Washington, D.C. area organizers, activists and community members rallied at Black Lives Matter Plaza in front of the White House April 15 to demand justice for Daunte Wright along with D.C-Maryland-Virginia-area residents James Johnson, Dominique Williams shot and killed by an off-duty Pentagon Agency officer and Anthony Louis, tased to death by U.S. Park Police and Alexandria PD in southeast Wash., D.C.
The rally, hosted by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, called for the jailing of racist killer cops and an end to racist police terror. PSL organizer Sean Blackmon emphasized the necessity for a new system throughout the event. “This system, and this government is so sick, that it doesn’t even hesitate to kill children,” he said, alluding to the vigilante killing of 17-year old Black teen Trayvon Martin and recent police murder of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old child who was Mexican American.
The ongoing trial against Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis Police officer who killed George Floyd, served as a backdrop for the rally.
“They’re saying, ‘Well, he’s the only one that does this, we don’t train people to do this,’” PSL organizer Nicole Roussell said in reference to a former training commander who took the stand on Chauvin’s trial.
“They’re ready to cut off the arm to save the body right now,” Roussell said, arguing that the justice system is willing to throw Derek Chauvin under the bus if it means preserving racist policing.
Signs at the protest demanded justice for all the victims of police brutality in recent years, including the dozens of Black people who were slain by Wash., D.C. MPD and other local police departments in the area.
Washingtonian Jay Brown, the uncle of Jeffrey Price, a 22-year-old Black man who was killed in 2018 after a D.C. police cruiser purposefully struck Price’s dirt bike vehicle shared his personal experience of losing a loved one.
“My nephew never had a chance to have a child,” Brown said, “that’s hurtful.”
“Every day of my life for the past three years, I just want to be at peace knowing he’s at peace, but we can’t because every report that comes out is another lie, D.C. police chased my nephew to his death.” Brown said.
Groups of Washingtonians riding four-wheeler dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles in the streets of D.C. is a very common occurrence in the city, especially on warmer days. “It’s a culture that we have here,” Sean Blackmon said.
Dirt bike collectives have been consistently harassed by MPD, facing lofty fines and arrests and in the past few years. These groups have looked to get their vehicles legalized in the city.
This is not the first time that the ruling class and its protectors have tried to suppress Black culture in the city. In April 2019, a resident of nearby luxury apartments in the historically Black neighborhood of Shaw made a complaint to the T-mobile corporation against the iconic and cultural relic Metro PCS storefront that sold mobile phones, CD’s and blasted Go-Go music for passersby for nearly 26 years.
The corporation basically asked the store owner, a long-time resident and peace activist to turn off his music.
This sparked a movement called #Don’tMuteDC, that resisted against the erasure of Go-Go, a music subgenre originated by the Black community in D.C. around the 1960s and 1970s, with weekly block parties and Moechella concerts that continue to this day.
With rapidly increasing gentrification displacing Black Washingtonians, the upsurge of racist policing against the residents has only increased.
Despite months of uprisings last summer, including severe police repression against protesters by the U.S. National Guard who fired rubber bullets and released pepper spray and tear gas into crowds and D.C. MPD who kettled activists on the notorious Swann Street, racist police killings still remain an epidemic in the city.
Rallying cries to defund MPD rocked the district, however the D.C. council only decreased 1.7 percent of MPD’s total operating budget for 2021, while officers still use racist tactics such as jump-outs and stop and frisk.
“The system is killing people every single day,” Heem an organizer of Freedom Fighters D.C. said.
“I’m ready to dedicate my life to change, and to bring about that change is not always going to be pretty and it’s not going to be peaceful. … I support people who take matters into their own hands,” he said.
“Both of them were murdered by police officers who had known them for years,” Heem said, “and both of those police officers are still getting paid by MPD, our tax dollars.”
Heem mentioned that he didn’t start getting arrested and facing charges until he started standing up for what he believed in. “I was never arrested at all, never targeted by the police until I started protesting, and I’ve been in D.C. my whole life.”
Speakers also connected U.S. imperialism abroad to police killings of Black Americans at home.
“When people say defund the police, the killer of Dominque Williams and James Johnson reminds us that we also need to defund the Pentagon, because a Pentagon officer shot them to death,” movement journalist Esther Iverem said.
“It just reminds us that when we say a police state, we’re talking about our money, we’re talking about our tax dollars,” she said.
President Biden has recently requested $715 billion of the $753 billion national security budget to go towards the Pentagon. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are awaiting another stimulus check to no avail while unemployment and homelessness are on the rise, and instead have their tax dollars go towards the same institution that killed both Williams and Johnson and that kills people in wars and interventions abroad.
Throughout the rally, activists, organizers and community members stressed the importance of joining an organization.
Housing organizer Kambridge Giles talked about how getting organized and engaging with the community is crucial to making change.
“When we begin to say ‘what is next?’ we just need to look around our neighborhood and figure out where the need is, and begin to do something about it,” she said.