A group of activists sued Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser this week over her decision to paint “Black Lives Matter” down two blocks of 16th Street, which leads to the White House, saying she violated the First Amendment and showed favoritism to “the Black Lives Matter cult orthodoxy.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Wednesday, complained Ms. Bowser’s move, as well as her decision to rename a nearby street “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” came at the taxpayers’ expense but showed a preference for one faith — or belief — over others.
The main argument in the 51-page complaint filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is that Ms. Bowser is violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution by supporting one orthodoxy over others.
“The Black Lives Matter banner conveys that black people are the favored race of the city of DC, which is of course a racist contention floated by a racist Democrat who persistently refuses to think logically,” the lawsuit said.
Pastor Rich Penkoski, identified as a “street preacher” is the named plaintiff in the case. He’s joined by Chris Sevier, a former judge advocate general, and Tex Christopher, a D.C. lobbyist.
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.
The three plaintiffs asked the court to order Ms. Bowser to alternate other banners down the street so she is not showing favoritism to a preferred group.
The first suggested banner is “Blue Lives Matter” to honor law enforcement. The second banner requested is “Green Lives Matter” to honor Guard units. The third and final banner requested is “All Lives Matter,” which the activists said is “secular” and won’t run afoul of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The lawsuit comes about a week after Ms. Bowser had the street painted following weeks of protests in the nation’s capital after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis over Memorial Day weekend. The officer has since been charged with second-degree murder.
“There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen, and to have their humanity recognized, and we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city,” Ms. Bowser told reporters last week about the protesters.
“And it is that message, and that message is to the American people, that Black Lives Matter black humanity matters, and we as a city raise that up as part of our values as a city,” she added.
Those protests, though, turned violent at night as rioters defaced memorials along the National Mall and burned buildings, including the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House.
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Muriel Bowser reverses bid to remove D.C. monuments
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday scaled back her blueprint for canceling politically incorrect U.S. monuments and memorials after hitting a brick wall with the Trump administration. The mayor’s D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions (DCFACES) working group will limit its planned removal of historic figures from the public square to city properties, abandoning the original…
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday scaled back her blueprint for canceling politically incorrect U.S. monuments and memorials after hitting a brick wall with the Trump administration.
The mayor’s D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions (DCFACES) working group will limit its planned removal of historic figures from the public square to city properties, abandoning the original plan to target iconic federal structures like the Washington Monument.
“Mayor Bowser has asked the DCFACES Working Group to clarify and refine their recommendations to focus on local D.C., so no one attempts to confuse the working group’s focus on contextualizing not removing important monuments and memorials in D.C.,” the mayor’s office said in a statement to WTOP Radio.
The mayor met with a buzz saw of opposition over the working group’s plan released Tuesday to scrub the names of historic figures from D.C. schools, libraries, streets and neighborhoods, as well as remove or contextualize landmarks named after those who supported slavery or promoted systemic racism.
The initial report included eight federal assets: the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Newlands Memorial Fountain, the Columbus Fountain, and statues of Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Albert Pike and George Washington.
The page titled “Asset Group 3: Landmarks, and commemorative works,” which identified the federal statues and memorials, was removed from the report Wednesday.
“Our decision-making prism focused on key disqualifying histories, including participation in slavery, systemic racism, mistreatment of, or actions that suppressed equality for, persons of color, women and LGBTQ communities and violation of the DC Human Right Act,” said the 24-page report.
The D.C. Human Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1977, long after Washington, Jefferson and the others had died, prompting criticism over holding figures from the past to modern social and political standards.
“I think it’s the most ridiculous waste of time and resources that I can think of,” said Robert Woodson, founder and president the Woodson Center. “What is the purpose? It’s part of the race-grievance arrogance where it’s defining everything in terms of its past. America is a country of redemption. None of us want to be defined by the worst of what we were when we were younger.”
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt described the plan to revamp or remove federal structures as dead on arrival, tweeting “Not on my watch. Never going to happen,” while White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the recommendations would go “absolutely nowhere” while President Trump was in office.
The mayor’s office responded in its Wednesday statement: “Interesting to see the White House comment on an intragovernmental report about how to recognize all sides of our history.”
Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, called for Congress to rescind the Home Rule Act, saying the proposal “puts the nail in the coffin for the argument that the District should be self-governed.”
“Protecting our national treasures, monuments and even politicians is too important to leave up to incompetent radicals dedicated to the destruction of America and our history,” Mr. Manning said in an email. “It is time to end this failed experiment by repealing home rule and jettisoning a significant portion of the current District of Columbia to beleaguer the poor citizens of Maryland.”
D.C. officials have argued that nobody had intended to move the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial, but that the idea was to “contextualize” them with, for example, signs explaining that the first and third presidents owned slaves.
