Activists Call Out MPD and Bowser For Policing Practices

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Activists are calling out MPD and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for the excessive force used in policing practices towards protestors and the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Deon Kay by a D.C. police officer. (Courtesy Photo)

By AFRO Staff

While the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is supposed to protect and serve District residents, Southeast resident Deon Kay was fatally shot on Sept. 2, by a D.C. officer, and recent protestors are speaking out after being victims of excessive force by police on Black Lives Matter Plaza.

MPD justified the use of fatal force on the 18-year-old because he had a gun, however Black Lives Matter DC and other organizations are not only questioning the truth of his firearm possession, but also fighting back as they argue the policing should not have resulted in his death.

“Police are alleging that they recovered a firearm [Deon Kay] after they shot [and] killed him, not that he fired at police.  It’s our [Second Amendment] right to possess a firearm, not a crime.  Why are these situations never championed as such?  Oh [because] the [Second Amendment] only applies to White [people] in the U.S.,” attorney and racial and economic justice advocate Felicity Williams wrote on Twitter, before it was re-tweeted by Black Lives Matter DC.

In 2017 and 2018, MPD had multiple illegal stop and frisk complaints targeting young African-American men in Wards 7 and 8. According to a {WUSA 9} investigation, 8 out of 10 people stop and frisked by D.C. Police are Black. MPD Police Chief Peter Newsham, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue were all recipients of a lawsuit from ACLU DC, Black Lives Matter DC, and Stop Police Terror Project DC. The purpose of the lawsuit was to hold the city accountable for the illegal stop and frisks. Newsham, later admitted to the District of Columbia Council, the Police Department, was, in fact, guilty of failing to follow the law requiring it to better track and monitor Stop and Frisk by its officers

According to the Government of the District of Columbia Police Complaints Board, reported use of force incidents increased by 20 percent in 2018 and reported use of force incidents have increased 83 percent since 2015.  In 2018, 113 officers reported using force five times or more and six officers reported using force ten times or more. The number of officers who reported using force increased by 18 percent in 2018- more than one-third of MPD officers reported using force. Further 32 percent of the “use of force,” reports were incomplete, inaccurate, or otherwise deficient. In the information provided, race is a major factor, after 90 percent of all reported uses of force involved Black community members. 

During this year’s Black Lives Matter protests in downtown, D.C., many organizations have called out the MPD’s excessive use of force and policing practices on demonstrators.  On Aug. 31, protesters were demonstrating near Black Lives Matter Plaza in Northwest, D.C, when according to {The Washington Post,} officers were seen using their bikes to corral people and slamming others into parked vehicles. Mayor Bowser blamed outside agitators for the chaos stating they came “armed for battle” and “looking for police to confront.”

While demonstrators are advocating for MPD to address their excessive use of force, Mayor Bowser released a statement questioning why prosecutors are not arresting more protestors.

“The Metropolitan Police Department has an obligation to safely manage First Amendment assemblies, while at the same time taking appropriate enforcement action to preserve public safety.  I am writing this letter to implore you to fulfill your role as a public safety partner by advancing the prosecutions of those responsible for assaulting police officers, destroying property and undermining the safety of those who seek to demonstrate peacefully in Washington, D.C.,” Bowser wrote in a statement to U.S. Attorney General for D.C. Michael Sherwin.

The Mayor posted her plea on Twitter, which received a lot of negative backlash from D.C.’s peaceful protestors: “So I actually was a protestor who at one point was arrested by MPD, what you’re saying is an attack on all [D.C.] residents who want to exercise their [First Amendment] rights.  Bowser you cape for the police,”  wrote designer, developer and activist Dylan Petrohilos on Twitter.  

“We refuse to allow the Mayor to continue to insult the intelligence of D.C. residents.  Every action she has taken- from calling for prosecutions of unlawfully arrested protestors to ignoring the killings of Black people in D.C.- is antithetical to the idea that Black lives matter,” Neenee Tay, a Core Organizer for Black Lives Matter DC, said.