I am sure you felt, as I did, so many emotions watching or being part of the protests over the weekend. Thousands of DC residents peacefully and passionately exercised their First Amendment rights as Americans to call out injustice, racism, and police brutality against Black Americans.
It was also jarring to wake up this morning and see businesses and places we cherish in our community damaged or defaced. But buildings (even historic ones) and memorials get rebuilt and repaired. While I love the places that are part of our community, communities are made of people. People are hurting and have been for generations.
Make no mistake: the protests are not only about the murder of George Floyd by police. So many Ward 6 residents of color have experienced a conflicted and troubling relationship with law enforcement. I’ve had these conversations one-on-one, in community meetings, and in public hearings as the Chair of the Council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. In July 2018, I held a hearing inside the Deanwood Recreation Center in Ward 7 on policing in East of the River to hear from residents about their experiences with Metropolitan Police Department officers. Many residents shared profoundly disturbing stories that most white residents simply cannot fathom happening to them. That's why this outrage has spread so far. The murder of George Floyd is part of the legacy and evolution of slavery and systems of institutional racism.
As the Chair of the Committee, I am positioned to lead efforts with my colleagues to make change. I have spent my three years as Chair focused on funding and implementing transparency around data of police stops, strengthening the Office of Police Complaints to improve accountability in police actions, funding restorative justice programs that serve as alternatives to incarceration, supporting returning citizens in building safer neighborhoods and lowering recidivism, reforming our sentencing laws for young people, and standing up and exponentially growing the District's violence interruption efforts, which reduce the need for police interactions while getting at the root causes of violent crime. And there is so much more we can do, that we must do.
I say all of this in the backdrop of a two-year spike in homicides in the District. Make no mistake that most of the people experiencing violent crime, including homicides, are people of color, and they have also experienced the majority of negative police encounters. I would also come to understand that most violent crime can be rooted in a scarcity of opportunity and hope. It stems from years of underinvestment to meet the true needs of earning a living wage, living in dignified housing, and having hope about the future. In that context, we have spent too much time expecting police to solve problems that are fundamentally not about public safety and which they are not trained to solve.
We are living in a moment of history where, if we rise to the challenge, we could look back and know we made long-sought changes that bend the arc toward justice and fairness. It can't happen instantly or with one policy fix. But the energy is there today, and I ask you to join in it. I will continue to be an ally to residents of color, and I will pursue policies that make the District safer and more just.
A quick note: I delayed the public budget hearing for the Metropolitan Police Department, which was originally scheduled for 9 am this morning. Here's my statement on why I felt it was necessary.
Details on the Mayor's Curfew
If you haven't heard, the Mayor announced a two-day curfew this morning (June 1) that takes place from 7 pm to 6 am.
Given that tomorrow is Election Day and polls are open until 8 pm, I have serious concerns about the effect the curfew will have on folks who want to cast their ballot before the Voting Centers close. However, the Mayor has specifically said folks heading to or from the polls are exempt from the curfew as are the poll workers. Essential workers are also exempted. And finally, media and reporters are also permitted to be out. If possible, I encourage as many residents as possible to vote during the daytime. Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm tomorrow and until 7 pm tonight.