Mount Rainier activists hope to build hyperlocal ‘Defund the Police’ movement

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Protestors march down Rhode Island Avenue June 20, 2020, during an protest organized by a new group of Mount Rainier city activists.

Now, as the national debate around policing has re-emerged – and the  “defund the police” movement found a wide audience – a group of activists hope to build a lasting, grassroots movement to pressure Mount Rainier officials to rethink how the city approaches law enforcement. 

Tentatively called Mount Rainier Community Action, the ad-hoc group of activists hosted a protest in Mount Rainier June 20, 2020, that served to inaugurate the hyperlocal movement. An estimated 200 people participated. The event featured music, marching, calls-to-action, speeches and eulogies for the victims of police violence. 

“I think there’s a lot of momentum in this moment to all of us develop and better understand how we can have an impact right in the community,” said Alicia Skeeter, one of the organizers, in an interview with Route 1 Reporter. 

Police reform issues are unique in American political discourse. While issues surrounding the intersection of racism and law enforcement are national-level issues, those with the most power over the police are local officials in charge of the police departments that patrol cities, counties and towns across America. Mount Rainier, which has had to endure its own issues with police accountability, is no different. And while the organizers said the city’s police department has repaired some of its bad reputation under the leadership of the Chief Anthony Morgan, they said that the city still spends more than one-third of its budget on policing is a cause for concern.

Another central figure in the group is JT Davis. During the event, Davis was the de-facto emcee and cheerleader for the rally. She led chants, gave speeches, and directed the marchers as they took Rhode Island Avenue to temporarily block the intersection of Eastern Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue.

“The purpose and the goal of the rally and the march was to not only imprint that Mount Rainier stands up and says what’s important to them, but also – once they do stand up and community members come together, what do we do after that? It’s like driving them to action,” Davis told Route 1 Reporter.

The event was launched by a post 10 days earlier from Skeeter in Mount Rainier’s community Facebook group, an unofficial and very-active forum for the town’s residents. The post generated a lot of positive feedback, and soon a core group of Mount Rainier activists were planning a protest march. 

Beyond just being a rally, the event also served as a means to build out the hyperlocal movement’s infrastructure and to get city residents involved in ongoing police reform, oversight and defunding efforts. At the rally, organizers made available petitions calling for transparency in the investigation into the police killing of Leonard Shand. The event also served to connect local residents with Our Prince George’s, a group that’s been active on police reform and oversight issues at the county level. The group also used the event to raise funds by selling Mount Rainier Black Lives Matter tee-shirts.

Editor’s note:Route 1 Reporter is – normally – a subscriber-supported local news website. In the interest of the public discourse, this article is available for free. If you like the reporting, please support Route 1 Reporter on Patreon.

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