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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 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:

The post Peace Vigil Marks 40th Year At the White House appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Isolation Does Not Equal Going It Alone 

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

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

Don’t Treat COVID-19 Like the Flu 

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

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

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

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

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

Over the Counter Medications

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

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

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

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

Vitamins and Nutrition

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

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

Active Cycle of Breathing Technique

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

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

Tracking Symptoms

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

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

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

When to Go to the Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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COVID-19 Remains a Problem within Black and Brown Communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credited to BYP100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore WE DEMAND 

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

We are dedicated to promoting strategies that: 

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

Black Lives Matter DC

Email: info@blmdc.org

Follow us on Twitter @DMVBlackLives and IG: blacklivesmatterdc

Like us on Facebook

Join our mailing list

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of Daniel Ball by Elvert Barnes / Flckr

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

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

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

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

Staying in Shelter

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

Photo by Julie Gallagher / Street Sense Media

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

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

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

Solutions Proposed by Unhoused Individuals

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

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

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

Living Outdoors

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

Photo by Petmyrhino / Flckr

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

DC Government’s Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Are Shelters an Option for the UnHoused During a Pandemic? Is There a Better Way? appeared first on Grassroots DC.