Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the rally’s national consultant as Benjamin Chavis Muhammad. Chavis, who joined the Nation of Islam in 1997, no longer uses the religious surname.
The intelligence office of the U.S. Capitol Police warned all 1,800 officers last month of a potential for violence this weekend when the Nation of Islam stages a rally on the Mall to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.
The newsletter, distributed via e-mail, warned that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan “has been accused of inciting violence against both Caucasians and police officers.”
The newsletter acknowledges that there was no violence during the original march, which drew hundreds of thousands of black men to Washington and ranks as one of the nation’s largest civil rights demonstrations. But “given today’s negative racial climate and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement,” it warns, “there are legitimate concerns that the second march may not be as peaceful.”
On Tuesday, Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine distanced himself from the newsletter, saying it “does not reflect the viewpoint or values of the United States Capitol Police, nor was it intended to provide instruction or guidance to our employees.”
The department “prides itself on protecting the rights of people to peaceably assemble under the First Amendment,” Dine said in a statement provided to The Washington Post.
But James Konczos, president of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, the union representing rank-and-file officers, has called for Dine’s dismissal, saying many officers were offended by the newsletter’s alarmist tone and blatant “race-baiting.”
“You can’t have people putting out inflammatory comments and not hold them accountable” Konczos said. “We’re a professional police organization without professional leadership.”
Still, intelligence officers in the Capitol were not alone in their trepidation. Local mosques said they planned heightened security this weekend after anti-Muslim activists announced that they were planning protests at 20 mosques and Islamic centers in Washington and across the nation to coincide with the Nation of Islam rally.
Jon Ritzheimer, an anti-Muslim organizer based in Phoenix, called on supporters to bring their guns.
“We have people that are coming from these mosques killing people, so [we’re telling people to bring] a weapon just to protect yourself,” he said.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., said the calls to protest were more violent than anything he had ever seen.
“We have never seen a social media campaign against Muslims in America calling on people to bring arms to a public demonstration, and for it to be posted in 20 cities in America,” he said. “There is a climate of intolerance that seems to be proliferating.”
Nation of Islam organizers played down the threat, saying they expect a peaceful event on Saturday. The rally — dubbed “Justice or Else!” — is intended to protest a failing education system and the killing of black men by police, such as Michael Brown, a black teenager shot to death in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer in August 2014.
The rally’s national organizer, Benjamin Chavis, declined to say how many people were expected. But he said the rally is unlikely to approach the numbers drawn to the march on Oct. 16, 1995.
Chavis also declined to comment on the newsletter circulated to Capitol Police, saying he had not seen it. But he stressed that the Nation of Islam has a long history in Washington of hosting harmonious gatherings.
“We stand on our track record. At the Million Man March there were no incidents. At the Million Family March, there were no incidents,” Chavis said. “We have a track record of mobilizing large numbers of people with no incident. We look forward to a peaceful gathering on Saturday.”
The newsletter was released by the Protective Services Bureau of the Division of Intelligence and Information Analysis within the Capitol Police and showed up in officers’ e-mail late last month. Dine said in a statement that it was later “rescinded as it was not authorized, reviewed, or approved by the Chief of Police.”
The two-page document warns that the rally comes at a time when “hostilities toward law enforcement are at an all-time high.” It also suggests that Farrakhan has advocated violence against police officers, citing a YouTube video promoting the rally in which Farrakhan, the newsletter says, seems to “appeal to black men to seek revenge for alleged injustices by killing whites.”
The document’s most loaded language is reserved for Farrakhan himself, who has led the Nation of Islam since the late 1970s and whose political views and rhetoric have often stirred controversy.
The newsletter’s opening sentence declares: “Incendiary, antagonistic, confrontational, race-baiter, are but a few of the adjectives used to describe [him].” And the it goes on to add: “Long considered somewhat of an opportunist, [Farrakhan] is no novice when it comes to fanning the flames of fire.”
Konczos, the union president, decried the wording of the newsletter in an e-mail sent to the Police Board, a collection of Capitol officials who oversee the police department.
“It is comments like these that contribute to the anti-police movement that has led to officers being murdered,” Konczos wrote in the e-mail, which was obtained by The Post.
“Our officers are well aware of the current problems facing law enforcement, so there was no need for this newsletter to be written, let alone released,” Konczos wrote. “This opinion piece has not only jeopardized the safety of the officers working the event, but the general public who will be in the area on October 10th.”
Tara Bahrampour contributed to this report.