run by the ONSE. The only thing that keeps the ONSE from helping more people is how small the organization is. Though the budget has been growing, from $2,394,808 in 2018 to $7,579,212 in 2020, it was cut in the proposed budget for 2021 to $6,716,014. Compare this to the MPD budget which was at its highest in 2019 at $591,313,726. So while the ONSE is an effective organization, it is limited in how effective it can be with a tiny budget that is barely more than 1% of the MPD.

The ONSE is an example of how the NEAR Act has laid the groundwork for greater changes. Imagine the impact the ONSE could have if it had the budget MPD currently has. Currently, there are multiple organizations fighting to increase funding for the ONSE. We will be highlighting some of those programs in articles and videos to come.

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The Afghanistan War: Plague of Ignorance

DC Media Group - Tue, 08/17/2021 - 17:09
Antiwar protesters at the White House call for end to endless wars. The War in Afghanistan lasted 20 years, longer than any other conflict in U.S. history. Photo: J. Zangas, DCMG


Washington, DC—From the beginning to end, incompetence was the primary theme of the US political, military, and intelligence failures to work in a responsible manner by any stretch of imaginable leadership standards. As the fall of Kabul unfolds, it’s time to revisit the events that led so many nations to follow the USA into a war that had no realistic goals to help the Afghan people, nor provide Allied soldiers any sense of accomplishment. So, how did it all begin? For that answer, we need to remember the statement by National Security Advisor Richard Clarke at the 9/11 Commission on the Hill. “Your government failed you, and I failed you,” he said. “We tried hard, but that doesn’t matter because we failed you. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness.” (Nov 27, 2002 Bush critic takes center stage)

The political squabbles of Clarke’s claims were never picked apart because Bush, the media, and the American public were all focused on revenge. On October 7th, 2001, the vast majority in the USA and beyond simply became bloodthirsty for retribution and if you dared hesitate to ask, ‘Hey wait, how did we get into this situation?”, you were labeled a coward and/or an idiot.

I’ve got to take pause for a minute as my eyes are getting blurry from all the propaganda I’m reading while doing research on this article. Some of the worst comes from the Washington Post ‘Afghanistan Papers’ series on Aug 10th a few days ago. The title had me hooked because it’s a recent piece that might lend some insight as to the depth of the Cheney lies and deception that led US troops into the war in Iraq. Nope, it was some incredibly untimely article about how the Taliban lied about an almost successful plot to kill Cheney in Afghanistan. It almost makes Cheney sound like a war hero.

Next, there is the New Yorker ‘“Not Our Tragedy”: the Taliban Are Coming Back, and America Is Still Leaving” By Susan B. Glasser. These recent distractions remind me of a quote from the Neo Liberal writer, Thom Freidman, 3 days before the US troops began flattening Baghdad on March 20, 2003. Freidman did a press conference to discuss the likely possibility of the war in Iraq. I recall that it felt like a stand-up comedy act when he said, “nobody washes a rented car”. His meaning was, that the US would create a mess and leave a mess in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t often agree with Thom but on this he got it right.

One could say that the US press are doing one hell of a job trying to mop up this monstrous 20-year debacle with some fancy spin doctoring. It’s possible that I might be lacking the moral integrity to sufficiently outline these events because I’m not exactly comfortable in rehashing the darkest hours of the war such as the US torture policy and atrocious embezzlement of war funds from Cheney’s Haliburton. Whoops, maybe that was just enough to get folks riled up.

Moving on… Senator Joe Biden had been either minority or the majority ranking Democrat on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At the start, he was all for both the Afghan and Iraq war. Just before joining Obama on the campaign trail in 2007, he did a U-turn and began opposing the wars because support for these messy wars were less popular with voters. Once Obama/Biden took office in the White House, it’s now said that Biden opposed staying in Afghanistan during discussions in 2009. President Obama proceeded to spend his remaining 6 or 7 years in office telling the public that he would draw down troops to zero, ‘next year’. To be honest, because I followed this very closely, Obama might have taken a year off in saying he’d end the war in Afghanistan somewhere in the middle there.

