The overwhelming majority of D.C. residents who testified during a Council hearing on the Metropolitan Police Department testified against Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal to increase police funding by 3.3 percent, or $18.5 million.
All but five of the 90 individuals to testify on Monday demanded that the Council reject the mayor’s proposal and redirect these millions of dollars to programs for violence interruption, housing, or education, to name a few suggestions. One of the individuals to testify in support of police was Gregg Pemberton, the chair of the DC Police Union, and he used his time to instead speak against the Council’s reform legislation passed last week. Over 500 people signed up to testify on Monday, but the Council capped public testimony at 90. Last year, just 22 individuals had signed up to testify at MPD’s budget hearing.
The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety also received 16,000 written, video, or audio testimonies, 99 percent of which called for decreasing police funding, according to a spokesperson for committee chairman and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen. Individuals can still submit public testimony until Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
“I’m tired of burying people. I’m tired of consoling mothers,” April Goggans, with Black Lives Matter DC, told the Council. “You guys got to get serious or just don’t try. Because the fact of the matter is if you don’t defund MPD this time, there is literally not going to be any more testifying. We’re going to have to go to your house. We are going to have to go to Bowser’s house.” (And protesters were just at Bowser’s over the weekend.)
Public witnesses, who represented a cross section of the city, drew on U.S. history, as well as MPD’s own record, to argue in favor of reducing money for MPD. Some argued in favor of abolishing the department, entirely. They noted how modern policing evolved from slave patrols. They also cited stop and frisk data that shows that 70 percent of individuals stopped within a few months were black; questionable tactics during undercover prostitution stings; and an officer who allegedly wore a shirt with a white supremacist symbol. (It’s unclear what came of the internal investigation into Officer Vincent Altiere; one public witness says he was not fired and MPD did not respond to this reporter’s email.)
Those testifying also named black men who were killed by D.C. police in recent years, including D’Quan Young, Marqueese Alston, Jeffrey Price, Terrence Sterling, and Ralphael Briscoe. The uncle of Price, Jay Brown, tells City Paper the last few weeks have been emotional for him. He typically testifies at Council hearings but did not have the energy to do so this time around. He was happy to hear everyone’s testimony on Monday, saying “people are speaking very well.”
“[F]or so long me and my family felt alone in our struggles for justice,” Brown says in a text to City Paper.
Allison Lane, the president of Bartenders Against Racism, captured the mood succinctly: “I don’t know any other job on this earth where if you are doing a bad job, you are going to ask for more money.” “If you are bad at your job, you lose your job. I’m not just talking to the police. I’m talking to you, city council members, I’m talking to you mayor.”
At one point during the hearing, MPD weighed in on Twitter, saying “over the past two years, the District has averaged almost 2 assemblies a day. A fully-staffed MPD is needed to facilitate and safeguard the daily First Amendment assemblies in the city. This is clear, now more than ever.” Police Chief Peter Newsham has cited recent protests, as well as the city’s homicide rate, as reasons why the Council should not decrease the number of officers. However, those calling on the Council to reduce the number of officers question MPD’s effectiveness. The homicide closure rate, for example, has been decreasing in recent years while the number of homicides has been increasing. —Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
Mayor Muriel Bowser joined congressional leaders for a press conference on D.C. statehood. [Twitter]
DC Health reported five additional deaths related to COVID-19 and 19 new positive cases, bringing the total number to 520 and 9,818, respectively. DC Health says we are nearing meeting metrics for Phase 2, including seeing 12 out of 14 days of decrease in community spread. [EOM]
Montgomery County enters Phase 2 this Friday. [WAMU]
Community fights against plan for new halfway house along Minnesota Avenue NE. [WUSA9]
LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals(tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s Special Election Day in Ward 2. The winner will fill the seat for the remainder of the year. [DC BOE]
Black residents who watched D.C. burn in the ’60s see hope in today’s protests. [Post]
Vincent Orange is out as chairman of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Angela Franco will take over as Orange prepares for a run at an at-large Council seat. [Twitter]
Racial disparities continue in MPD’s stops and frisks of D.C. residents. Black people are six times as likely to be searched as white people, WUSA found. [WUSA9]
Historic D.C. statehood vote set for June 26. [Post]
YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? email@example.com)
Derek Brownand Simone Jacobson call on landlords to forgive rent. [Post]
Could COVID-19 spell the end of the breakfast buffet? [Eater]
ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Arts Club team goes on a journey with a survivalist family in the Pacific Northwest. [WCP]
The National Gallery of Art is reopening its Sculpture Garden on Saturday. [DCist]
Washington Performing Arts is taking its upcoming season online. [Washingtonian]
SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? email@example.com)
The WNBA will play a 22-game season starting in late July. [AP]
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says he is “not confident” there will be an MLB season, just days after he put the likelihood of the season happening at “100 percent,” prompting outrage from players and fans. [ESPN]
Anti-racism protests have brought the local NFL’s team nickname, a dictionary-defined racial slur, back into the spotlight. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently said it’s “past time” for the team to change its name. Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga argues that, like Confederate statues around the country, it must come down. [Post]
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EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability “is especially powerful at this moment because there are more people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities locked up than ever before in prisons, and a significant number of those killed and injured by police are people with disabilities.”