Check out where the Ward 8 D.C. Council candidates stand on the issues affecting justice and freedom in the District. All candidates running for D.C. Council seats were asked to fill out this questionnaire. 

Note: The American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. We do not support or oppose candidates for elected office. 

D.C. is considered the protest capital of the United States of America. Would you protect the First Amendment rights of protestors who live and visit the District?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. Activism and protest are essential to a thriving democracy. I got my start in public service as a student organizer for DC Statehood and have spent over a decade in activism here and around the nation - including being arrested 5 times in acts of civil disobedience. The District has and continues to be an essential stage for the right of each citizen to peaceably dissent and I'll protect it from the Council. I'll work to retain post-George Floyd reforms to police interaction with protesters (i.e. elimination of mask laws, kettling, use of chemical munitions) and ensure law enforcement is used to protect peaceful dissent, not quell it. I'll also be a staunch defender of DC Home Rule, fighting against Far Right, authoritarian forces in the federal government who seek to inhibit our ability to assemble and protest.

Rahman Branch: Yes. Protecting the First Amendment rights of protestors is non-negotiable. The right to peaceful assembly and protest is fundamental to our democracy and has been instrumental in driving social change throughout history. As a candidate committed to upholding civil liberties and promoting justice, I firmly believe in safeguarding the rights of individuals to express their grievances and advocate for meaningful reform. Moreover, the District's reputation as a hub for activism underscores the importance of respecting and defending the rights of both residents and visitors to engage in peaceful protest without fear of suppression or reprisal. As a leader, I will work tirelessly to ensure that protestors can exercise their First Amendment rights safely and without interference, fostering a culture of civic engagement and empowerment in our community.

Salim Adofo: Yes. The right to protest is ideally protected everywhere in the United States, including here in the District. Protesters and law enforcement alike should know the rights of protestors and ensure they are upheld. As Councilmember I will advocate to require that those who organize protests educate the protesters in their generation, and also that local law enforcement agencies have annual training on the rights of protesters.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you support changing Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) policy prohibiting advertising “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying public opinions.”?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. While WMATA is a private company, it is heavily subsidized by governments across the region -- and all the individual citizens who support them. While there is an obligation on Metro's part to ensure the service is welcoming and affirming for all its riders (which requires guidelines and guardrails), it does not require as absolute an approach as eliminating difference and dissent.

Rahman Branch: No. While I acknowledge the concerns surrounding WMATA's policy on issue-based advertising, I believe that maintaining restrictions on such advertisements is necessary to uphold the integrity and neutrality of public transit spaces. Allowing issue-based ads may open the door to divisive or misleading messaging that could detract from the primary purpose of public transportation: providing a safe and accessible mode of travel for all members of the community. Furthermore, the potential for well-funded entities to dominate advertising space could limit the diversity of voices and perspectives represented in public discourse. Instead of revising the policy to accommodate issue-based advertising, I support exploring alternative avenues for public engagement and advocacy that do not compromise the inclusive and nonpartisan nature of our public transit system.

Salim Adofo: Yes. Free speech is another constitutionally protected right. The WMATA policy should be updated to outline the limits of free speech that must be adhered to for advertising approval.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

If a bill you opposed were to be passed by the D.C. Council, would you advocate for Congress to overturn it?

Markus Batchelor: No. We need DC leadership that believes in democracy even when they don't win. I'll never take the back door to governance or give an inch of our local autonomy away for the sake of political expediency. We've seen recently how the slightest crack in our local leadership's resolve to stand up to federal interference can open up a great flood of harm for our residents. I'm an active member of the #HandsOffDC coalition and will continue to be a bold voice locally and nationally for home rule and statehood from the Council.

Rahman Branch: No. While I may strongly disagree with certain bills passed by the D.C. Council, advocating for Congress to overturn them undermines the autonomy and self-governance that we aspire to achieve as a potential state. It is essential for the District to assert its independence and demonstrate its capability to manage internal affairs without external interference. By respecting the legislative process and working within the established framework of local governance, we uphold the principles of democracy and strengthen our case for statehood. Rather than seeking intervention from Congress, I believe in engaging in constructive dialogue and collaboration to address concerns and enact positive change at the local level, thereby advancing the interests of all residents of the District of Columbia.

