Tell D.C. leadership to budget better: value civil liberties and District lives.
Last week was a busy one for the ACLU-DC. On Thursday, March 11, we testified before the D.C. Council's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee about policing and crisis response in the District. Our testimony focused on two reports we recently released.
The first report, "Protest During Pandemic," <[link removed]> details the events of the evening of June 1, 2020, when MPD officers rounded up and pepper-sprayed more than 200 individuals who had been protesting police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's murder. Protesters were "kettled” together in a single residential city block and transported to various locations for processing and arrest in vehicles that didn't allow for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting their health and lives at unnecessary risk. This report, written in collaboration with the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Sidley Austin LLP, is based on interviews with more than 50 eyewitnesses, including protesters and Swann Street residents who viewed the police action from their homes. Police actions that night highlight the need for policy changes in how MPD polices First Amendment activity.
The second report we released is just as disturbing. Our analysis of MPD's recently released NEAR Act "stop and frisk" data <[link removed]> indicates that essentially nothing has changed since 2019: The vast majority of all police stops and searches in the District target Black people. MPD's stop practices continue to be highly ineffective, ultimately amount to racial profiling, and potentially violate the constitutional rights of Black people in the District.
The movement for police reform and divestment has created much-needed momentum in the District, and real, tangible change is now within sight. D.C. leaders must act, and these reports should inform the policy and budget decisions that the District needs.
As the Council's oversight season progresses, it's important that we all continue to testify and make our voices heard. The Mayor will release her proposed budget for the District's next fiscal year in April, after which the Council will hold a series of budget hearings for all District agencies. The ACLU-DC is preparing its own budget recommendations that we plan to share, but the Council needs to hear from D.C. residents like you! Budget hearings are an opportunity for you to tell D.C. leaders how you want your tax dollars spent. Here are some ways to participate in the budget process:
* Discover (or remember!) how the budget affects your and your community through "Why the D.C. Budget is a Big Deal," <[link removed]> a crash course in all things D.C. budget and now available on YouTube.
* Join us for our monthly storytelling workshops. The next two, March 20 <[link removed]> and April 17, <[link removed]> will focus on presenting live testimony for the District Council's Budget Hearings.
* Follow us on Twitter <[link removed]> to stay up to date on the causes we're fighting for as oversight season continues.
We'll never stop fighting for a better D.C, and we hope you'll join us.
Policy Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia