December 2020 in DC

As white supremacists announced their intentions, showed up in DC, and ran rampage through the city during the weekend of December 10-14, reports and statement came from many quarters: news outlets, independent journalists, community organizers, faith leaders, and MPD and our elected officials. For ease of reference and future analysis and action, this page gathers some materials in one spot, regarding

  • attacks on Black churches, individuals, organizations, and community;
  • DC’s MPD response to the white supremacist menace;
  • stark contrast in treatment by MPD of white supremacists, on the one hand, and Black people and people protesting racism on the other; and
  • faith community responses.
  • Responses from elected officials are part of this story but perhaps beyond this blog’s scope.

UPDATED as materials are added/discovered.

Earlier Background (directly below)
Lead up to Dec 10-14
Weekend Havoc and MPD’s Response
Church Responses
Synagogue/Jewish Responses
Earlier Background:

MPD’s life-threatening spread of falsehoods about Black Lives Matter-DC on Election Night.

BLM Plaza when Biden supporters showed up to celebrate, compared with summer and fall.

Racially disparate behavior of MPD over the weekend of November 12-14.




Lead up to December 10-14

The national #MillionMAGAMarch publicity did NOT CALL FOR MASK wearing or physical distancing, as has been required in DC for months, and shared information designed to falsely suggest that no health regulation applied to visitors in town for a short stay:

Image: screen shot of MillionMAGAMarch “Covid Mitigation” page (TrumpMarch/; text version here.

In preparation for this announced gathering, BLM DC called for DC Council and Mayor to insist on enforcement of our virus-containment regulations….to no avail:

Image: BLM DC Tweet of December 9 with “Tell Mayor Bowser NO to White Supremacy”
plus “Call Script” and “Numbers to Call.”

Simultaneously, BLM DC advertised for a gathering — with social distancing and masks — “To resist the omnipresent, intrusive & pervasive nature of white supremacy,” on Black Lives Matter Plaza the same weekend.

Image: BLM DC Tweet including text quoted above plus graphics advertising “Black Joy” and “No to Trumpists in DC” and “Yes to Solidarity in DC.”

The TrumpMarch website’s conflates Antifa and BLM, portraying BLM as dangerous by warning participants away from a “No Go Zone,” identified as “well known staging area for ANTIFA and BLM” [map showed the entire downtown area], and promising “security who can escort you back to your hotel.”

Image: Screen shot from TrumpMarch Event Details: Hotels.

BLM-DC stressed throughout advance publicity that they were calling for a celebration and resistance to white supremacy, not “counter-protesting” anything at all. The intention was to create a safe space for Black people and to arrange a constant presence in BLM Plaza in order to prevent a repeat of the November trauma and damage to the BLM Memorial Fence. BLM-DC never called for or gathered in “counter-protest” and were not engaging with #MillionMAGAMarch individuals or its messages.

TOP




Weekend Havoc and MPD’s Response

As during the weekend of November 12-14, MPD gave white supremacists a very wide berth while interfering with Black Lives Matter and supporters AND journalists.

There were plenty of widely-available reports, during and after the weekend, from journalists who confused or conflated various groups and portrayed unprovoked — and preventable — violence toward Black people and other people of Color in DC as “conflict between protest groups.” Here for correction/balance is one interview with independent journalists Chuck Modiano (@ChuckModi) and Sean Michael Love (@BlackHouseNews) on The Real News.

Note the behavior of white supremacists, clearly not from here but parading around Black Lives Matter Plaza and calling out “these are our streets,” at the start of the video portion. Note the non-response of MPD, even when these men deliberately lean into their space. For a little contrast, watch MPD deliberately push and provoke local Jail Support people, standing behind a police barrier, and then unleash tear gas canons on them — a sight conspicuously missing from scenes with even the most violent of the white supremacists.

…Check out ChuckModi and BlackHouse News — who are always out there, even when most of the press is not — for more….

