Yesterday morning, I joined Acting MPD Chief Robert Contee, HSEMA Director Chris Rodriguez, Attorney General Karl Racine, and all of my Council colleagues for a lengthy briefing on the District’s expectations and preparations for this week’s protests by several white nationalist and militia groups.
On Sunday evening, I also met with experts who track hate groups and militia groups online. Combined with the current President fomenting unrest with wild and desperate conspiracy theories, as well as online organizing by many of these groups, we are expecting to see significant activity.
The permits issued and rallies planned are all on federal property – the District has issued no permits for these events. But as we saw last month, these groups have quickly moved beyond First Amendment speech into dangerous and hateful violence toward DC residents and institutions. It will be a challenge and a potentially dangerous situation downtown with groups that have explicitly planned to seek out conflict and provoke violence, but from our briefings, the District has prepared both to focus on preventing and stopping this violence and hate from taking place, and also to actively remove illegal firearms from those trying to bring them in. I also join all my colleagues, the Mayor, the Attorney General, and many others in strongly urging DC residents to avoid if possible the downtown and federal areas where these events are planned to take place.
I know you may be feeling challenged or conflicted with this like I am because we want to push back and send a strong message against hate. Our values are ones of inclusivity, tolerance, diversity, and peace. However, these are people who have already lost, desperately clinging to conspiracy theories, who will not be reasoned with. They are eager to do harm to others. They will not overturn the results of our national election. They will not stop a peaceful transfer of power. They only seek conflict to elevate themselves. Do not give them what they seek. Going downtown to counterprotest, during a pandemic, will do nothing to advance our values, and only complicate the District's planned response to protect DC residents and institutions.
The hate we saw on display during their December 12 actions has no home in the District of Columbia. We have condemned it loudly and our laws make clear what we witnessed included hate crimes – specifically, targeting historic houses of worship for majority Black congregations. Last night, one individual that proudly claimed to have acted on the night of December 12 attempted to return to the District and was arrested by MPD, facing charges for the destruction of property last month as well as possession of illegal high capacity magazine clips when taken into custody. I was glad to see that action taken, sending a strong signal on behalf of the District.
Yesterday, I worked with my Council colleagues to issue a joint statement in advance of the events taking place this week. Our statement is included below. We need to condemn any actions of hate and undermining of a free and fair election, and we must protect those who will be targeted by these groups.
I will continue to monitor these events throughout the days and nights ahead. I know we will get through this and that better days are ahead very soon.
DC COUNCIL STATEMENT ON THIS WEEK’S DEMONSTRATIONS IN THE DISTRICT
WASHINGTON, DC – The District of Columbia Council issued the following statement today:
We urge people to avoid the downtown and federal areas where permits for events have been issued for January 5 and 6. In similar recent events, white supremacists and militia groups have created conflict and provoked violence, creating harm for individuals and to our institutions. We urge residents to recognize these are the voices of those who have already lost. Votes have been certified and the demonstrations this week will not change the outcome of this election. There is no gain for all people who desire peace in engaging with those who come here with malicious intent, and doing so only brings great risk.
The peaceful transfer of power following a free and fair election is a cornerstone of our democracy. Any efforts to disenfranchise voters and overturn the will of the electors is nothing short of betraying our very American democracy and should be strongly condemned by all.
The District of Columbia is no stranger to peaceful demonstrations and protecting individuals’ rights to exercise their First Amendment. In an unequivocal and unanimous voice, we also condemn hate and the actions witnessed against District residents, faith-based institutions, and the District’s core values in the past months – specifically actions to destroy symbols that proclaim that Black Lives Matter. This Council has time and again worked to strengthen our laws and all legal protections against hate. We stand ready to protect our residents.
We recognize that downtown is home to residents and businesses whose rights must be respected and protected as we work to keep all safe, including residents who are currently homeless. We call upon the Mayor’s Office, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and coordinating agencies to ensure this is a priority as events go forward this week. Further, we call on MPD and all law enforcement to ensure safety, prevent violence, and to do so with no appearance of preference or disparate treatment.
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