Takoma Park Mobilization. (Courtesy Photo)

TAKOMA PARK — The Takoma Park Mobilization is an organization based in Montgomery County that actively works on social justice issues.

The organization was created in 2016 just after the General Election, according to Katie Strauss, a member of the Mobilization. It was organized as a series of working groups, whose areas of interest range from climate change to criminal justice reform.

Strauss compares the organization’s structure to the spokes of a wheel. Each spoke operates independently; every month each spoke sends a representative to the “hub” of the wheel for a meeting. This is where the organization makes final decisions

Strauss works with the mass incarceration group within Takoma Park Mobilization. She estimates that there are about 200 active organizers, but each committee includes a different number of people.

“I was looking before the 2016 election for groups to join, and I went to one of the first organizing meetings of the immigration group. I think it might have even been the first organizing meeting, so I’ve been involved for the last four or so years,” Strauss said.

In recent months, issues of racial disparity and inequity in police treatment have become more apparent in the area, following the death of Robert White in Silver Spring and the arrest of unarmed African American men in White Oak.

Issues such as these are at the heart of what Takoma Park Mobilization works to combat. Their mass incarceration group has three subcommittees that do specialized work within the larger issues.

“(Our) restorative justice subcommittee is working to end the school-to-prison pipeline in Montgomery County by helping ensure all students, especially students of color, LGBT and disabled students, are disciplined equally and less punitively,” members of the subcommittee said. “The bail bond reform subcommittee helps those of us who have no money to pay exorbitant bail and (to) stay out of jail by helping us get money. 

“And (finally) our expungement subcommittee helps those of us with criminal records to get those records scrubbed clean so that they can get hired, get credit and leave that part of their past behind.”

The Montgomery County Council are also been working to address issues of racial inequity by hosting community conversations and public forums. Community members and residents have attended these events to discuss issues that concern them.

The council is working toward implementing legislation to combat issues of race inequity in the county; its members have been briefed on research that illustrates such disparities. Councilmember Will Jawando has taken a particular interest in issues of race in Montgomery County. In his first term, he has pushed for legislation that could help increase police accountability.

In early June, Jawando hosted a public forum to hear the concerns of the community as the county searches for a new police chief. At the forum, he pointed out where Montgomery County stands on issues of racial equity.

“It’s clear that depending on who you are and what you look like, law enforcement happens differently to you,” he said. “The system is out of balance; you know when you look at our statistics. African Americans make up 19 percent of the population, but they also account(ed) for more than half of the arrests in 2018. If you add Latinos, they account for 27 percent of use-of-force incidents and arrests, while only being about 20 percent of the population. So, we have our people of color comprising 75 percent of arrests and use-of-force incidents in the county.”

Jawando has been joined in his efforts by Councilmember Hans Riemer, who recently introduced a bill that would create a Policing Advisory Commission. The commission would engage members of the community and provide recommendations on best practices for Montgomery County Police.

Alongside the work of local officials, Takoma Park Mobilization engages members of the community and encourages them to participate in finding solutions for issues facing the area.

“I think Takoma Park Mobilization is important because community solidarity, you might have a lot of people who agree on an issue, but that’s while they’re at home. They’re keyboard warriors; they’re not together,” Strauss said. “But when we work together and have a group that says things with a common voice, we have a lot more power.”

Mobilization members said nonviolence is a principle they embrace as part of the organization. They make an effort to work collaboratively with other community organizations.

“We engage our community by creating or identifying opportunities for people to participate in the political process. This might involve volunteering in campaigns, organizing or participating in rallies, lobbying members of Congress and state lawmakers, and candidate forums,” they wrote in their materials.

Takoma Park Mobilization and DoTheMostGood group will co-host a discussion of the documentary “Knock Down the House” on July 16 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. The film covers the experience of four women running for Congress in 2018. The event begins at 7 p.m., and a conversation about the film will be held after the screening.

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