Salim Adofo: No. Inviting Congress to intervene in the District’s governance limits the rights of the citizens of the District to govern ourselves.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Because of our unique status and the impacts of the Home Rule and Revitalization Acts that give the federal government control over many different parts of our criminal legal system, including the prosecutors, courts, and supervision agencies, members of the D.C. Council do not have legal or budgetary authority over those entities. Would you use your role on the Council to ensure that these entities serve our residents fairly and effectively?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. We need leadership now more than ever that can navigate the complexities of limited home rule and produce results for District residents. I've spent my adult life working locally and nationally on issues facing our city. I'll be a strong partner to our Delegate and a present figure with our federal partners to further align federal action with our local values.

Rahman Branch: Yes. While recognizing the limitations imposed by our unique status, I am committed to using my role on the Council to vigorously advocate for the fair and effective treatment of our residents within the existing framework. This involves holding accountable those entities—such as prosecutors, courts, and supervision agencies—that wield significant power over our criminal legal system. By leveraging my position, I will push for transparency, accountability, and reforms that prioritize the well-being and rights of our residents. Additionally, I will continue to actively support efforts towards achieving statehood, as it remains essential for securing full legal and budgetary authority over these critical entities, ultimately ensuring that they truly serve the interests of all District residents.

Salim Adofo: Yes. Representing DC interests before the Federal government is largely the responsibility of the Mayor. The Council utilizes at least one staff member who interacts with the Congress; I would work with that person to assure Federal support for District needs.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

What is your definition of safety?

Markus Batchelor: Safety is a community where all of us feel seen, heard, respected, and protected. It is housing with dignity and security. It is living wage work, the right to organize in the workplace, and retirement with comfort. It is fresh air, clean water, healthcare, food access, affordable transportation, and walkable neighborhoods. It is a city where opportunity is equal, access is equitable, and redemption is real.

Rahman Branch: Safety is the comprehensive state of protection and well-being encompassing physical, mental, socio-emotional, economic, and material dimensions. It entails freedom from harm, danger, or risk to one's physical health, mental stability, emotional equilibrium, financial security, and possessions. Safety fosters an environment where individuals feel secure, supported, and able to thrive without fear of harm or deprivation. It extends beyond the absence of physical threats to include psychological comfort, social stability, financial security, and the safeguarding of resources and assets. In essence, safety ensures holistic protection and stability across various facets of life, enabling individuals to pursue their aspirations and contribute positively to society. As a fundamental right, safety must be upheld and promoted at all levels of governance to ensure the well-being and flourishing of all community members.

Salim Adofo: Having the resources necessary for a productive and communal life is what I consider to be safety. When you have the resources that you need (housing, financial, educational, medical and cultural for example) you are less likely to cause harm to someone to obtain said resources.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you support the implementation of the 24/7 real-time crime center?

Markus Batchelor: No. While I support closer coordination on DC's crime and violence issue with federal and regional partners, an unmonitored surveillance outfit with little transparency on what is being watched or how citizens' privacy will be protected is a bad idea. It further erodes trust in law enforcement and threatens the civil liberties of the accused and the innocent alike.

Rahman Branch: Yes. I support the implementation of a 24/7 real-time crime center in the District. Given the recent heightened concerns regarding public safety among residents, it's imperative to address these issues promptly and effectively. A real-time crime center equipped to monitor and respond to incidents as they occur can significantly enhance law enforcement's ability to prevent and address criminal activities swiftly. By leveraging technology and data analysis, such a center can facilitate proactive policing strategies and resource allocation, ultimately leading to safer communities. My support for this initiative reflects a commitment to prioritizing public safety and ensuring that residents feel secure in their neighborhoods. However, the ultimate goal should be to address the underlying causes of crime and create conditions where the need for such a center diminishes over time.