While Miss Bowser has no authority to rename or otherwise revamp national monuments, the report pointed out that she has a seat on the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, which she could leverage to “recommend the Federal government remove, relocate, or contextualize” the assets.
Miss Bowser launched DCFACES in July after protesters took to the streets following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody on May 25 to tear down statues and deface monuments on the grounds that some honored slave owners and Confederate generals.
Protesters also defaced the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial in Boston that honors Black Civil War soldiers and toppled a statue of Union Army Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco, leading to allegations that the vandals were more interested in wreaking havoc than decrying racism.
“Across the country, communities are reflecting upon the systemic racism which has been engrained in our culture through policies and expressions impacting African Americans and other groups subject to discrimination,” Barbara Perry, who co-chaired the working group, said Tuesday in a statement.
The report recommended changing the names on 49 D.C. properties, including 21 schools, nine residential buildings and campuses; 12 playgrounds and fields, and seven government structures.
They include Jefferson Middle School, John Tyler Elementary School, Woodrow Wilson High School, Thomas Jefferson Hall, Jefferson Field and the Guy Mason Recreation Center.
Francis Scott Key, who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” and owned slaves, would be removed from Key Elementary School and the Key Bridge Boathouse.
Whose names would replace theirs? The working group found that more than 70% of the D.C. structures “are named for white men, many of whom were not District residents,” the report said.
“Priority should be placed on ensuring future assets, especially and including those recommended for renaming by this Working Group, include more women, people of color and LGBTQ Washingtonians,” the report said.
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Muriel Bowser, Police Union take issue with D.C. emergency police reforms
The D.C. Council on Tuesday unanimously approved emergency legislation to overhaul law enforcement in the District amid calls for defunding police departments across the country. Council member Charles Allen introduced the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which bans police chokeholds, bars the Metropolitan Police Department from buying military gear and…
The D.C. Council on Tuesday unanimously approved emergency legislation to overhaul law enforcement in the District amid calls for defunding police departments across the country.
Council member Charles Allen introduced the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which bans police chokeholds, bars the Metropolitan Police Department from buying military gear and allows incarcerated felons to vote, among other provisions.
As emergency legislation, it takes effect immediately and remains in effect for 90 days.
“The protests to the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and cruelly countless others are evidence of the immediate need to take action,” said Mr. Allen, Ward 6 Democrat and chairman of the Justice and Public Safety Committee.
The D.C. Police Union released a statement Monday opposing the bill, saying it will increase crime and cause a mass exodus of personnel. The labor union criticized the legislation for taking advantage of nationwide outrage over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
“The proposed language in this bill erodes many of the rights that police officers in the city are currently afforded and creates a dangerous path to unchecked violence in the District,” the union said. “We understand there are voices in this community that are asking for continued reform to the police policy. The union is and always has been willing to have serious discussions about this kind of reform.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has said she has no plans to defund the police department, reiterated her support for the legislation in a statement that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson read to the other lawmakers during their virtual meeting.
However, she expressed concern that provisions of the emergency legislation would change other laws without public input. For example, the bill expands public access to police officers’ body-worn camera footage and bars officers from reviewing footage while writing initial reports.
“Allowing for community input and vetting by our residents can only serve to refine and strengthen changes to policing in the District,” Miss Bowser wrote. “As I have indicated previously, I support the emergency legislation, but I asked the council to delay considerations of the temporary measure until public hearings can be held.”
The legislation also prohibits all members of the police complaint board from being affiliated with law enforcement and requires the D.C. Board of Elections to provide every person in the custody of the Department of Corrections with the means to vote in the Nov. 3 election.
Mr. Allen said several aspects of the bill have been discussed regularly in public hearings in his committee and that continued public input is welcome when the council takes up the permanent legislation.
Congress must approve all of the District’s permanent legislation, but the council can enact emergency legislation that bypasses that process and the mayor’s signature and remains in effect for 90 days. The council then can pass temporary legislation that would expire in 225 days but require two readings of the bill, as well as mayoral and congressional approval.
In more than an hour of debate over amendments, lawmakers expressed concern that the proposed additions were not being vetted thoroughly and asked that they be taken up in the second reading of temporary legislation in a couple of weeks or in the permanent legislation.
Three amendments from Mr. Mendelson were included in the bill, which bars MPD from hiring any officer with a history of misconduct in another department, makes disciplinary processes non-negotiable in union contracts and gives the director of the office of police complaints access to more information from the department.
Council member David Grosso, at-large independent, offered an amendment that would limit the number of police officers to 3,500. Right now, the department has about 3,800 officers.
Mr. Grosso said the District has the highest number of law enforcement officers per resident, at 55 officers per 10,000 residents, compared with other cities. New York City has 42 officers per 10,000 residents, and Chicago has 44, Baltimore has 40 and Boston has 31.
Mr. Allen asked why the number 3,500 was chosen. He said he doesn’t think the emergency legislation should include a cap on the number of officers without sufficient data, budget, policy and evidence to support it.
