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Human Rights Week of Action Blog Series: Post 6

Photo: Steve Chase

December 10th will mark DC's 10th anniversary as a Human Rights City. In honor of this important milestone, AFSC DC is planning a Human Rights Week of Action December 10-14. This week will begin on International Human Rights Day (December 10) and conclude with a community open house at ONE DC's Black Workers and Wellness Center on Friday, December 14.

Military Occupation Is No Model for DC Policing

Author: Steve Chase is a member of Friends Meeting of Washington, the Quaker Palestine Israel Network, Occupation Free DC, and he serves on the AFSC-DC Program Committee. He is the author of the Pendle Hill Pamphlet Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions? A Quaker Zionist Rethinks Palestinian Rights.

Inspired by Jewish tradition to work for peace, social justice, and human rights, the members of the DC chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace are proud to live in the United States’ first Human Rights City. At the same time, they believe we have much work to do to turn this bold aspiration into institutional reality. 

To aid this effort, JVP-DC has organized the Occupation Free DC campaign to stop the DC police department from training its personnel in countries and facilities with a significant record of racism and human rights abuse. It turns out that the MPD has long been guilty of this. Through a Freedom of Information request, JVP-DC discovered that the MPD has regularly accepted funds from pro-Israeli occupation advocacy groups to send department leaders to Israel in order to be trained by Israeli police and military occupation forces in the repressive techniques Israel has developed to defend it policies of displacement, occupation, and discrimination against Palestinians.

Upon learning this shocking news, JVP-DC immediately created a short video exposing this human rights violation by the DC police department.

As noted in the video, this is a national problem. JVP’s recent report, Deadly Exchange: The Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel, documents how hundreds of local police departments across the United States, as well as federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security, and the FBI, are reinforcing their worst practices by having their leaders trained in Israeli techniques of invasive surveillance, blatant racial profiling, and brutal force. Baltimore County Police Captain Roman Zaryk took part in this “deadly exchange” program back in 2007 and was appalled. As he noted, "The regular use of profiling by Israeli officials is a technique that is not only illegal in the United States but could be detrimental to the complex threats in America." 

As a Human Rights City, DC should be a national leader in refusing to promote human rights abuses, not an active participant in training for them. The Occupation Free DC campaign therefore demands that the DC Council: “Support and pass legislation to prevent MPD from training with discriminatory trainers that violate DC's Human Rights Act.” The campaign organizers argue that the “MPD has failed to implement an extant regulation to this effect (6B DCMR Sec. 1308.3), so civilian leadership needs to act.” Durham, North Carolina’s City Council has passed such an ordinance. It Is time for DC to do the same.

During the 10th anniversary of the DC Human Rights Act, Occupation Free DC invites local organizations to endorse the campaign, and encourages individuals living or working in DC to sign its petition and get involved in the campaign’s community organizing efforts to ensure that military occupation is not the model for DC policing.