Hundreds of police officers are expected to converge on the Capitol later this month, in a rally planned to show support for law enforcement and counter what organizers view as an anti-police climate.
Three officers' wives are coordinating the Jan. 17 "End the Madness" event, also referred to as "Sea of Blue," in coordination with the Fraternal Order of Police lodges in the District of Columbia and Prince George's County. They say the peaceful action is not really a response to the protests against police-involved killings that have marched through D.C. , though their language echoes the "black lives matter" slogan of those demonstrators. "Our officers' lives — they matter. We need to support them," organizer Kelly Wince said in a Wednesday phone interview. "They walk out the door every day and put their lives on the line." Wince said the "stigma has gotten worse" following criticism of grand jury decisions not to indict officers involved in the deaths of black suspects in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y. She claims politicians have not responded, saying, "Nobody came out and said anything when those two officers were shot."
Many lawmakers and other public figures condemned the assassination-style shooting of New York Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenijan Liu, but Congress also contains some fierce critics of police brutality, racial profiling and militarization.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and others lawmakers have taken to the House floor to cast negative light on police actions in Ferguson, Mo. On Dec. 11, nearly 150 Hill staffers gathered on the Capitol steps to demonstrate solidarity with the protesters around the nation, and posed on the steps in the now-iconic, “hands up, don’t shoot” position. Two days later, Rev. Al Sharpton led the National March Against Police Violence through the Capitol grounds.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., said Thursday that "what we hear in the news isn't really consistent with how we value our law enforcement — at least the way we should." He suggested that over-representation of violent police encounters is "disarming the confidence in our officers and our law enforcement."
It's unclear if any Capitol Police will participate in the Jan. 17 march, which will proceed from the National Law Officers Memorial to the Capitol. When contacted by CQ Roll Call about the event, Capitol Police Labor Committee President Jim Konczos said he had not heard about the march, but would make sure officers were aware of it, "in case they or their families want to participate."
Organizers are working to bus in law enforcement families from around the nation, according to Wince. For now, it seems the majority of participants will likely be affiliated with the Metropolitan Police Department or Prince George's County Police.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., a CBC member who represents D.C.'s uniformed men and women, welcomed the cops in a carefully worded statement that emphasized language she inserted into last year's "cromnibus" spending package to prohibit states that receive federal transportation funding from engaging in racial profiling.
“Unfortunately, some, including some police, have taken the nationwide protests against racial profiling to be protests against the police themselves,” Norton said. “Protesters are protesting certain police practices, and not the police, who take great risks to protect their communities." She said D.C.’s own police chief, Cathy L. Lanier, has shown that police can bond with the communities they serve and that need their protection.
Norton and Maryland Democrat Donna Edwards, who represents Prince George's County, declined to be interviewed for this story.
Clyde McGrady contributed to this report. Related: Activists Use Capitol as Backdrop to Protest Police-Involved Deaths Hill Staffers Demonstrate in Wake Of Garner, Brown Protests The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.