AUGUST 28, 2018

DC-based grassroots organizations launch video and petition: “Real safety means investing in our community, not in training with a racist police force and occupying army,” said Benjamin Douglas, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace—DC Metro’s steering committee.

WASHINGTON, DC—Grassroots groups across the DC area launched the Occupation Free DC campaign video and petition demanding an end to local Metropolitan Police Department’s training with Israeli police, security and military officers. “As DC residents, we should oppose all police trainings that use military occupation and state violence as a model,” said Scott Brown, a local organizer with the Occupation Free DC campaign.

For years, top Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) officials, including Chief Peter Newsham and First District Commander Morgan Kane, have participated in trainings with Israeli military and police, institutions which enforce an illegal military occupation over the Palestinian people. These trainings take US police leadership to Israel to learn from security officials who promote documented practices of racial profiling, police killings, and severe suppression of protests. Nevertheless, testifying before the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on March 1, 2018, Chief Newsham stated that his training in Israel was “the best training that I have had in my 28 years as a police officer.” During the July 12 public roundtable of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Renad Saeed, an activist with the Occupation Free DC campaign, said “Brown and Black communities are not the problem and state violence is not the solution. As a Palestinian, I’m alarmed to see Black citizens here treated like they’re under occupation."

In partnership with over a dozen allied organizations, Occupation Free DC and Jewish Voice for Peace—DC Metro (“JVP DC”) have released a petition and campaign video, building on a campaign platform which calls on MPD Chief Newsham and the DC Council to cease local participation in training exercises with discriminatory trainers, like Israel’s police and military, which violate DC regulations. The campaign video highlights the parallels between the long history of racist and increasingly militaristic policing practices in DC and the Israeli police and military’s ongoing human rights abuses against Palestinians. As Occupation Free DC organizer Ntebo Mokuena explained: “We need the Council to end police training programs in Israel, where Newsham and other U.S. police officers go to learn additional racial profiling techniques under the false guise of public safety. We fail to see how importing repressive occupation-style tactics will help keep our communities safe.”

DC Councilmember David Grosso has already responded to this call from community organizations. He raised objections to MPD training with Israeli military advisers with well-documented human rights violations, stating his concern that “[the Council is] not doing enough to prevent the militarization of law enforcement in the District of Columbia.” Following the precedent set by the Durham2Palestine Coalition, which successfully campaigned the City Council in Durham, NC to ban military-style trainings for their police department, Occupation Free DC and JVP DC are calling on DC Councilmembers to work to uphold the Human Rights Act and protect DC residents by ending MPD’s participation in police exchanges with institutions that promote discrimination and militarization.

Occupation Free DC advances Jewish Voice for Peace’s national Deadly Exchange campaign, which aims to end the violent exchange of worst practices between U.S. law enforcement and Israeli security forces, as part of their larger goal of challenging state violence and discrimination in both countries. Organizations which endorse the Occupation Free DC campaign platform include: American Muslims for Palestine, Black Lives Matter DC, BYP100 DC, Collective Actions for Safe Spaces, Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America, DC National Lawyers Guild, Defending Rights & Dissent, Jewish Voice for Peace—DC Metro, Justice for Muslims Collective, Montgomery County Civil RIghts Coalition, Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, Pan-African Community Action, Stop Police Terror Project, and Terrence Sterling Campaign for Community Safety.