Washington, D.C. – Today, nine environmental and progressive leaders submitted a letter to the Washington, D.C. Police Complaints Board asking for action after Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus and prominent climate movement leader, was apparently racially profiled and then subject to severe maltreatment at the hands of one Washington D.C.’s police officers.
The letter asks that the Police Complaints Board launch a formal review of the city’s standard operating procedures to prevent racial profiling at protests that occur in the city so that all citizens can freely exercise their First Amendment rights to peaceable assembly. It also asks that police initiate an official review of recruitment, training and supervisory measures that the police have taken and should further implement to eliminate racial profiling at protests.
The event at issue occurred at the March for Science on Saturday, April 22, 2017, where Rev. Yearwood was stopped by a D.C. Police officer due to confusion over the officer’s command to not follow a “Walk” signal and stop crossing the street at the intersection of 14th and Constitution, NW. Shockingly, the officer forcefully detained him, despite his protestations, because the officer said the Reverend could be on drugs. The officer then demanded identification and ran a check for outstanding warrants, notwithstanding that Rev. Yearwood informed the officer that he was there for the march, and in fact, had a VIP badge. The Reverend recounted his experience at the Huffington Post shortly after the incident.
“If this can happen to such a prominent leader in the climate movement, it can happen to all people of color. Such mistreatment broadcasts that all people are not welcome to the City to exercise their First Amendment rights,” states the letter.
“It is fundamentally important that police officers, charged with protecting protestors and bystanders alike, are provided the necessary training and supervision to ensure that the law is fairly applied to all, regardless of immutable characteristics such as the color of their skin. It is only then that all citizens can freely exercise their rights under the U.S. Constitution.”
The letter was signed by Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club; Larry Cohen, Chair, Labor, Our Revolution; Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch; Stephen M. Kretzmann, Executive Director, Oil Change International; Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace; Bill McKibben, Co-founder and Senior Advisor, 350.org; Erich Pica, President, Friends of the Earth; Rhea Suh, President, Natural Resources Defense Council; and Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen.