Trans activist Ashley Love, who staged a one-person protest at D.C.’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event Nov. 20 in which she demanded that Police Chief Peter Newsham leave the event, declined an offer by Newsham to meet with her to discuss her concerns about the police.
According to D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, Newsham asked him to approach Love after the TDOR event ended at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington to invite her to meet with Newsham. Parson said Love, in a strongly worded reply, turned down the offer. Parson oversees the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit.
With nearly 200 people looking on at the Trans Day of Remembrance event on Nov. 20, Love, who describes herself as a journalist and transsexual and intersex educator, began shouting at Newsham to get off the stage, saying the event was not a “prop for the police department.”
After nearly 10 minutes of shouting back and forth between Love and attendees who demanded that she cease disrupting the event, Newsham walked off the stage and left the church through a back door. He did not return to deliver the remarks he was scheduled to make.
Love argued that D.C. police along with police across the country have historically mistreated transgender people, especially trans women of color. She said D.C. police abuse of transgender people remains ongoing and police, especially Chief Newsham, should not be a part of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance event.
Love, when reached by the Blade on Wednesday, declined to comment on the report that Newsham extended an invitation to meet. She instead released a statement elaborating on her reason for protesting the TDOR event last week.
“It wasn’t democratic for a minority to green-light the spiritually and physically violent MPD’s commemorative gentrification and PR gimmick at what was supposed to be a healing and sacred gathering,” she said. “It was not the time or place, and moving forward we can hopefully be mindful of why the majority of Black and Brown trans people locally and nationally agree that having abusers and guns in a safe space like TDOR is blasphemous.”
Taking strong exception to Love’s action was veteran transgender leader and activist Earline Budd, the lead organizer of D.C.’s Trans Day of Remembrance. Budd called on Love to leave the stage, saying D.C. police handling of trans issues had improved significantly in recent years. Budd said the committee in charge of organizing this year’s TDOR decided it was appropriate to invite Newsham to speak.
D.C. police spokesperson Rachel Schaerr Reid told the Washington Blade in an email on Wednesday that the department would prefer not to comment further on Newsham’s offer to meet with Love.
But Reid sent a copy of Newsham’s written “talking points” outlining what he planned to say before deciding to leave the event.
“Ensuring MPD remains an inclusive environment for its employees and the communities it serves is among Chief Newsham’s highest priorities,” Reid said. “He’s always willing and eager to hear from residents who have suggestions on ways we can improve those relationships, making D.C. an even safer place to work and live,” she said.
In his talking points, Newsham offered his “sincerest condolences” to the families and friends of transgender people who have lost their lives to violence.
“Our goal at MPD will be to work tirelessly to support our transgender community particularly at times when you are most in need, and when others may have turned their backs,” he said.
The full text of Chief Newsham’s statement on the Transgender Day of Remembrance that he intended to deliver follows:
“First, I want to thank you for inviting me to share this important and solemn day with you.
“I think it’s critically important that I be here because I think my presence is symbolic of the progress that we have made in Washington, DC.
“I am not so naïve as to believe that we still don’t have challenges, and I know that we still have a long way to go, but I do believe that in Washington, DC we are in a much
better place than some other communities when it comes to our relationship with our LGBT community.
“On a personal note, and on behalf of all of the men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department I want to express my sincerest condolences to the families and friends in our transgender community who have lost a loved one due to tragic and unnecessary violence in our country.
“In Washington, DC we have been fortunate because we have not lost anyone from our transgender community to homicide this year. But it was not too long ago that we all felt the pain when friends like Deeniqua Dodd’s, Deoni Jones, Lashay Mclean and others had their lives tragically cut short.
“We also must not forget that although we have been lucky in recent years; nationally transgender homicides are on the rise.
“Lastly, I think it is important tonight that I share with you our goals as your police department.
“Our goal at MPD will be to always try to be an ally, and a friend. Our goal at MPD will be to work tirelessly to support our transgender community particularly at times when you are most in need, and when others may have turned their backs. And, our goal at MPD will be to continue to promote DC values of inclusion, acceptance, support and most importantly equal treatment for all.
“Thank you again for inviting me to this ceremony. May the souls of the departed rest in peace. And may God grant you the wisdom and courage you will need to get through this difficult time of loss. Thank you.”