On the attacks at Asbury UMC and Metropolitan AME (plus Luther Place and Mt. Vernon UMC, both of which have asked, following the weekend attacks, that focus stay on the historically Black churches):

[Muriel Bowser and Peter Newsham] allowed it to happen by giving them the permits in the first place.** And these groups announced what they were going to do before hand…They were announcing what they going to do on Parler and on Twitter. They were making their threats known. Those four churches specifically are big in the community for the activist community….So, they already had intentions and plans to go after those churches, Black churches, churches that stood up for freedom and justice and welcomed people that were fighting for freedom and justice….They sat back and let it happen….
—-Sean Michael Love,
(around the 19 minute mark in the interview)

**Note added 12/21/20 in re: DC government officials claiming they issued no permits: National Park Service issues permits for use of Freedom Plaza and many other spots in DC. The Metropolitan Police Department District prepared in advance to facilitate the gathering by street closings and parking restrictions (see Dec 8 announcement). MPD also made active choices about where and how to deploy officers before, during, and after the weekend, including an absence in encounters with white supremacists of chemical sprays, rubber bullets, and other aggressive policing practices regularly used against other groups.

—-***End Note***—

On Sunday, Dec 13, BLM-DC held a press conference. Here are some of the opening words, from core organizer, Anthony Lorenzo Green:

BLM DC denounces the failure of DC govt, both the mayor and her police department, under the leadership of the failed outgoing Police Chief Peter Newsham, to protect the rights of DC residents and to stop the racist attacks by the Proud Boys and other white supremacists against Black people, Black churches, and others who stand against racism. 

As we witnessed for many months now during this uprising and for years in our own communities, MPD does not, cannot, will not keep us safe.

MPD physically protected white supremacists as they threatened lives, damaged historic churches and destroyed and burned property.
— Full BLM-DC press conference: Link for non-Facebook folks; Facebook link

TOP




Church Responses

Here are a gathering of responses from the churches involved:

Asbury United Methodist Church:

Since 1836, Asbury United Methodist Church has stood at the corner of 11&K Streets NW, Washington, DC. We are a resilient people who have trusted in God through slavery and the Underground Railroad, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, and now as we face an apparent rise in white supremacy.

Last night demonstrators who were part of the MAGA gatherings tore down our Black Lives Matter sign and literally burned it in the street. The sign burning was captured on Twitter. It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames. For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings. Seeing this act on video made me both indignant and determined to fight the evil that has reared its ugly head. We had been so confident that no one would ever vandalize the church, but it has happened.

We are a people of faith. As horrible and disturbing as this is for us now—it doesn’t compare with the challenges and fears the men and women who started Asbury, 184 years ago, faced. So, we will move forward, undaunted in our assurance that Black Lives Matter and we are obligated to continue to shout that truth without ceasing. We are assured that our church is surrounded by God’s grace and mercy.

Sadly, we must point out that if this was a marauding group of men of color going through the city, and destroying property, they would have been followed and arrested. We are especially alarmed that this violence is not being denounced at the highest levels of our nation and instead the leaders of this movement are being invited to the White House.

Asbury United Methodist Church abhors violence of any kind. We call upon all to join us in prayer for our community, church, and the people who are responsible for this hateful behavior. We believe this is a wakeup call for all to be more vigilant and committed to anti-racism and building a beloved community, and we invite you to join us. Our congregation will continue to stand steadfast—“we will not be moved.” We press on in the name of the Lord!
–Rev. Dr. Ianther M. Mills, Senior Pastor


Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church

Metropolitan AME pastor, Pastor William H. Lamar IV, learned of the attack at his church only moments before Sunday morning worship and shared a few words and prayers at that service. The only statement the church released on Sunday was “Black Lives Matter, yesterday, today, and always.” There was also a Tweet about not being distracted.

However, Pastor Lamar spoke to NPR’s All Things Considered on Monday, Dec. 14. He wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post on Tuesday, Dec. 15. And he was on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Thursday, Dec. 17

Here are selections from “My Church Will Replace Its Black Lives Matter Sign: Will America Replace Its Racist Myth?” in the Post:

It mattered not that the land was ours. It mattered not that the sign was ours. The mythology that motivated the perpetrators on Saturday night was the underbelly of the American narrative — that White men can employ violence to take what they want and do what they want and call that criminality justice, freedom and liberty.

… …
Those who ripped down our sign — whether they are aware of it or not — suffer from kleptocratic, crony capitalism in the United States. What they really want is a new narrative and a new politics. What we must do is the hard work of creating this new narrative — one that tells a true story of humans thriving together and sharing the abundance of the land and their labor.

