Groups Say Displacement at Core of Legislation
Local activist groups in the District have denounced Mayor Bowser’s Anti-Crime Bill and say it’s not only unconstitutional and racist, but believe it would result in the displacement of native Washingtonians.
The Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northeast, believes that the content of the bill reflects an “erosion of human rights.”
“The mayor wants to increase police in communities and make Washington a police state especially for Black people,” Hagler said.
Hagler contests that his assertions are evident through specific proposals in the bill such as geo-tracking, which he deems “a more sophisticated way of profiling” and the “rouse” of early release.
“You are saying to people you can get out of jail early as long as you sign this document saying we can come into your home or your mother’s home at any time for warrantless searches. That’s phony,” he said.
Hagler and a growing number of others, believe the mayor and other local officials have a vested interest in displacing “undesirables” in order to free up more land for major developers who they say tend to target a mostly-white, upwardly mobile constituency.
“The crime bill is a continuation of the mayor’s war against low-income Black communities in the city,” Parisa Norouzi, executive director of Empower DC said. “It doesn’t address the root causes, but it further marginalizes certain groups of people sending a message that they are not wanted in D.C.”
“These types of policies are all about displacement to make room for more development in the District,” she said.
Hagler believes “there is definitely an underlying race issue.”
“Newcomers in Ward 6 are calling for more police power, and who do you think it’s for? This is against the misplaced people in their neighborhoods due to gentrification,” Hagler said.
“At this time the community is very sensitive to the misuse of police power. The mayor wants to increase police and make communities a police state especially for Black people,” he said.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, Black Lives Matter DMV, in conjunction with Stop Police Terror Project DC, began numerous community actions against the proposed legislation with events such as canvassing the streets, online conferences, protests and testifying at city council judicial hearings.
On Saturday, Oct. 25, activists confronted Bowser during the opening of the Anacostia Heritage Trail in Southeast, following her with signs and chants such as “take back our streets.”
Patrice Sulton, a Ward 6 resident and criminal defense attorney contends that the proposed legislation by the mayor will do more harm to fragile communities than intended stabilization.
“There was a [surge] in violent crime this year and the first thing she wanted to do was introduce warrantless searches to people who are on probation or parole,” Sulton said. “If people who are returning to the community have to worry about unlimited search warrants their families are not going to welcome them into their home.”
“This could result in homelessness for ex-offenders, greater recidivism and couch-to-couch living,” she said.
“The bill itself is broad, covering numerous kinds of conduct, from resisting arrest to interfering with a police officer, which includes yelling – a violation of our first amendment right.”
While the mayor’s crime bill has not been approved, the discourse of the city council particularly from Ward 5 Councilmember and head of the Judiciary Committee, Kenyan McDuffie, suggests that the bill will not survive.
McDuffie introduced his own “anti-crime bill” in September and Sulton said if offers a better alternative. The proposed Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act would provide mentors and resources for community policing and preventative work targeting youth who are most likely to commit crimes.
Hagler, who has attended several town hall meetings addressing the mayor’s proposed legislation, said much of what continues to happen “is a result of D.C. not having statehood.”
“D.C. not being a state allows us to be used as a Petri dish,” he said. “All of the nation’s experiments happen here from school vouchers, public charter schools and now this police state policing” he said. “It must end.”
He insisted that District residents need to be informed because once proposed legislation becomes the law, there will be no turning back.
“It’s hard to un-ring a bell once you’ve allowed the bell to ring,” he said.