Salim Adofo: Yes. Due to the current state of crime in the District, we must find ways to consolidate resources and ensure that existing law enforcement/crime prevention/violence intervention institutions work together so that those who cause harm are held accountable, rather than remaining in silos. At the same time, we should invest heavily in providing resources to underserved demographics and communities so that we are not just focusing on punishment, but also prevention.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Currently, the Metropolitan Police Department and other District agencies have sole authority over law enforcement surveillance in the District. Do you think the D.C. Council should oversee this government surveillance?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. The Council's oversight responsibilities on behalf of District residents require that the Council is provided with the information it needs to work in residents' interests, especially on issues of safety, security, crime, and punishment.

Rahman Branch: Yes. I believe that the D.C. Council should have oversight over government surveillance activities in the District. As the legislative body responsible for enacting laws and policies that safeguard the rights and interests of all residents, the Council plays a crucial role in ensuring transparency, accountability, and adherence to constitutional principles in law enforcement practices. Oversight of government surveillance activities by the Council is essential to prevent potential abuses of power, protect civil liberties, and uphold the rule of law. By establishing clear guidelines, conducting regular audits, and providing mechanisms for public scrutiny, the Council can help strike a balance between maintaining public safety and respecting individual privacy rights. This oversight mechanism is fundamental to maintaining trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve while promoting accountability and adherence to legal standards.

Salim Adofo: Yes. The District’s local government must maintain sole authority over the safety of its residents; this authority must not usurped by the national government, regardless of proximity. When and if necessary, District agencies must also have strong policies for collaboration with national law enforcement and those of our neighboring states.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you support the recommendations of the D.C. Police Reform Commission?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. The Police Reform Commission's work was thorough and thoughtful, a both practical and aspirational vision for true safety and accountability.

Rahman Branch: Yes. I support the recommendations of the D.C. Police Reform Commission. As a vital service organization entrusted with ensuring public safety and upholding the rule of law, the D.C. Police must continuously strive to enhance its effectiveness, accountability, and responsiveness to the needs of the community.

Salim Adofo: Yes. I agree with the recommendations of the Police Reform Commission. Many of the regulations are outdated methods and such policies compromise residents' civil and human rights rather than increase safety.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

If elected, which recommendations would you prioritize implementing? 

Markus Batchelor: I'll hold the executive accountable for implementing provisions already passed with fidelity, including better reporting of Stop and Frisk data and a true end to the practice here in the District. I'll fight against current efforts to roll back accountability in the name of public safety, including many dangerous ones recently passed in the Secure DC Act (body cam review, etc).

Rahman Branch: If elected, my top priority would be implementing the recommendations focused on building a trusted, community-centered police department. It is crucial to ensure that law enforcement agencies are perceived as allies and partners within communities, particularly communities of color and those most impacted by crime. By prioritizing these recommendations, we can work towards fostering mutual respect, understanding, and collaboration between the police and the community. This approach not only enhances public safety but also promotes social cohesion and strengthens trust in law enforcement. Ultimately, by building a police department that prioritizes community engagement and accountability, we can create safer and more inclusive neighborhoods where every resident feels valued and protected.

Salim Adofo: I would prioritize the recommendations of the Police Reform Commission regarding the use of force, surveillance and intrusive searches.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you support police-free schools?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. I led the effort to pass the State Board of Education’s resolution in support of Police-Free Schools in 2020, encouraged and supported by a broad coalition of students, educators, academics, and organizers. I believe as we said in that resolution, that the goal of police-free schools requires meaningful dialogue with those impacted and deep investment in the alternative – mental health supports, parent and family engagement, non-police partnerships for conflict resolution, etc. In the time since, neither the Council or mayor have made any meaningful steps to do that. I’ll get to work on the Council to coordinate tools already at our disposal (and the investment in those that aren’t) to make all DC students truly safe.

Rahman Branch: Yes. I prioritize community-centered approaches to public safety and believe in addressing the root causes of issues rather than relying solely on law enforcement. Police-free schools promote a nurturing and supportive environment where students feel safe, respected, and empowered to thrive. By reallocating resources from policing to mental health services, counseling, restorative justice programs, and other supportive interventions, we can better address the social and emotional needs of students. This approach fosters positive relationships between students, educators, and staff, reduces the likelihood of punitive disciplinary measures, and contributes to a more inclusive and equitable educational experience for all. Ultimately, investing in supportive services and interventions within schools aligns with my commitment to building stronger and healthier communities.