As a preacher, I view what happened in the yard of our church as a showdown between the God of the universe, the God of all people, the God incarnate in Jesus Christ, and the god of white supremacy.

One God is for all. The other god is for some. One God has chosen humanity. The other god has chosen whiteness, imperialism and human subjugation.

… …
A sign came down on Saturday. Metropolitan will replace the sign.

Will the United States replace the story that makes such acts of desecration inevitable?
— Rev. William H. Lamar IV,
Washington Post, 12/15/20

Another Update: This piece, from Rev. Moya Harris at Metropolitan AME, appeared in Sojourners on 12/18 — “White Supremacists Defaced Our Church, But We Refuse to Lose.”

Luther Place — statement Sunday Dec 13 afternoon:

On Friday night we shared a post about our Black Lives Matter sign being stolen, and so many of you were supportive.

On Saturday we replaced the sign and by the afternoon it was ripped down once, re-put up, and at night, ripped down and taken. A gang of Proud Boys descended on the church, harassed our leaders and took the sign away. This group came back a second time to intimidate us.

Later Saturday night we learned we were part of an intentional targeting of houses of worship. Two historic black churches were attacked — our neighbors Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal and Asbury United Methodist. Their Black Lives Matter signs were ripped down, stomped on and burned by the Proud Boys.

We are humbled to be a small part of a bigger movement for dignity and justice. We are bold to figure out how we show up declaring out loud, Black Lives Matter!

Silence is not an option.

So it’s Sunday afternoon, and we have a new homemade sign. We continue saying, #BlackLivesMatter.”
– Rev. Karen Brau

Mt. Vernon Place UMC — Statement Monday, Dec 14:

On Sunday, December 13, 2020 we learned that a banner hanging outside our church that reads, “We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity or religious affiliation. United Methodist Social Principles Paragraph 162,” was slashed nearly in two. A police report was filed with the Metropolitan Police Department as is the recommended practice. As a result, our church’s name is appearing in some of the news stories about the horrific acts that took place in the city of Washington, DC over the weekend. Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church was also mentioned in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s press conference on Monday, December 14, 2020.

We continue to grieve over the tangible acts of hatred that filled our streets on Saturday, December 12, 2020, and believe no extra attention or care should be given to Mount Vernon Place UMC, a traditionally white congregation with historic roots in white supremacy. ALL focus should be upon caring for our neighbors at Asbury United Methodist Church-Washington D.C. and Metropolitan A.M.E. Church who had to watch their banners and messages being burned in racist acts of hatred.

We stand in faithful solidarity with our neighbors, recommit to the reconciling labor of anti-racism, and seek to be an anti-racist church. #blacklivesmatter

Asbury UMC invited the community to attend a re-dedication ceremony on Friday, Dec 18 at 10 a.m. Eastern. The service will be streamed live on the Facebook page of Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC. The invitation also asked churches to pledge anti-racist work, pledge and related information.

Many other churches responded in solidarity. Rev. Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, had this to say on Tuesday, however:

Statements of solidarity with the DC churches that were attacked by the Proud Boys over the weekend is shallow. Proud Boys were allowed to engage in public drunkenness and mayhem that the DC police would have arrested people for the same if they were Black or Brown!

TOP



Jewish/Synagogue Responses

Sharing here responses from congregations to which Cross River Dialogue members belong.

Rabbi Hannah Spiro, of Hill Havurah, responded on Sunday, Dec. 13, as follows:

Last night, demonstrators terrorized two historically Black churches in downtown Washington.  Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church both serve as worship places and gathering spaces for our neighbors.  These demonstrators, many of whom are affiliated with an organization that has ties to white nationalism, moved onto private property, removed Black Lives Matter signs, and publicly destroyed them–even burning one of them in the middle of the road. 

In a statement released earlier today, senior pastor Rev. Ianther M. Mills wrote: “It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames.  For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.”  While the sign burned in full public view, nothing happened.  Nobody was arrested.  Nobody was held accountable.  “Sadly,” Rev. Mills wrote, “we must point out that if this was a marauding group of men of color going through the city, and destroying property, they would have been followed and arrested.”

I am writing tonight because we must stand up for our neighbors.  I am outraged on behalf of these historic churches.  I want to express my support for their leaders and parishioners, my unwavering belief that Black lives matter, and my hope that other Jewish leaders will raise their voices to the same tune.  