Mr. Grosso withdrew the amendment and asked Mr. Allen whether he would hold a hearing on a permanent bill that would decrease the number of police officers.
“What are you doing in an hour, Mr. Grosso? We have a hearing on the MPD budget to go over these numbers later today,” Mr. Allen said in a tense back-and-forth with Mr. Grosso.
Council members Anita Bonds, at-large Democrat, and Vincent Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, introduced an amendment that would establish a police reform commission. It was the only amendment that required a vote by the council.
Lawmakers who opposed the amendment said they feared that the report the board is required to produce by the end of the year would be used as a tool to delay conversation on immediate reforms.
The amendment, which was approved 7-5 vote, establishes a 20-member board with people from law enforcement, government agencies, nonprofits, education institutions, advisory neighborhood commissions, labor groups, and social service, religious and behavioral health organizations.
“Washington, D.C., is a segregated city even in this year 2020, it is still a segregated city,” said council member Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 5 Democrat. “It’s because race continues to shape every single aspect of our lives in this city: politically, economically, socially, culturally.”
Mr. McDuffie said he was proud of the legislation but added that it is important that the bill is not a “one-off.”
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Muriel Bowser praises D.C. protesters; gatherings around White House continue into evening
Tens of thousands of protesters flooded Washington, D.C., Saturday and continued to occupy several city blocks around the White House as a historically large Black Lives Matter demonstration continued into the evening. Earlier in the day, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appeared at a block of 16th St. NW, which a day earlier she had renamed…
Tens of thousands of protesters flooded Washington, D.C., Saturday and continued to occupy several city blocks around the White House as a historically large Black Lives Matter demonstration continued into the evening.
Earlier in the day, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appeared at a block of 16th St. NW, which a day earlier she had renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” and encouraged peaceful protests.
The mayor, a Democrat, praised them for standing up to the “army” of federal troops and officers that President Trump activated Monday in an attempt to instill “law and order” in the District.
Miss Bowser addressed the crowd Saturday for about two and a half minutes. She said she wanted her adopted 2-year-old daughter, Miranda, “to grow up and know that her mother had a chance to say ‘no’ and she did.”
“If he (Trump) can take over Washington, D.C., he can come for any state and none of us will be safe,” Miss Bowser said. “So today, we pushed the army away from our city. Our soldiers should not be treated that way. They should not be asked to move on American citizens.”
The mayor concluded with a quip she later repurposed on Twitter, a reference to the upcoming presidential election: “Today we say ‘no.’ In November, we say ‘next.’”
In response, Mr. Trump retweeted a tweet he wrote about the mayor Friday.
“[email protected] is grossly incompetent, and in no way qualified to be running an important city like Washington, D.C.,” the tweet reads. “If the great men and women of the National Guard didn’t step forward, she would have looked no better than her counterpart Mayor in Minneapolis!”
Mr. Trump wasn’t the only one to go after Miss Bowser. Some signs and chalk illustrations spotted around the District criticized the mayor — herself a black woman — for not doing enough to support Black Lives Matter.
“If black lives do matter to you Muriel Bowser then stop allowing our city to get gentrified,” one sign mounted on a bus stop read.
Black Lives Matter D.C. did not approve of Miss Bowser’s decision to rename the block near the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” complete with large yellow lettering spelling the mantra out on the road.
“This is a performative distraction from real policy changes,” the group tweeted Friday.” Bowser has consistently been on the wrong side of BLMDC history. This is to appease white liberals while ignoring our demands. Black Lives Matter means defund the police.”
Some protesters began writing rebuttals on the yellow lettering Saturday, including one that said, “F– the ‘mural,’ change the system.”
Protesters began to gather late in the morning around the Lincoln Memorial and crowds grew in a number of parts of the city in the next few hours. The movement was decentralized, with different marches led by groups like Refuse Fascism, Freedom Fighters D.C., Black Lives Matter D.C. and the University of the District of Columbia’s Black Law Student Association that all eventually convened by the White House.
Throughout the afternoon, there were no indications of violence by either protesters or law enforcement. The police presence appeared to be scaled back from recent days, but some officers dressed in military fatigues could be seen blocking off some streets.
While many demonstrators expressed anger and pain over the deaths of black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, there was also a thread of joy in many parts of the area. Music, mostly go-go, was played in some corners and intersections of the protesters’ area. Some people sprawled out over grassy areas to paint more signs, and a few street artists even painted murals over the wood panels on boarded-up banks and businesses.
Saturday was the 12th day of protests around the U.S. and the ninth in the District, following the death of Mr. Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Some businesses in this area are boarded up. And some of those boards of wood are being used as art canvasses: pic.twitter.com/kYgF34RjlD
— Adam Zielonka (@Adam_Zielonka) June 6, 2020
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