Now let’s get down to the stone-cold facts. Anthony H Cordesman was the Civilian Advisor to Gen. McChrystal in Afghanistan. He was on CNN Monday as it was announced that Kabul had fallen to the Taliban. This is what he had to say on the historic afternoon, “This isn’t about a Taliban failed state, as it is a Taliban taking over a failed state.” Why is this advisor worth mentioning? Well because he wrote a detailed article/report called ‘Afghanistan: Conflict Metrics 2000-2018’. (CSIS)

One of the many eye-popping realities of how leadership dealt with a war that was going nowhere, is that they cherry picked any positive metrics/data and ignored harsh realities. In Cordesman’s report, he clearly states that intelligence and data gathering varied between the United Nations, the media, and think tanks. One of the only undeniable truths had been that Afghanistan continued to be controlled by warlords and tribal leaders.

One final note. In the reporting on the fall of Kabul I was irritated to note Russia and China spent the day humiliating the US for its failure in Afghanistan. It is a fact that Russia hadn’t made any effort develop medical clinics, help encourage women’s rights, and attempt to create some exposure to voting rights. Yes, most of the US contractor money for medical clinics went missing somehow, but hey, at least the USA tried to introduce something good.

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Reverend William Barber Leads Moral Monday March For Voting Rights To US Capitol

DC Media Group - Tue, 08/03/2021 - 00:19


Washington DC — This story could easily have been copied word for word from the newspaper stories of the 1960’s civil rights protests. During the civil rights marches of that era, some 60 years ago, clergymen such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson, among others, led thousands on direct actions for civil rights, voting rights, fair wages, and housing equality.

On Monday August 2, 2021, Reverend William Barber walked alongside Jesse Jackson leading several thousand on a revival of that same moral imperative. Their Moral Monday March was to demand that Congress restore the Voting Rights Act, signed by President Johnson on August 8, 1965, by passing the For The People Act, legislation which will strike down at the Federal level, all new voting restrictions passed in States like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Arizona.

Reverend Barber joined clergy from around the country and working people in calling for a federal minimum wage of $15.00, a rejection of the filibuster, a jim crow era act of Congress which Reverend Barber called an order of procedure steeped in racism, and amnesty for 11 million migrants. “”We’re here not to just take a picture, we’re here to take action,” he said.

He chastised both Democratic and Republican legislators who passed a Covid Reief Bill which gave almost 86% of the trillion it earmarked in relief to corporations while leaving workers behind.

After his speech, Reverend Barber led dozens of other clergy who had come from around the country, on a march to the U.S. Capitol, with hundreds of followers behind him. His golden cross stood out on his wide chest against the pitch black cloth suit he wore. He labored in the oppressive heat up the hill to the Capitol, Summer heat took effect on the large man and several times he had to stop and cool down. Reverend Jesse Jackson, now 79 years old, also walked very slowly up the hill with the heat  slowing him and he too had to rest often. At times he also needed assistance from others but he completed the march with all the other marchers.

As they arrived at the top of the hill and past the grounds of the U.S. Capitol — they did not attempt to step on the grounds proper — Capitol Police swarmed around them. A Capitol policewoman read two warnings over a loudspeaker for them to leave the roadway or face arrest. So ushers urged the marchers out of the street and onto the confines of the narrow sidewalk to avoid immediate arrest.

It was clear that the Capitol Police strategy and tactics had changed from demonstrations of the past year. The difference: their enforcement of street obstruction misdemeanor codes on this day was exceptionally strict in comparison to enforcement of U.S. Capitol building access restrictions during the riots of January 6, earlier this year.

The marchers avoided arrest at first but they intended to be arrested  from the beginning of their march. They were carrying a message to Legislators that they would not stand quietly while an ongoing impasse in the Senate fails to restore the Voting Rights Act and strike down voting suppression laws which are now being written with some already on the books in 18 states. In the States that have already enacted them, there are 30 new vote suppression laws, that have been passed by GOP legislators since Trump lost the election last year. These voter restrictions were designed to make it more difficult for voters to get access to the ballot box, according to a published report.

The marchers walked past the Capitol and around to the Supreme Court singing songs handed down by the civil rights activists about voting rights and equal rights in the 1960s.

Finally they arrived at the Senate Hart Building, a scene of many demonstrations and mass arrests in the past. Reverend Barber sent five activists to its doors to request entry but Capitol Police refused them to admit them. He called them back and then organized a mass blockade of the street outside the Hart Senate building.

Reverends Barber and Jackson were both arrested for blocking the street during a demonstration, followed by several hundred other protesters.

The Brennan Center tracks State laws being enacted involving voting rights, outlining the easing and restrictions thereof.

