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It’s been a long time since the go-go beat echoed off the walls of the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center. But on Saturday night, that classic, syncopated rhythm returned to 14th and U streets for a go-go themed “civil disobedience party” critiquing the policies and actions of Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“We are reclaiming the true legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which is a radical one, and connecting it to issues of economic justice in D.C.,” Lissette Miller, an organizer with neighborhood activist organization ONE D.C., said in a statement. As demonstrators chanted phrases like “Muriel’s gotta go-go” and “What side are you on my people? What side are you on?” to a playlist of classic and contemporary go-go tunes, clips of famous MLK speeches were projected onto the side of the Reeves Center spliced with footage of other recent demonstrations organized by Black Lives Matter DMV, Black Youth Project 100, Stop Police Terror Project DC, and other organizations.
Last one: “Muriel’s gotta go-go” pic.twitter.com/zlZ23AZlZB
— Matt Cohen (@Matt_D_Cohen) January 17, 2016
Demonstrators at Saturday’s event expressed frustration with Bowser’s policies, specifically her proposed crime bill and a lack of action on wage theft and housing issues. “She’s been the architect of many developments pushing out longtime residents,” said Dominique Hazzard of Black Youth Project 100. Additionally, Saturday’s demonstrators voiced their concerns with Bowser and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier‘s response to the increasing crime in the city. “Her response to crime is more police and surveillance,” Hazzard said. “What we’re really concerned about is a different type of crime in the city… wage theft.”
These days, the U Street corridor is perhaps the epicenter for millennial bar hoppers—making the Reeves Center on a Saturday night a prime place to get your message heard. But that wasn’t impetus behind the demonstration. For more than two decades, the Reeves Center was home to Club U, a prominent go-go venue that was shut down in 2005 after a fatal stabbing. For years, MPD would circulate a secret “go-go report” every few weeks, so officers could keep tabs on which shows were happening when. The result has effectively pushed go-go shows out of the city, save for a few venues like The Howard Theatre, which still hosts them on occasion.
“The same anti-blackness underscores it all,” Hazzard said. “The MPD’s efforts to push go-go music out of D.C. is symbolic of the way D.C. city policies are pushing black students out of school, longtime residents out of their homes, homeless residents into accommodations that deny dignity, young black people into prison, and big developers into lucrative deals at the expense of people.”
Photos by Matt Cohen