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If anyone would like to see At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman try to remove her foot from her mouth, head over to Twitter, where the lawmaker is walking back comments on what some are calling transactional support for Black Lives Matter and some of the organization’s priorities.
Silverman tweeted yesterday that she is supportive of BLM’s push to defund the Metropolitan Police Department, but qualified her answer by saying “I hope @DMVBlackLives will eventually stand with me against antisemitism too.”
The answer is yes. I am supportive. I hope @DMVBlackLives will eventually stand with me against antisemitism too.
— Elissa Silverman (@tweetelissa) June 9, 2020
She later added:
“When I needed an ally on hate, unfortunately there was silence. And actually telling me that b/c I was Jewish, I supported the Israeli police tactics. I’m not saying it’s conditional. I support BLM. I hope eventually they will support anti hate when it comes to Jews in our city.”
When I needed an ally on hate, unfortunately there was silence. And actually telling me that b/c I was Jewish, I supported the Israeli police tactics. I’m not saying it’s conditional. I support BLM. I hope eventually they will support anti hate when it comes to Jews in our city.
— Elissa Silverman (@tweetelissa) June 9, 2020
Eugene Puryear challenged Silverman’s characterization, and replied to her tweet, writing:
“when I called you on that statement a couple years ago you walked it back in front of numerous people. Secondly in a personal meeting with me you justified disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws. You’re support for “Black lives” is electoral and def conditional.”
“We are literally saying stop killing us, and you are saying but… While erasing Black Jewish community that we organize with once again,” BLM DC tweeted.
We are literally saying stop killing us, and you are saying but… While erasing Black Jewish community that we organize with once again.
— BlackLivesMatter DC (@DMVBlackLives) June 9, 2020
Teacher Laura Fuchs tweeted her disappointment with Silverman’s “continued defensiveness.”
“As a white Jewish woman, I am calling on you to reflect on why you felt the need to center yourself as a victim in this moment,” Fuchs tweeted. “This is not the time or place to center the discussion on ourselves.”
I’m very disappointed by this tweet and continued defensiveness. As a white Jewish woman, I am calling on you to reflect on why you felt the need to center yourself as a victim in this moment. This is not the time or place to center the discussion on ourselves.
— Laura Defund MPD Fund Our Schools Fuchs (@DCWard7teacher) June 9, 2020
Zach Weinstein, an organizer with Jews United for Justice and Silverman’s 2018 campaign manager also chimed in, saying “it’s really important that our support for Black lives isn’t conditional and doesn’t come with caveats. And BLM DC takes anti-semitism very seriously and believes fighting is part of the fight against white supremacy.”
The Council passed emergency legislation yesterday that includes several police reforms. In her comments leading up to the vote, Silverman said “talking about race is hard. It’s hard for a white Jewish person like myself. It is messy, and we make mistakes in talking about it.
“I want to say at this point that I give my unqualified support to Black Lives Matter and their work, which includes police reform,” she continued, referring to the fallout from her tweets without referencing them directly. “And I understand the work being done right now requires a singular focus.”
She tweeted again after the legislative meeting to further clarify her statements:
“I want to be clear about my previous comment—it was unhelpful and I apologize,” Silverman tweeted. “I support the work of Black Lives Matter without exception and hope to continue doing this important work together.”
Still, some called for some deeper reflection:
Progressive activist Rev. Graylan Hagler responded to Silverman that the “racism inherent in your response need[s] to be examined by u. The fact that others had to point out to you the inappropriateness of ur response demonstrates that you do not get what white supremacy looks like.”
In an interview this afternoon, Silverman explains that her tweet mentioning Israeli police tactics refers to a conversation she had with a group of people from BLM DC on the way home from observing the protests Tuesday evening. Silverman says one person in the group asserted that she supported militarization of MPD because she supported the Israeli defense force.
“I’ve never said that, and I just asked ‘Is that because I’m Jewish?’” Silverman tells LL, adding that she thinks Israel’s record on human rights is “abhorrent.”
The Israeli Defense Force has trained MPD officers on counter terrorism tactics on the past.
“I was also told that I used the tools of white supremacy in a hearing on [the Summer Youth Employment Program] when I asked kids how they would spend budget money for SYEP,” she says. “I guess I let those comments get under my skin, and that was unfortunate. I should have seen the bigger picture.”