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Assange Supporters Urge Release of WikiLeaks Journalist

DC Media Group - Fri, 07/09/2021 - 05:31
John and Gabriel Shipton, family of Julian Assange speak at the Department of Justice and signed a petition for Assange’s release. Photo: John Zangas

Washington DC—The family of imprisoned journalist Julian Assange says his condition is worsening and there is no applicable legal framework to justify his continued detention. Supporters urge action by the State Department to drop charges against him citing his status as a journalist and precedent that journalism is a protected right under the First Amendment.

Supporters organized a sendoff for Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton, and his brother Gabriel, outside the Department of Justice on the last day of their #HomeRun4Julian tour. They also celebrated his 50th birthday with a cake and music.

Artist Paula Iasella displayed her re-creation of Italian sculptor, Davide Dormino’s ‘Anything to Say?’ bronze sculpture. The sculpture depicts images of whistleblowers Snowden and Manning, and Assange, standing on chairs. Paula Iasella said, “when you follow the artists you’re going to end up in a place of truth.”

Supporters signed a petition urging U.S. officials to drop charges against Julian Assange.

The tour was a 3-week visit of major U.S. cities at which noted persons spoke regarding Assange’s protracted detention at Belmarsh maximum security prison in London.



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Peace Vigil Marks 40th Year At the White House

DC Media Group - Thu, 06/03/2021 - 00:02

Washington DC—The Activists at the PeaceVigil cut cake and shared stories of their experiences at the nation’s longest running vigil for peace near the White House on June 3. It was on this date in 1981 when William Thomas began his 24-hour vigil against nuclear weapons and the war machine 4 decades ago. His vision to keep watch on the North Portico with a round-the-clock presence at the White House and to pressure then President Ronald Reagan to decommission nuclear weapons and to work for world peace, has lasted through seven presidencies. Nobody expected it to last this long but it has endured against improbable odds.

Year of Pandemic and Riots Did Not Stop Peace Vigil

The last year has been one of the toughest challenges the Peace Vigil has faced, according to Philipos Melaku-Bello, manager of the Vigil. He recounted the challenges of the civil unrest and the closure of Lafayette Park which forced the activists out of the park—onto H Street at Black Lives Matter Plaza—and face to face with daily clashes between police and protesters, nights of raids and tear gas, disgruntled counter protests, and uncertainty as to whether the Peace Vigil could continue its presence there. The pandemic also took its toll as there were months of few visitors and times when few activists who could staff the Peace Vigil.

Then on May 19 Lafayette Park was reopened and the activists gathered to rebuild the tent spine of pvc pipes and install the tent canvas and it resumed its place on the red bricks across from the North Portico of the White House. Melaku-Bello affectionately named the activists who stood with him over their year of banishment from Lafayette Park and one by one, he recalled their selfless efforts to be there to help him maintain a steady presence just outside the park edge. It occurred to him that the Peace Vigil could not continue without the Peace Activists who replaced him during the shifts he was not there and he was very thankful.

But he says putting in the hours on the red-bricked sidewalk is not about him or about any one person but about the message of peace, disarmament, and continuing efforts to decommission nuclear weapons and close down nuclear power plants. He recites the facts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as they are ingrained in his memory like his birthday and age and he argues their history is a warning of the last seconds ticking on the “doomsday clock.” He knows the details of Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island, as if they are his children and tells visitors why it is past time to scrap such projects forever.

Beyond the obvious destruction and calamities of war he tells of the defense of human rights and the rights of oppressed people that the Peace Vigil represents in his conversations with multitudes of multinational visitors who happen by the Peace Vigil tent. The signs around the front of the tent condemn tyranny and rebuke tyrants by raising up individuals such as Brianna Taylor and George Floyd. The advocates working there reject despots and authoritarianism by standing up for the human rights of the oppressed. The signs, “War is Not the Answer,” “Wanted: Wisdom and Honesty,” and “Free Speech Zone” and the photos of the aftermath of Hiroshima attract a wide range of people to ask why the Peace Vigil is there.Melaku-Bello is in his zone when they inquire why he is there and he tells the stories about the vigil and its founder, William Thomas, and his messages for common good that peace would bring.