Salim Adofo: No.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

What non-law enforcement supports would you invest in to improve school safety? 

Markus Batchelor: I'll double down on the real progress I made to expand Community School models across DC, which have given Ward 8 schools like Ballou, Anacostia, and Kramer millions of dollars to invest in the non-academic supports students and families need to be successful long-term. That often includes partnerships with mental health, restorative justice, and violence intervention organizations that meet the real needs of students.


Rahman Branch: Investing in non-law enforcement support is crucial for improving school safety and fostering a conducive learning environment. I prioritize resources that address the holistic needs of students, such as highly skilled teachers in foundational subjects like reading and writing, particularly in the early grades where literacy development is critical. Also, school therapists and social workers play a vital role in addressing social and emotional challenges, supporting students and adult staff. Collaboration among district agencies is essential to comprehensively address issues impacting students' lives and well-being. By identifying and responding to warning signs early, we can proactively intervene and create a safer and more supportive educational environment for all students. Ultimately, prioritizing these non-law enforcement supports reflects a commitment to nurturing the holistic development and success of every child in our schools.

Salim Adofo: In the District, every Local Education Education must be required to employ a robustly trained security team and behavior and culture team, to ensure that there is an adequate number of professionals with the responsibility and training to keep the building secure and everyone physically safe. Expansion of in school violence interruption and re-engagement processes is another preventative opportunity to ensure we aren’t feeding a school to prison pipeline anywhere in the District. These requirements will ensure that our schools do not need to rely on the District’s police force for any daily operational support of safety and security, and that the police are only deployed in their formal capacity for emergency and criminal situations that are well above the purview of schools.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you support ending the use of solitary confinement in the D.C. Jail?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. Research and years of evidence show that solitary confinement is both inhumane and unproductive as a reform tactic -- often further degrading the wellness of inmates and making recidivism much more likely.

Rahman Branch: Yes. Ending the use of solitary confinement in the D.C. Jail aligns with principles of humane treatment and rehabilitation. Research has shown the detrimental effects of prolonged solitary confinement on mental health and well-being. To foster rehabilitation and uphold the dignity of every incarcerated individual, it's imperative to explore alternative, more humane approaches within correctional facilities. Solitary confinement often exacerbates existing mental health issues and can lead to long-term psychological harm, hindering successful reintegration into society upon release. By discontinuing the use of solitary confinement, we prioritize strategies that promote rehabilitation, foster positive behavior change, and support the overall well-being of those in custody. It's a step towards creating a more just and compassionate criminal justice system that prioritizes the humanity and dignity of all individuals, even those who are incarcerated.

Salim Adofo: Yes.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you support empowering a new independent oversight body with unrestricted access to the D.C. Jail to regularly and publicly report on the conditions and treatment of residents at D.C. Department of Corrections facilities?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. There has often been too little information about horrible conditions for inmates and staff at DC Jail until after a crisis has exploded. We need more independent oversight of the jail and more regular information on what's happening inside.

Rahman Branch: Yes. Empowering a new independent oversight body with unrestricted access to the D.C. Jail is essential for promoting transparency and accountability within the corrections system. By allowing regular and public reporting on the conditions and treatment of residents, we ensure that governmental institutions are held accountable for their actions and decisions. Transparency fosters trust between the government and the community it serves, demonstrating a commitment to openness and integrity in all aspects of governance. Furthermore, public oversight helps identify areas for improvement and ensures that corrective actions are taken promptly to address any issues or concerns. Ultimately, empowering independent oversight strengthens the overall integrity of the corrections system and reinforces the principles of fairness, justice, and respect for human rights within our society.

Salim Adofo: Yes. Imprisoned people are some of the most vulnerable in our society because their rights and freedoms are already limited by virtue of their convictions. While they serve the time associated with their conviction, they have the right to be protected. The oversight of this protection must come from outside of the Department of Corrections itself.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

What types of measures would you implement to hold MPD accountable when they disregard or violate Department policies or District laws?  

Markus Batchelor: I'll use the Council's oversight authority to get to the center of cultures of corruption that put the integrity of the department and the lives of innocents and the accused at risk. I'll be a champion for expanding the authority of the Police Complaints Board and ending qualified immunity in the District.

