Crystal Kim's testimony before Washington, D.C., Council opposing racist checkpoints

Crystal Kim’s testimony before Washington, D.C., Council opposing racist checkpoints 

On June 7, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., established a checkpoint and dragnet sealing off part of the Trinidad neighborhood, setting the stage for a martial-law-like occupation. The ANSWER Coalition, along with other concerned organizations and individuals, took to the streets to oppose the measure, maintaining a presence at the checkpoints nearly every day or night they were in effect. On June 12, in the face of growing community outrage, the MPD announced the temporary suspension of the checkpoints. 

On June 16, the DC Council’s the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary held a public oversight hearing on “The Executive’s Public Safety Initiatives and Their Impact on Civil Liberties.” Below is testimony given by Crystal Kim, a National Organizer with the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition. 

I want to thank the Council for holding this hearing and for the consideration of this testimony. My name is Crystal Kim. I am a National Organizer with the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which stands for Act Now to Stop War & End Racism. 

The DC Court of Appeals found the setting up of roadblocks to deter crime as unconstitutional in the District during the 1980s.  According to the Washington Post, an initiative entitled “Operation Clean Sweep” proposed setting up roadblocks on streets throughout the city to deter drug-trafficking in particular areas in the city.  

The program was heavily debated throughout the late 1980s and it resulted in over 50,000 arrests. While the (quote) “crime rate” in targeted areas dropped, the sale of narcotics and rise in violence was only relocated to other areas in the District.  

After the beginning of this initiative in 1986, the homicide rate actually began to rise within the District.  The crime-fighting initiative in fact only perpetuated the existence of crime in the city, all the while establishing a complete disregard for individual’s civil rights. 

The case that struck down this operation involved a roadblock on Montello Avenue. Now, two decades later, a similar attempt to eradicate citizens’ civil rights is being established through the Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative. Designed by Mayor Fenty, DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier and interim Attorney General Peter Nickles, this new initiative is a remake of the plan attempted in the late 1980s. 

The publicly announced goal of this initiative is to “deter” crime in the Trinidad neighborhood. The “legitimate” reasons approved by the police for the entering Trinidad during this time period are:

  1. residing in Trinidad
  2. employed or on a commercial delivery
  3. attending school or taking a child to or from school or day-care
  4. relative of a person living in the area
  5. attempting to attend a ‘verified’ organized civic, community or religious event
  6. approved entry
Stopping cars at checkpoints and demanding that passengers give personal information as to why they are in the neighborhood constitutes a violation of individual civil rights. The asserted purpose of this initiative is to deter crime, but in fact a crime is being committed with the implementation of this program.  

It is a crime that sealing off an entire community in Northeast Washington was even considered an option. It is a crime that adequate jobs, housing and education are not being provided to this community or any of the residents in the District. The Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative should not just be “investigated” for civil rights violations. This initiative should be eradicated to preserve the civil rights of all residents of the District. 

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