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A Letter from the Director: Tone Policing

On June 1st, 2020, I watched our liberty come under attack as Lafayette Square (what would soon become BLM Plaza) turned into a warzone, with only one side armed and battle-hardened. On that day, people peacefully protesting for equal rights were attacked by police with rubber bullets, batons, flash bangs, and tear gas. On January 6th, 2021 (J6), I watched again as our liberty came under attack. I watched as the armed and battle-hardened stood by while they took blow after blow, push after push and insult after insult. Those officers had every justification to use the same kind of force they used on peaceful protestors countless times and instead took selfies with the insurgents and politely asked them to leave when they were finished. Every officer facing that mob was in very real and present danger, and one officer lost his life that day. However, no flash bangs or rubber bullets were shot into the crowd; in fact, no live ammunition was fired by officers until our Vice President’s life was threatened. I’m not condoning the acts of violence against peaceful protesters, but rather noting the extreme difference in response.

We have been receiving some feedback about some of the organizations we support here in the Washington, D.C. area, and as the director of this organization, I want to address this head on. Many of the local grassroots civil rights organizations provide much needed attention to issues of equity, LGBTQIA rights, and of course, the Black Lives Matter Movement. It is the stance of Continue To Serve (CTS) that we are not here to support solely progressive or liberal agendas. We are, after all, a nonpartisan nonprofit. However, we will not sit idly by while citizens of our country are attacked, are being treated unjustly, or are not being provided the equality and rights the Constitution guarantees them.

One oft-mentioned concern is the use of sayings in the movement such as “Fuck the Police” (FTP), or “All Cops are Bad/Bastards” (ACAB). I want to be extremely clear about our organization's stance and purpose. We stand with these organizations because they are standing up for equality in a criminal justice system which is, and always has been, grossly unfair, unequal, and unjust. At my direction, our messaging reflects understanding and support for their cause. After all, they’ve been fighting this battle since the founding of our country. Whichever way civil rights activists have protested, from crossing a bridge to kneeling during the anthem to saying FTP, it's always been 'the wrong way' to do it. At a certain point it becomes clear that it is not the message people are objecting to, but the messengers. The same groups carrying signs saying ACAB and FTP are also organizing food drives, providing clothes and donations to the homeless, and serving their communities to make them better for us all. This is their fight and we do not have the right to tell them to watch their tone.

One thing I've noticed over the past 7 months of organizing is that, frequently, our own members and other organizations get upset when beliefs do not perfectly align, as if somehow in order to be a part of a movement, you must believe and agree with every aspect and tactic employed. It is vital that we move away from this mentality and understand that while we might not agree on everything, we can still stand together for a common mission. I can assure you, growing up the son of a Baptist minister there were more than a handful of disagreements with regards to the scriptures amongst the congregation, but they still showed up every Sunday. Why? Because, ultimately, the belief in the congregation's mission was greater than their individual disagreements.

Our country is the most divided it’s been since the Civil War. CTS will not further that divide. It is not our place to tell other organizations what they should or should not say. What is our place, however, is to help all those being denied their rights as residents of this country, to ensure that their messages are amplified, and that their causes are lifted up. CTS is not anti-police, but coming from a military background with strict rules of engagement and a responsibility to hold to our oath to support and defend, we do expect law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system at large to hold themselves accountable to their own oaths of service. You have my solemn vow, when they refuse to fulfill their responsibilities, we will stand with our allies to remind these agencies that no one is above the law and everyone is accountable for their actions.

With Much Respect,

David Smith

Executive Director


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