Celebrating Juneteenth and Committing to a More Just Future
Hello District Neighbors,
On June 19, we will celebrate Juneteenth: the 157th anniversary of the effective end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is a day to celebrate liberation—and it’s a day for all of us to reflect on our nation’s past.
On this day in 1865, enslaved Black people in Texas finally learned of their freedom more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and months after the Union defeated the Confederacy in the Civil War.
Let’s celebrate the enslaved people who built this country, and their descendants who have and continue to influence and shape American culture. And let’s celebrate the tenacity and courage of African-American communities, and the complexity, depth, and richness of Black history.
As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, the progress we have made in 157 years is undeniable, as is the work we still need to do to end injustice and racial discrimination. The legacy of slavery continues to plague our society, and African-Americans continue to face structural barriers and violence as a result.
It’s up to all of us to work to right historic wrongs, end discrimination, stop hate in its tracks, and seek justice. I hope you’ll join me in reflecting on how we can all stand up for these values as Juneteenth approaches.
Karl A. Racine
Standing Up for Tenants Against Illegal Rent Hikes
Rents have increased dramatically across the city in recent years. We are standing up to landlords who choose to mislead tenants and illegally raise rents. We recently had a major win against the landlord of 3003 Van Ness in Northwest DC, securing nearly $2 million for the tenants and the District.
Equity Residential Management lied to prospective Van Ness tenants about rental costs by hiding the fact that the posted rent included discounts and then illegally raised rents with almost no warning, by between $500-$1,500. This bait-and-switch forced tenants to make an impossible choice between paying an unaffordable, unpredictable amount in rent, or leaving their homes. Now the landlord will pay the price, thanks to a trial win by the team at the Office of the Attorney General. We’ll continue to hold landlords accountable when they take advantage of tenants who are simply seeking an affordable, safe place to live in the District.
Here’s what one tenant, Amy Shavelson, a four-year resident of 3003 Van Ness, said: “This was a clear bait-and-switch. Waiting to hear what kind of unreasonable rent increase I’d be subject to and whether I’d be able to afford it was a constant source of anxiety. I felt completely trapped and Equity was unsympathetic and unwilling to negotiate. I’m glad it’s over and am grateful to AG Racine for his persistence and commitment to holding Equity accountable.”
DC Council Passed Important New Consumer Protections This Week
On Tuesday, the DC Council passed two important new consumer protections that will help my office better serve vulnerable DC residents. The first is a much-needed update to DC’s debt collection law that my office worked on with Chairman Mendelson. It expands debt collection protections for residents to cover modern forms of debt such as medical and credit card debt, as well as modern debt collection methods such as voicemail, texting, and email. With DC’s last debt collection bill dating back to the 1970s, this will finally bring our debt protections into the 21st century and curb unfair and abusive practices.
Second, the Council unanimously approved the emergency bill targeting baby formula price gouging, which we worked with Councilmember Nadeau to draft. After the bill is signed, my office can begin enforcement, which will help us protect babies and families and ensure that they can get the formula they need at fair prices. Thank you to Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Nadeau for their partnership on these bills and look forward to using these new laws to protect District residents from scams and exploitation.
The District’s Crime Lab Needs Reform
District residents deserve a crime lab that works, which is why we’ve been raising the alarm for two years about serious problems at DC’s Department of Forensic Services (DFS). Failures at the crime lab have hurt public safety, undermined the credibility and fairness of the criminal justice system, and will cost taxpayers millions of dollars as they shoulder the burden of funding a complete review of forensic evidence that has been used in criminal cases over the last several years.
Councilmember Charles Allen recently introduced legislation to reform and address problems at DFS and restore the integrity of scientific testing and results in the District’s criminal cases. We look forward to working with the Council on these needed reforms, and my office is committed to helping in any way we can to get the lab on track.
DC’s New Peace Academy
I’m thrilled that DC is investing in a new program called DC Peace Academy to help train violence interrupters. Violence interrupters and outreach workers, like our Cure the Streets staff members, do critical work to keep our communities and families safe every day. The program is in excellent hands with Lashonia Thompson-El, pictured above, who is a beloved alum of my office. This academy, and our Cure the Streets violence interruption work, are a critical piece of a larger public safety effort to help change our city for the better and address our crisis of gun violence.
Happy Pride Month, DC!
At the Office of Attorney General, we are committed to supporting the LGBTQ+ community by fighting to advance equality for all, including people with diverse of gender identities, expressions, and sexual orientations. With more than a dozen states considering passing bills like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, it’s even more important for allies to stand with LGBTQ+ community members this month.
Protecting the Environment for Generations to Come
In my office, we recognize the critical importance of protecting the earth—including the air we breathe and water we depend on—for generations to come. Since 2014, my office has recovered over $60 million to promote environmental justice in the District by taking actions like suing oil and gas companies for misleading consumers about their role in the climate crisis, holding bad actors accountable for toxic lead that harms District kids, advocating for federal policy fixes, and bringing lawsuits to protect our air and water from pollution.
Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre
Last week marked 101 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma. Every year on that anniversary, we remember the more than 300 people killed, thousands placed in internment camps, hundreds who were injured, and the thriving Black community that was burned to the ground by a violent white mob. For generations, these horrific events were covered up and families silently suffered. Our country is still reckoning with these atrocities, and many are only recently learning the extent of the harm in Tulsa.
Last year, when I was the president of the bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General, we focused on combating hate. One speaker we heard from was John W. Franklin, a noted historian whose family survived the massacre. Take a moment to listen to his talk about the Tulsa Race Massacre here.