On September 11, 2016, 31-year old motorist Terrence Sterling was shot dead by Metropolitan Police Officer Brian Trainer, joining a long series of police violence against unarmed black men and women. Less than two years later, Sterling’s death still resonates among local organizers in the nation’s capital who frequently attend hearings and march against a police department they deem malicious and dangerous, and denounce local officials they believe have abandoned them. About one hundred protesters marched into Chinatown on Wednesday, stalling rush hour traffic as Trainer, found in violation of department policy but cleared of criminal repercussions, petitioned for his job at a disciplinary hearing.
1. Wednesday's "Stop the Cops" rally, led by local organizers including Black Lives Matter DC, kicked off with a short speak-out at a small park forming a triangle between 3rd St. and M St. NW, where a multi-block vehicle chase concluded with Sterling's death in late 2016. Trainer said he feared for his life after Sterling's motorbike collided with his patrol car, though witnesses have cast doubt on Trainer's version of events.
2. A march down New York Avenue through rush hour traffic featured Black Lives Matter activists chanting for Trainer to be permanently fired - or else, have Mayor Muriel Bowser face the consequences. Pictured with the megaphone here: Eugene Puryear, co-founder of the local Stop Police Terror Project.
3. Stop the Cops managed to shutdown the westbound half of the highway in front of the 3rd Street Tunnel and occupied an intersection there for about ten minutes despite shouts and horns from drivers.
4. Marching down New York Avenue past the tunnel, through Washington's Mt. Vernon Square neighborhood.
5. A quick turn toward Chinatown saw protesters weaving between cars with chants like "Trainer has got to go," "justice for Terrence Sterling," and "set my people free."
6. One of about 100 protesters who joined the march demanding justice for Sterling.
7. An organizer with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), one of several groups who set this action in motion. She led about two dozen people in a pre-march orientation for white allies - these meetups are pretty common before black-led community actions.
8. At the intersection of 7th St. and H. St NW, smack in the middle of Washington's Chinatown - the same location Black Lives Matter occupied in the months following Eric Garner's death in 2014. At the tail end of the march, Black Lives Matter held that intersection for close to a half hour while they announced their demands by megaphone.
9. Other than seeing Trainer permanently fired and held criminally accountable for Sterling's death, protesters were also vocal about the NEAR Act - the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act, passed by the DC Council in 2016 and only funded a year later after a protracted budget battle.
10. The NEAR Act is a public health-based approach to curbing police violence through community engagement and transparency in policing. Two years later, key portions of the NEAR Act still haven't been fully realized, including provisions to keep police interactions from disproportionately affecting people of color. That's one reason you'll see frustration directed at Mayor Bowser through these signs.
11. At a courthouse nearby, Trainer - on paid leave since the shooting - faced his first disciplinary hearing. It'll determine if Trainer gets to keep his job, despite condemnation both from Bowser and a police review board. If he stays, one protester said they'll be ready to "shut this shit down constantly."
12. I mean, think about it. It's not every day you get to do push-ups in the middle of DC's busiest street corner. Wouldn't you?
13. Eugene Puryear: "As long as there's not going to be justice, there's not going to be any peace. Rush hour, nighttime, downtown, uptown - wherever we've got to go to let it be known, we'll go. This is not a moment, it's a movement, and a lot of us have been out here for years."
14. Two protesters in front of the Gallery Place Metro station. The whole group stood in a circle while police redirected traffic.
15. A final chant of "I believe that we will win" closes off Stop the Cops, for now. We'll know in a few weeks if Trainer keeps his job or not. //