End the repression in DC!

End the repression in DC!


The events that have unfolded over the last several days have peeled back the ideological mask that disguises and routinely pardons the repressive arm of the state for its injustices against the people across the nation, whom it still feebly claims to protect and serve. We are currently witnessing Donald Trump actively deploying fascist repressive measures on the national stage. State-led fascism has reared its ugly head in an attempt to quell a tremendous uprising led by demonstrators demanding immediate radical change to structures of racial and economic oppression in this country.

The Butler-Robeson Club of Washington, DC, condemns Trump’s responses to the ongoing demonstrations. Our club urges the DC mayor, Muriel Bowser, to be more active in her response to Trump’s threats to democracy. We stand firmly with the demonstrators in their efforts to achieve justice and bring about social change following the latest displays of police terrorism currently being broadcasted across mainstream media platforms around the world.

Over the course of the past several weeks in particular, Trump has shamelessly demonstrated his authoritarianism, absence of any sensibilities to the sufferings of the victims of police violence, and his willingness to forcibly suppress his opposition, an emboldened thirst for dictatorial power and total “dominance” of public domains, and a lack of respect for the safety of demonstrators. Among the most heinous of his actions over the last several days, of which there are far too many to list in this statement, is the authorization of the use of military-grade weapons by police, and the use of deadly force on demonstrators in cities across the country. Trump has declared himself “the president of law and order” and enthusiastically called for the deployment of “thousands and thousands” of heavily armed soldiers to Washington, DC, and other cities, some of whose officials will bend to his authoritarian demands. To add insult to injury, Trump has exploited the demonstrations as an opportunity to take photos of himself standing out on the streets with police and protesters. To clear the way for Trump’s heavily guarded photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, militarized police dispersed the crowds with stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas.

With our own eyes, we can observe the president of the United States boasting his ability to flex the capitalist state’s monopoly of violence over working people, and in particular his quickness to punish people of color who are standing up to oppose him in peaceful protest. Our club vehemently opposes Trump’s transparently fascist response to the current demonstrations going on. We stand in unity with the protesters who are demonstrating against police terror despite facing even more brazen acts of violent aggression from militarized police.

Turning to the local stage, on June 1, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chief of Police Peter Newsham ordered a city-wide 7 p.m. curfew, justifying the order by citing downtown “looting” and “destruction of property.” This sidestepping of the initial police murder that first mobilized demonstrators into action notwithstanding, the declaration of the 7 p.m. curfew was a direct impediment to democratic participation in the streets as well as at the ballot box, when suppressed voters tried to cast their ballots for the six council races in the DC Democratic primary on June 2. In addition, the DC Board of Elections was inundated with complaints from voters who didn’t receive absentee ballots that they requested by mail prior to the elections. Bowser’s refusal to lift the curfew to allow for community members to vote in person after 7 p.m. on Tuesday is a clear and distinct voter suppression tactic, which the mayor’s office is directly responsible for. This instance of voter suppression is unacceptable at any time, but is even more so at a moment when democracy in this country and in DC is under an urgent threat.

In addition, Mayor Bowser bears responsibility for the extreme aggression of police officers towards community members peacefully demonstrating on Swann Street on Monday evening. That night, demonstrators were herded into the narrow Swann Street corridor by police while the latter used helicopters, flash-bangs, and pepper spray to intimidate and injure community members seen outside after 7 p.m. As police officers viciously attacked demonstrators with batons and munitions, a bystander in his home stepped in to welcome fleeing demonstrators into his residence to take refuge from the police attacks. It is Mayor Bowser who is ultimately responsible for police aggression, as she set the curfew and tacitly authorized the officers to use extreme force toward those who challenged it. She must bring the police under control and more importantly remove police that violate First Amendment rights of citizens. The police force must be re-educated to recognize that they are employed by the citizens, and the people who pay their salaries must not be treated as enemies. It is time to re-evaluate the concept of policing in a democracy.

