BYP100, Black Lives Matter DC, and Stop Police Terror Project DC statement on the tragic death of Makiyah Wilson and ongoing community and police violence

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                   
July 18 2018

CONTACTS:

Name: April Goggans, Black Lives Matter DC and #KeepDC4Me
Phone: (202) 250-4541
Email: april.goggans@gmail.com

Name: Eugene Puryear, Stop Police Terror Project-DC
Phone: (202) 556-1651
Email: eugene@sptdc.com

Name: Darya Nicol, BYP100
Email: dc.chapter@byp100.org

BYP100, Black Lives Matter DC, and Stop Police Terror Project DC statement on the tragic death of Makiyah Wilson and ongoing community and police violence

Washington, District of Columbia - July 18, 2018: Due to the neglect of Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor Donahue, Chief Newsham, and Councilmembers, 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson is dead and her mother was left holding her child’s lifeless body. Today we send our deepest condolences to the family of Makiyah Wilson, to the Clay Terrace community, and to all of those in Ward 7 who see the impact of violence everyday.

Rather than prioritizing comprehensive public health-based policies enshrined in the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act of 2015, for three years Bowser, Donahue, Newsham, and Councilmembers have prioritized the illusion of creating safety with police presence. For three years, Bowser, Donahue, Newsham, and Councilmembers have had the opportunity to fix the type of problems leading to deaths like Makiyah’s. Instead, for three years our public officials have failed to ensure full implementation of a progressive community-focused approach to violence.

Mayor Bowser and Chief Newsham have not only failed to address the rise in violence in our city, but their actions and failed policies have contributed to it. Time and time again, Mayor Bowser has had opportunities to implement and embrace policies proven to reduce violence. Time and time again, she has rejected them in favor of more policing and criminalization. Bowser and Newsham have failed our communities.

“Government officials in the District have consistently ignored any evidence-based practices in constructing public safety policy, and have seemed more concerned with scoring points against their critics than with seriously addressing public safety issues,” said Eugene Puryear, co-founder of the Stop Police Terror Project-DC.

In 2015, Mayor Bowser tried to address violence by implementing an extreme crime bill that Law for Black Lives-DC warned would make the District, “a more punitive, unjust and draconian place to live,” and ACLU DC said promoted “ineffective and counterproductive ‘tough on crime’ approaches to public safety.” The bill was defeated because of the work of Black Lives Matter-DC, Stop Police Terror Project-DC and other community organizations. This should have sent a message to the mayor that she needed a different, community-focused approach. However, instead of listening to the lived experiences of residents of her city and the experts that spoke up, the mayor has simply doubled down on failed policies. Instead of embracing a progressive, evidence-based, community-focused approach to violence in the form of the NEAR Act, Bowser and Chief Newsham have fought it every step of the way.

On May 29, 2018, Mayor Bowser and Chief Newsham announced they would increase police presence by 25 percent in Wards 5, 7 and 8 in order to address the rise in violent crime. This included adding “additional officers to its evening and overnight shifts and additional personnel from the Narcotics and Special Investigation Division, the Special Operations Division, and the Homeland Security Bureau, as well as increased helicopter patrols.” This was despite testimony from community members on how increased police presence leaves them fearful for their lives. Police presence has not appeared to have lead to any slowdown in homicides or violent incidents. Instead, we have seen a significant increase in police use of illegal stop-and-frisk, use of force, brutality, and murder. Our communities are rightful in their fear and outrage. We uplift the deaths of Jeffrey Price on May 4, D’Quan Young on May 9, and Marqueese Alston on June 12, as well as the brutal beating of Samuel Cooper, and illegal stop-and-frisk and harassment in Deanwood.

“I feel like for nearly four years, we’ve been pouring our blood, sweat, and tears in to this work both in the streets marching, knocking on doors, having community meetings, and at the Wilson building. We’ve also worked really hard to get the NEAR Act drafted, passed, funded, and now pushing hard to get it fully implemented, but no one is listening. The NEAR Act was passed unanimously by the Council three years ago, yet bodies keep hitting the ground. I’m just so angry and so deeply sad. Each and every time we go to these murder scenes -- some on the blocks we live on -- connect families and neighborhoods to resources and support networks to address immediate and long term trauma, I just want to scream.” says April Goggans, Core Organizer with Black Lives Matter DC and Creator of #KeepDC4Me.

We believe Makiyah Wilson’s death was preventable. If Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor Donahue, and Chief Newsham had stopped trying to exploit the justified fear of Black communities to justify over-policing and used what actually works – comprehensive public health based policies — so much violence might have been prevented. Justice looks like working to ensure that the conditions that led to Makiyah’s tragic murder are no longer the norm.

It is not too late for our public officials to change the course of violence and death in the District’s streets. The public hearings that took place last Thursday showed members of the Council the trauma our communities have had to endure. It showed that they’ve had enough and demand to be heard. We must listen to them and we can prevent violence in the District by embracing the proven public-health approaches in the NEAR Act and by committing to addressing the root social causes that lead to violence. We call on every elected official to do just that. Community members and activists must be listened to. Preventative measures MUST be taken to stop violence in the District. We cannot wait any longer.

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