Police then deleted the tweet and reposted it, removing the reference to Breitbart, so it read that only “residents” were responsible for the donation. Police said they didn’t know that Breitbart, which has run articles disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement and often highlights crime committed by black people, was broadcasting live. Breitbart said it covered the event but did not organize or fund it.
After the lunches were distributed Saturday, thanks exchanged and photos taken in a community room of the 2nd District station, a Breitbart reporter interviewed one woman who helped organize the lunch. They appeared to be out of earshot of officers milling about in the background.
The organizer, Nestride Yumga, a black resident of the District who was wearing a T-shirt with the phrase “Free America,” told an interviewer, “As much as I hate to say this, it is true, we have the most violent race in America.”
That statement, coupled with the police department’s initial tweet linking to Breitbart, raised concerns that Breitbart had sponsored the event and that police had either accepted free lunches from a news organization that has been accused of using racist tropes or had been duped.
A spokeswoman for Breitbart News, Elizabeth Moore, said the organization “did not sponsor, fund, pay for, or participate in this event. We merely reported on it.” Moore said Yumga does not work for the news agency, and Yumga confirmed that.
The incident comes at a sensitive time for police in the District and around the country amid deepening racial strife and protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Black Lives Matter D.C. has called on lawmakers to defund D.C. police and in one recent tweet referred to the department as “a racist Terror Gang that beat and kill marginalized people.”
In a statement, D.C. police said that it “condemns and does not support the statements made by individuals in the video nor is MPD affiliated with any political party or news organization.”
The statement said that police were “approached by D.C. community members who wanted to show their appreciation by donating food to our officers. We welcomed them into our community room as we do with most guests who provide donations.”
A police spokesman would not say how or whether such groups are vetted to ensure officer safety and discern any possible political motivations, or why the agency credited Breitbart as a sponsor rather than an observer. The commander of the 2nd District, Duncan Bedlion, whose area includes Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Foggy Bottom and Georgetown, declined to comment.
D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D Ward-6), who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, said accepting the event “shows serious lapses in judgment and leadership” on the part of police.
In a letter to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Police Chief Peter Newsham, written before police issued their statement, Allen called on leaders to “disavow the visit and any association with white supremacist media. Please inform the Committee why MPD leadership thought it was appropriate to allow Breitbart to visit the station and further, to then share the visit on social media and decline to call out the incident when questioned.”
The police spokesman, Dustin Sternbeck, said the agency will respond to Allen.
Yumga, in an interview Monday, said she routinely organizes similar food drives and has another planned at a D.C. police station in the near future. She said Breitbart had asked her about her plans, and she told the news outlet about Saturday’s station visit. She said she would have told any media outlet in advance if asked.
Yumga has appeared on Fox Business and in June published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Yumga, who said she works in the health-care field designing programs for businesses and communities, said that with all the talk of defunding police, “I talk to police officers who are thinking of giving up their badges. My impression is, morale with police is bad right now.”
In the interview with The Washington Post, Yumga did not back off from her statement about black people and violence.
Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.