Rahman Branch: Implementing the position of Deputy Auditor for Public Safety, as recommended by the Police Reform Commission report, would be a crucial step in holding the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) accountable for disregarding or violating department policies or District laws. This role would facilitate greater transparency and oversight within the public safety sector, ensuring that incidents of misconduct or policy violations are thoroughly investigated and addressed. Additionally, implementing robust data reporting mechanisms would provide insight into trends and patterns of misconduct, enabling proactive measures to prevent future violations. By establishing clear protocols for accountability and transparency, we can foster a culture of integrity and responsibility within the MPD, ultimately enhancing public trust and confidence in law enforcement.


Salim Adofo: Any costs associated with the disregard of District laws or Department policies must be paid for by the member or the union, and not absorbed by any budget outside of that allocated to MPD. Offices who violate the law should be subject to the same consequences as any resident, while the assumption must be that they are aware of the District laws and potential consequences. Though ignorance is not a legal defense, it also must not be an informal one for law enforcement officers either. The complaint and discipline records of law enforcement agents must also be a matter of public record, as well as a policy outlining the process of progressive discipline up to potential termination.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you believe that mental health specialists, rather than police, should serve as the default first responders for mental health emergencies?

Markus Batchelor: Yes.

We've seen locally and nationally the consequences of armed responses to mental health crises and are living with an unacceptable number of people incarcerated for actions and conditions that clinicians should be addressing.



Rahman Branch: Yes. I support the notion that mental health specialists should serve as the default first responders. Their expertise in addressing mental health crises can lead to more effective and compassionate interventions, ensuring that individuals in distress receive appropriate care and support tailored to their needs.

Salim Adofo: No. 

In the Emergency Medical Service profession, scene safety is of paramount importance. An EMS provider arriving at an address of an emergency is entering an unknown situation that may be unpredictable. A "safe" scene is one where there are no obvious potential threats or hazards that could impede the EMTs' work or put them at risk.

 

 

Mental health professionals are trained in crisis intervention and to deescalate mental health crises. Trained providers also understand the value of a strong relationship with the police. They know that the state of a situation can change quickly, and appreciate a collaboration. The odds of an escalation or the necessity of deadly force are significantly reduced when trained mental health professionals accompany police officers in these situations as first responders. Therefore, I recommend that they work together rather than separately.


Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you support a 24-hour harm reduction center in D.C.?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. DC is facing a crisis of addiction (more overdose deaths than homicides last year in DC) and our only solution is to criminalize it while lives are being lost. We've seen harm reduction programs work across the county in reducing crime, overdose cases, and the spread of disease -- not to mention moving people toward recovery services. We need a center here in DC.

Rahman Branch: Yes. I believe it is essential to provide comprehensive support services for individuals struggling with substance use disorders. Such a center would offer crucial resources, including counseling, medical assistance, and harm reduction strategies, to promote health and well-being within the community.

Salim Adofo: Yes. Harm reduction strategies implemented by the Department of Health are proven to decrease the unhealthy behaviors associated with drug use, misuse, and abuse. These activities are not limited to business hours. Ensuring that harm reduction strategies are available 24 hours provides more invaluable resources that may save lives and prevent disease.



Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer

Do you support increasing the number of Community Response Team (CRT) members and creating more appropriate crisis response locations?

Markus Batchelor: Yes. 

Rahman Branch: Yes. I support increasing the number of Community Response Team (CRT) members and establishing more appropriate crisis response locations. By expanding the CRT program and enhancing crisis response infrastructure, we can improve access to timely and specialized assistance for individuals experiencing mental health crises, ultimately fostering safer and more supportive communities.

Salim Adofo: Yes. As mentioned in the previous response regarding the value of and my support of mental health providers as first responders in mental health crises, these teams provide an invaluable preventative service. If expanded, their crisis response work would prevent many people from having unnecessary contact with the justice system and ensure that more people receive the case management and resource linkage they need to prevent future incidents or extend the time between incidents.

Kevin Cannaday: Did not answer

Trayon White Sr.: Did not answer

Nate Derenge: Did not answer

Quinn Nii: Did not answer