The Channukah lights call us to stand up against the oppressor and to fight for every person’s freedom to live and be who they are.  As we light our menorahs this evening, we stand with Asbury UMC and Metropolitan AME.

In solidarity, Rabbi Hannah Spiro

A sign-on letter for other clergy was in the works at press time.


Temple Micah (no specific signatures) wrote as follows on Tuesday, Dec. 15:

A Kavanah [Intention/Prayer] as we light the Hanukkah candles

Tonight, violent white supremacist stole and burned a Black Lives Matter banner from Asbury United Methodist, the oldest Black Methodist church in DC. But yet no militarized police force used against them. There are two justice systems in this country, separate and unequal.

This week all poeple of conscience were horrified to learn of the assault by hate filled White Supremacists on two historic Black churches, Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, in the very heart of our national capital and home, Washington, DC. This was an attack on the soul of Black America. This was an attack on the soul of our America–an attack on human decency itself.

As a Jewish community, we know what it is for a house of prayer to be desecrated. This is our Hanukkah story, what Cynthia Ozick refers to as a lesson on civilization. Etched like stone in our own more recent memory, this was Kristallnacht of Nazi Germany.

We know the evil that lurks when a House of Prayer is violated and the police do nothing.

Tonight as we light these candles, we promise that we will not be Jews of Silence. With these candles in our homes we vow that Black Lives Matter. Let this Hanukkah be a Festival of Rededication to our sacred human dream for all people, liberty and justice for all.

“Say, then, that the little cruse stands for mercy, conscience, freedom, dedication, thanksgiving. Call it civilization.” Amen


Rabbi Joseph Berman of New Synagogue Project wrote this (Dec. 16):

As we light candles to celebrate the miracle of abundance in the midst of destruction, we were reminded this weekend, by the attacks on two historically Black churches in downtown Washington, that our country continues to be plagued by its founding myth of white supremacy. On Saturday, demonstrators in town for the MAGA rally, many connected to a white nationalist organization, removed Black Lives Matter signs from Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church and publicly destroyed them, burning one in the middle of the road.

In a statement [same as link above], senior pastor of Asbury United Methodist, Rev. Ianther M. Mills wrote: “It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames. For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.” While the sign burned in full public view, nothing happened. Police did not intervene, there were no arrests, or tear gassing of those destroying this property. “Sadly,” Rev. Mills wrote, “we must point out that if this was a marauding group of men of color going through the city, and destroying property, they would have been followed and arrested.”

As Rabbi Hannah Spiro of Hill Havurah wrote in a letter being signed by rabbis throughout the city, “The Channukah lights call us to stand up against the oppressor and to fight for every person’s freedom to live and be who they are. As we light our menorahs this evening, we stand with Asbury UMC and Metropolitan AME.”

There will be a Service of Prayer and Solidarity on the grounds of Asbury United Methodist Church to reinstall the signs on Friday morning at 10AM. (Facebook event is here, but note that it may not yet be updated to reflect that the event has been moved from Thursday to Friday because of inclement weather). All are invited. Masks and social distancing are required. I plan to be there alongside other clergy to support our neighbors and stand for Black lives. The service will also be broadcast on the facebook page of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church.

I also recommend reading The Rev. William H. Lamar IV’s (pastor of Metropolitan AME) op-ed in the Washington Post, “My church will replace our Black Lives Matter sign. Will America replace its racist myth?”

This Hanukkah may we stand with our neighbors and for justice, and rededicate ourselves to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.
–Rabbi Joseph

TOP





“Covid Mitigation” — text from TrumpMarch website graphic shared above

We are required to direct you to the DC Covid guidelines/restrictions. Please click here for updated COVID-related information [this is a live link to DC’s coronavirus page]. Please note that the restrictions apply to those STAYING IN D.C. FOR MORE THAN 72 HOURS.

Mayor’s Order 2020-81: Requirement to Self-Quarantine After Non-Essential Travel During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency [“Subject” and “Originating Agency” paragraphs for the city’s regulation, followed by] Continue reading at https://coronavirus.dc.gov.

Image at bottom says #MillionMAGAMarch and shows a live eagle perched on a red and white striped fabric, suggesting a U.S. flag. END TrumpMarch.com text.

BACK

—#—