Every year, Mayor Bowser increases the city’s policing budget. As recently as this May, she unveiled a budget that called for the Metropolitan Police Department to receive $45 million dollars of additional funding for the replacement of police cruisers, motorcycles, and specialty support vehicles. Meanwhile, hundreds of new housing tents pop up around the city every day. Bowser has even publicly admitted that increased police presence has little effect on violent crimes, especially homicide. Currently, DC spends over $500 million on policing. There is also an initiative to build a new jail in DC, all while the current one harbors an 89% black population. With spending like this, Bowser is demonstrating that she prioritizes maintaining the state’s monopoly on violence over the working class to protect capital and white property, not the economic empowerment of local communities.

Bowser has shown a desire to side with protesters and oppose Trump on a rhetorical level only so far. We observe this in the way she exploits press conferences to mention that she refuses to allow federal agents to subsume the DC police force and calls on Trump to pull federal officers out of the city. On Friday, she authorized the creation of a massive “Black Lives Matter” mural on Pennsylvania Avenue. These are all performative half-measures that have done little to help the movement. Despite wasting resources on the mural, she still has yet to address the first and foremost demand of BlackLivesMatter DC: defund the police. Her efforts have amounted to surface-level patchwork, and they are stunningly hollow thus far. Bowser’s responses to the protests represent a contradiction: in her speeches she seems to dissent against Trump, but her actions and spending history up to this point indicate that she has been unwilling to actively change how policing and incarceration in DC operates.

We call on Mayor Bowser to heed the demands of Black Lives Matter DC as well as BYP100 DC to defund the DC police force, and to back up her dissenting rhetoric with truly dissenting actions. It is not too late for Mayor Bowser to get on the right side of this struggle and meet the demands of protesters in active opposition to a fascistic leader. We implore her to act swiftly in a real showing of solidarity with working class people of color by immediately committing to defund the police and re-route those funds to meaningful public services.

The Butler-Robeson Club of Washington, DC, deplores the passive, undemocratic response of the mayor thus far, as well as the actively fascist, shamelessly dictatorial response of the president. We stand in solidarity with the people across the nation demonstrating against the police, and we firmly oppose the occupying armies that back these police forces on the direct orders of an overtly fascist ruler.

What makes a community safe is the presence of resources and strong public infrastructure. 

Policing as it currently exists is not a public service, nor is it vital. As we have seen for years, and continue to see today thanks to the demonstrations going on, the police force is a repressive arm of the state that is actively brutalizing citizens, destroying community resources, and heightening systems of racist oppression in this country. What makes a community safe is not the presence of police. Rather, the communities with high levels of policing are more dangerous and uninhabitable as a direct result of the aggressive and violent policing techniques that police officers employ on a regular basis, in particular towards communities of color. What makes a community safe is the presence of resources and strong public infrastructure. The police do not stand with the people, they do not provide a useful public service, and therefore they are not a functional part of the public infrastructure. They never have been, and they never will be if we allow them to continue to operate as they do now. Defunding the police means re-appropriating those funds toward public services that actually benefit local communities. Our club is in full support of defunding the police for this reason.

The Butler-Robeson Club of Washington, DC, calls on Mayor Muriel Bowser to defund all police-related offices immediately in accordance with the demands of BlackLivesMatter DC and BYP100 DC. We demand that DC re-appropriate those funds towards public services that will actively keep the community safe during the global health pandemic that we are currently facing. These public services should be related to health-care services such as the expansion of COVID testing and treatment centers, unemployment benefits for workers, affordable housing, affordable food services, public education, more working-class job opportunities, and other infrastructure that directly empowers communities.

We demand that individual police officers drop their weapons, resign from the police force, and stand with the demonstrators in opposition to fascism. We demand that the fascist leaders of this nation abdicate their roles immediately and allow for the development of a new framework for local and national offices of leadership that is founded upon values of racial and economic justice, protections for workers, and a firm commitment to uphold structures of democratic participation.

We will not stand by idly and watch this city and the nation fall further into the grips of fascist rule.

Updated June 9, 2020.

The opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect the positions of the CPUSA.



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