After Michael Brown and Eric Garner were killed by police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.—and grand juries declined to indict the officers—the nation, including D.C., erupted in protest. Led by community activists, with prominent participation by Howard University students, the protests here have been loud, visible, and persistent, attracting people from all races and ages. Actions in D.C. have called for police to be held more accountable for their actions and to stop killing unarmed black men and boys. “Black lives matter,” has been echoing on D.C. streets (and on social media, with the hashtags #DCFerguson and #BlackLivesMatter) for weeks.
But the way the protests played out in D.C. couldn’t have been more different from what the nation watched in Ferguson this summer. There, there were riots, reported looting, and an overwhelming show of militarized force by the police against the demonstrators. In D.C., protesters repeatedly blocked traffic, but instead of arresting people, the Metropolitan Police Department helped redirect cars and engaged in friendly chats with participants. (Most of the arrests in D.C. came when demonstrators blocked traffic on I-395 and refused to disperse when ordered.) The protests culminated this past weekend when thousands of people marched to the U.S. Capitol, chanting, holding hands, and demanding an end to police brutality. Let’s hope the message is heard.