The masterminds behind Freedom Fighters DC (FFDC) had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they started to form two weeks ago.
The new organization describes itself in its Twitter bio as “a predominantly Black-led group of activists focused on change through organized actions while simultaneously advocating to #DefundThePolice.”
I would like to introduce the Freedom Fighters, I did not start it expecting to meet such persistent and brilliant minds. Protest are only the beginning of what we have planned. United we are unstoppable. Welcome to the Revolution ✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿 https://t.co/uRouj0coP6
— 🇨🇩 (@afrocongoo) May 29, 2020
What started as a small GroupMe chat quickly transformed into a highly recognized activism group. Kerrigan Williams, an FFDC organizer, told Technical.ly she first came to co-lead the group after replying to a simple tweet asking if people wanted to get together to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
“At first I thought it was gonna be maybe a group of 10 to 20 [people] all banding together to go to the different protests and sticking together, like having walking buddies,” said Williams (who, full disclosure, is a personal friend of this reporter). “It’s formed into something completely different than that in a matter of days.”
The organization chose the name Freedom Fighters DC to represent all the people and public figures who have come before them fighting for this same kind of freedom. Williams said the group started making plans on May 28, and its first official action as FFDC took place on Wednesday, June 3, when the organization led a group in a sit-in at the U.S. Capitol. This event attracted more than 1,000 protesters to bring awareness to racism and police brutality.
FFDC has gained a huge social media following in the past week, with over 22,000 followers on Instagram and more than 10,000 followers on Twitter. The organization primarily uses its social media accounts to communicate events and updates with its followers. FFDC is led by a group of seven individuals with expertise ranging from PR to civil rights to political science and more.
“We’re definitely just likeminded individuals,” Williams said. “We all had the same plan [to work for] abolition in our head, so these are just the people who stepped up and took initiative to do something.”
— FreedomFightersDC (@FFDC202) June 8, 2020
Williams said she didn’t expect the overwhelming support from the local community for FFDC, despite some social media trolls trying to delegitimize the group when it first formed. Outside of being a cofounder of FFDC and its director of public affairs, Williams is also studying public relations and corporate communications at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies.
The organization has also taken a “decentralized approach to leadership”: Since not one person is the president, all of the organizers have equal responsibilities.
“It’s just crazy juggling real life and organizing this. It’s been difficult. People look to you — people really do look to you,” Williams said of taking on leadership with FFDC. “I’m not going to change my brand on social media. It was organic the way that we formed and our brands are going to remain organic.”
As its second action since forming, FFDC led more than 3,000 protesters in a march on Saturday, June 6, where it made multiple stops including at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and eventually the Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Locally, FFDC is working on bringing attention to the death of Marqueese Alston who was shot and killed by Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers in the summer of 2018. Williams said the organization is putting pressure on the D.C. government to release the body camera footage from the officers involved in the incident.
FFDC plans to keep serving the D.C. community even past the current civil unrest by promoting plans to defund the police, launching food security initiatives east of the river and partnering with orgs on local Black LGBTQIA+ initiatives, Williams said.
Moving forward, here are some specific demands Williams shared that FFDC is focused on:
- We demand that the appropriate capable officials in D.C. immediately vote to defund and demilitarize MPD.
- We demand food and housing security for all persons in the DMV area.
- We demand that no new jails are built in D.C.
- We demand an immediate end to the use of Stop and Frisk, a violent policing tactic that is disproportionately targeted against Black people here in D.C.
- We demand the immediate abolition of Metro Transit Police.
- We demand for the immediate end to the criminalization of protestors. This calls for an end to curfew here in D.C.
- We demand investment by D.C. government into non-police, non-punitive violence prevention services and mental health care in our communities.
- We demand for all police presence to be out of D.C. public schools and for all D.C. universities to cut their ties with MPD.
- We demand that a full and independent investigation be conducted into law enforcement actions on Swann Street NW on the night of June 1, 2020, with full public transparency.
As far as its work in continuing to support protesters, FFDC is putting donations it has received toward meeting their needs at this time.