Calls for mobilization ring out at D.C. Jayland Walker vigil
K.B. from the D.C. branch of the Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression speaks at the rally in Washington. | Courtesy of April Goggans / BLM DC

WASHINGTON—Again, police have killed an unarmed Black man. In D.C., like many cities in the U.S., the people are tired, seeking an end to the mourning and the seemingly endless deaths at the hands of the police and the state. At a July 8 rally and vigil for Jayland Walker in the nation’s capital, the answer was clear: Get organized and get mobilized.

As one speaker put it, “It ends when we win.”

Walker, 25, was killed June 27 in Akron, Ohio, in a police pursuit following an attempted traffic stop. In response, D.C. organizers, activists, and concerned citizens gathered in front of the Department of Justice building on Pennsylvania Avenue to remember Walker’s life and demand justice and accountability for his murder.

The vigil and rally were planned by the D.C. branch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (DCAARPR) and was joined by members of the D.C. chapter of the Communist Party USA.

An estimated 50 people joined in prayer, in which libations were held in remembrance of Walker. Names were shared from the crowd of recently departed friends and family members as well as recent victims of police brutality.

Following the vigil, speakers led the crowd with songs of justice and chants speaking Walker’s name.

With regard to the local situation, K.B. from the DCAARPR spoke of the need to take power out of the hands of the D.C. police and Mayor’s Office and give it to the people.

In her speech, she made four demands in response to Walker’s killing:

  • fire and indict the cops who murdered Jayland Walker;
  • an immediate investigation by the DOJ into the Akron Police Department and the killer cops;
  • pass D.C. Bill 24–213, which would prohibit the police from chasing people in vehicular pursuit;
  • and full community control of the police everywhere.

These actions, if taken, would shift the terrain in favor of real protection for the people. But the need to organize to accomplish these goals was paramount—a sentiment echoed throughout the evening.

“We have to change the power structure; we have to take power out of the hands of DCPD or of the Mayor’s Office. We have to take that power out of their hands and put it in our hands because we know what is best for our community. We should get to say what these people do in our community.”

A through-line of the rally, speakers addressed the crowd calling distinctly for mobilization. Many speakers argued for the immediate need for getting organized, calling for the members in attendance to begin work immediately to organize their community in defense against the police and the state’s control apparatus.

Jacqueline Luqman, co-host of the By Any Means Necessary podcast, pointed out the power of the police and police unions in the United States. “Every few minutes police kill someone, yet those officers never lose their jobs.” That, she said, is a uniquely American problem.

Luqman, a member of Pan-African Community Action in D.C.—a member organization of the Black Alliance for Peace and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression—called for two main things to be done. She demanded greater international solidarity with communities and peoples struggling to oust their imperialist oppressors. “We fight to kill this beast from the inside,” Luqman told the crowd.

“We organize,” she said amid cheers and claps. “Lead events like this, recommitted to reorganizing our families, our communities, our churches, our schools. We organize. We expand political education, we mobilize. We fight like hell because our lives depend on it.”

Speakers from Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a Black-led abolitionist community defense hub for the Greater Washington area, spoke about the realism of the life of abolitionists working amid and against an indefatigable power structure yet recognizing that movements must be sustainable.

“I will build something that will outlive me,” said Kiki from Harriet’s Wildest Dreams. Another call for the end of police pursuits was echoed, as the community organization called for a bill in D.C.’s Council to be introduced to prohibit such chases and measures by the Metropolitan Police Department.

Jayland Walker in February 2020. | Distributed to the media courtesy of Robert Hubbard

A speaker from the D.C. Black Lives Matter chapter called attention to the work of Black Lives Matter Akron and Cleveland in their work on the ground, emphasizing the efforts of local organizers. She warned about the tactics of police and the need for rigorous political education in organizing to combat and analyze the interconnectedness of the police, military, and the state in the mobilization against the people.

More community leaders took the microphone. Fae from Good Trouble Co-Op, a mutual aid and anti-eviction group, called for police abolition and for building communities that are accountable for one another. From several speakers, there were frequent mentions of building power and resistance against the state in defense of the community and people through action, namely organizing.

“We can build power for ourselves, and we should. Because until we do, this shit is going to continue to happen,” said one speaker named Afeni. “And at what point do we hold ourselves accountable for being fucking complicit?”

Afeni spoke to the power of collective labor and joining a movement. Like many speakers at the rally, the focus was on organizing and movement building. Another speaker from Harriet’s Wildest Dreams mentioned that she felt she was speaking to the choir, but now it was time to make changes. While those attending the rally were already active, they must also have real conversations with family and community members about the police and organize those around them.

The final speaker of the rally emphasized that without organizing, the struggle will continue without direction:

“We won’t get rid of this system without organizing the people who this system oppresses. It’s not magic, it’s scientific, it’s real. So, comrades, get out there and organize, and organize, and organize, so we can get the job done. Capitalism is dead! We just need to put it in its grave.”

Many D.C organizations committed to liberation were in attendance, helping with the event or joining groups in solidarity. The undersigning D.C. organizations in support of DCAARPR’s demands included Anakbayan DC, Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, Claudia Jones School for Political Education, CovertAction magazine, DC Communist Party, DC Young Communist League, Defending Rights & Dissent, Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, Palestinian Youth Movement DMV, Pan-African Community Action, and Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid.

“They want us back in our blinders,” one speaker said. “We are burning and on fire. We are either going to burn together or get out together. That being said, I hope to see you tomorrow.”


Nick Younger
Nick Younger

Nick Younger is a freelance writer in the nation's capital, writing on D.C.'s fight for liberation. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he works.