Philipos Malaku-Bello staffs the Peace Vigil on most days. Photo: John Zangas

Melaku-Bello has a knack for engaging an impressive range of people, young and old and speaks six languages fluently. He has years of practice speaking with anyone who wants to talk. A pair of men from Nigeria visiting the U.S. for the first time are taken aback by his knowledge of their country and they speak at length about past Nigerian political leaders. A group of five young women for Colorado University engage him for a while, impressed with his message of denuclearization. Someday they may return to Washington DC to visit, perhaps with their children.Melaku-Bello wonders aloud if the Peace Vigil will still be there for them to visit when they return. He leaves a deep impression on them as he does with many and they take a photograph with him—he holds up his hand in a customary peace sign.

Is Time Is Running Out For Peace?

Time is not on the side of waging peace. It is not on Philipos’ side either. His years of dedication to the Peace Vigil has cost him dearly in terms of his health and longevity. Snowy cold days with occasional blizzards, days of blazing hot sun, rain and wind, and a few hurricanes have worsened his health and he is in need of funds both to run the Peace Vigil and for medical attention. He wishes to be there indefinitely but knows time is catching up with him and his body is challenged by the elements. Time is a strange thing he laments. We have more than we think but don’t have as much as we’d like.

The Spirit of William “Doubting” Thomas

One might say there is a little bit of William Thomas in Philipos and all of the activists who staff the Peace Vigil. All of them have an indomitable resilience like Thomas did. The long hours of staffing the tent are one thing. But another is the cacophony of opinions from visitors about the political structure of the world that comes with the flow of visitors on an average day and it can wear one down over time. Arguments are frequent in a time of waxing and waning civility. The last four years of the previous administration brought much acrimony to Lafayette Park.

William Thomas overcame challenges like these by educating himself on a range of topics to support and spread the message he carried. He traveled to Africa during the famine of the 1980s and to Asia and other parts of the world to gain a first-hand understanding of challenges facing humanity.

When he began his Peace Vigil on June 3, 1981, it was against world hunger as well as nuclear disarmament. Police kept arresting him and the other the vigilers who stood with him because they stood up where no one dared before—right outside the White House gates—24-7. So he fought back by studing the law. He sued the government pro se to stop the arrests and after many court appearances he won a permanent permit to remain on the red bricks. He also challenged the government in the courts over signage and won on that accord as well, guaranteeing his right to maintain two large permanent signs, as long as they did not exceed a 6 foot height. He was arrested over 40 times standing for peace and human rights before his permanent permit was granted.

William Thomas’ peace activism also helped inspre Conresswoman Eleanore Holmes-Norton’s legislation to abolish nuclear weapons which she has been reintroducing every year since 1994. Her bill, HR-2850, the “Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act,” seeks to abolish nuclear weapons and provides that no taxes paid by the residents of Washington DC shall be used for war.

William Thomas died in January 2009 but his spirit lives in the tenacity of the activists who have succeeded him.

Vigilers Comment On The Peace Vigil Message

Lou Wolf, a longtime Vigiler and peace activist, who has worked on Covert Action Magazine publication since the 1980s, said “As lifelong peace advocates we, the worldwide peace movement, are as big as the world movement. But we stand for peace and justice, not only peace by itself.”

Lou Wolf spoke about the symbolism of having the Peace Vigil across from the front door of the White House. Photo: John Zangas

“This vigil has grown to include the causes of peace because you can’t get rid of nuclear weapons easily unless we get rid of war, said Michael Beer, a former Vigiler and longtime Prace Vigil supporter. “We can’t get rid of war unless we talk about human rights and so this vigil has taken on human rights around the world,” he said.

Michael Beer said that one cannot abolish nuclear weapons unless they work to end war and cannot talk about ending war without talking about human rights. Photo: John Zangas


The Peace Vigil will continue celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and the activists are thrilled to be a part of this historic moment. They are inviting the public to share their story and message of world peace and nuclear disarmament. Their cutting the peace cake and sharing lunch and telling stories of the most challenging year the Peace Vigil has yet faced is just the beginning of plans to reach out to others to join them in the message of peace and human rights. A recording of their event with photos and videos can be seen hosted on zoom and on social media here.

You may also donate to the Peace Vigil to help repair the signs here with the cash app $WHPV for cash donations. Any amount no matter how small will help.

Video newsreel of the 40th anniversary celebration at the Peace Vigil on June 3:

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DC Evictions: Fact vs Fiction

Grassroots DC - Fri, 02/12/2021 - 12:55

Graphics Produced by ONE DC

The post DC Evictions: Fact vs Fiction appeared first on Grassroots DC.

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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