Remarks at Walk Without Fear 1997

Remarks at Walk Without Fear

Rick Rosendall
November 9, 1997

Good evening, and thank you for being here.

The recent assaults on home rule here in the District have directly affected our public safety. Let's look at what has been happening with the Metropolitan Police Department. Too often their "zero tolerance" campaign has more closely resembled zero intelligence — when, instead of protecting the public, police arrest people for drinking glasses of wine on their front porches, and participate in raids on gay businesses that amount to sheer harassment and regulatory abuse.

Approximately two thousand police officers are overdue for their community relations sensitivity training. A new contract for that training has been held up, and the time to act on it is now. It has been two years since the DC Council abolished the Civilian Complaint Review Board. It is time for them to restore independent civilian review of complaints of police abuse — before the control board imposes a solution that leaves out the citizens.

Make no mistake — our community is far better off than we were three decades ago, when police routinely harassed and entrapped gay citizens. But now that the police are answerable to an unelected control board instead of to an elected mayor and city council, all of our gains of the past quarter century are threatened. We must make it clear to the control board, to Congress, and to the White House that we will not go back, and that we demand the equal protection of the law.

Freedom is something that we gain only by exercising it. Hate crimes and gay bashing do not occur in a social vacuum. Whenever lies and hatred and contempt go unchallenged, whenever we stifle our instinct to speak up, whenever we fail to give witness to our lives, we become less safe.

Tonight, as we walk together, let our message be simple: This is our city — from west of Rock Creek to east of the Anacostia — and these are our streets. No one is going to take them away from us.

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