Last week, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the nation’s largest union of public sector workers, kicked off its 45th annual convention in Philadelphia. By most accounts, it was a largely tame affair, padded with presentations on the union’s history and peppered with appearances from AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. The bulk of the agenda was focused on the business of discussing and voting upon a series of resolutions on a variety of issues, and that’s where things got spicy. The convention brought together delegates from AFSCME locals around the country, and while it’s unsurprising that people representing such a wide range of identities, industries, political views, and personal experiences would find areas of disagreement, there was one resolution in particular that caused a considerable commotion: Resolution #26.
Washington, DC - Hundreds of Howard University students protested on campus Wednesday morning following a sit-in Tuesday night over housing and other concerns. Students with the group Live Movement, a coalition of students from historically Black colleges and universities who advocate for education reform, began their sit-in at the Blackburn University Center Tuesday evening to demand university officials, including President Wayne Frederick, agree to a town hall meeting by the end of the month to negotiate their demands. Protesters say they will not leave the university center until officials agree to enter talks. Students have expressed concerns about mold in the walls of their dorms, lack of COVID-19 testing for students, and safety on campus. Protester Tia-Andrea Scott explained that protesters are concerned about some students who’ve reportedly been hospitalized after coughing up blood and experiencing mold in the walls of their dorms.
Policing and militarism are a two-headed monster that protects and upholds the foundation upon which racial capitalism was built — exploitation of the lives of poor Black and Brown people. Although much attention has been placed on recent expansions of police militarization, these threads have long been intertwined. For Black Americans, police have always acted as an occupying force within our communities. But during the 1960s, a decade of unprecedented Black radical resistance, the lines between police and military and national defense became even more blurred. On December 8, 1969, the SWAT unit of the Los Angeles Police Department raided the Black Panther Party’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
On Tuesday, April 20, jurors in Minnesota found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges brought forward for the death of George Floyd: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin’s bail was also immediately revoked and he was taken into custody after the verdict was read. The guilty verdicts represent a strong departure from the legal norm: between 2005 and 2019, only four police officers had been found guilty of murder in the United States, while an estimated 1,000 people have been shot and killed by cops every year since 2015. A breakdown of that five year study by the Washington Post shows that Black Americans were killed by police at more than double the rate of white people.
Chile's political parties and social leaders on Monday demanded the dissolution of the Military police (Carabineros) three days after an agent shot dead juggler Francisco Martinez, 27, during an identity check. "We demand the Senate to debate on the re-foundation of Carabineros," Progressive Party (PRO) Senator Alejandro Navarro tweeted, recalling that police brutality is part of the "nefarious legacy" of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship (1973-1990). Chile's Communist Party (PC) Secretary Eduardo Artes also demanded the resignation of President Sebastian Piñera, "who has defended the Carabineros despite the brutality with which they have responded to the people's protests."
After several months of continuous pressure on Northwestern administration to abolish University Police and divest from policing and other militarized entities, NUCNC is continuing their work into the new quarter. Since their campaign of more than 30 days of consecutive actions, the group has not held any mass protests or demonstrations, but they continue to pressure the University and practice mutual aid — a core tenet of prison-industrial complex abolition. “Prisons are the biggest social service we have,” NUCNC member Eliza Gonring said. “So poor people, homeless people, Black people are just getting funneled into prisons and if we want that to stop, if we don’t want people to get preyed upon, we’re going to need to start supporting people.”
The demand to defund the police has become a central narrative responding to the graphic killing of Black people. Black organizers must now discuss if this strategy can move us closer to community control of public safety and unpoliced Black neighborhoods. The defund demand has a number of important branches but at its root it is a call to mobilize community energy towards winning votes at local budget hearings. This effort is not just about the vote but reflects a firm belief in U.S. democracy which at this exact moment may be the most mistaken political stance possible. During the Jan. 6th meeting at the U.S. Capitol we witnessed a show of strength that could not have happened without deep police collaboration.
Even as 2020 took turns for the worst, the seeds of justice and liberation extended their roots. For decades to come, 2020 will be remembered for the failures of politicians and capitalism. In a selfish bid to “save the economy” and rally his base ahead of the election, President Trump and his allies spread disinformation about COVID-19 and threw common-sense public health measures into the meatgrinder of partisan politics. Predictably, the United States became one of the world’s worst hot spots for COVID-19, exposing every crack and fault line in society. As of this writing, the death toll is nearing 300,000. To say that the Trump administration failed to flatten the curve is a gross understatement.
Amid recent growing calls for defunding police this summer, a set of billboards appeared in Dallas, Atlanta, and New York City. Each had the words “No Police, No Peace” printed in large, bold letters next to an image of a Black police officer. Funded by a conservative right-wing think tank , the billboards captured all the hallmarks of modern pro-policing propaganda. The jarring choice of language, a deliberate corruption of the protest chant “no justice, no peace,” follows a pattern we see frequently from proponents of the police state.
Spurred by the brutal and senseless murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans, people are demanding that we redirect money away from police budgets into sustainable community-driven solutions. Policymakers, communities, residents, and organizations are committing themselves to finding solutions that build safety, limit the use of police, and are rooted in anti-racist practice. The Center for Court Innovation has worked with communities to build public safety for decades. Based on lessons learned, we believe that this is not the work of a moment, but rather a long-term shift in both thought and action. And it will take many different strategies to achieve change. Jurisdictions should rethink public safety—what it is and how to achieve it. Solutions should be locally-driven. Communities must no longer be subject to systemic racism and oppression, and their residents, especially Black and brown people, must have the ability to live without the undue harm of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration.
In the past weeks, I’ve watched the news about the explosion of protests against police brutality and racism in the United States and around the world, and the resulting conversations on police defunding, reform or abolition. As I scrolled through social media and obsessively scanned and rescanned the headlines, a small thought tugged at me. It was the story of how one of my heroes, Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009, had arrived at the research that made her famous. Ostrom has become celebrated as the person who introduced the world to “the commons” — that is, how people can, and do, manage the resources in their community through participation and sharing, instead of violence and competition. Her work was revolutionary and has changed the fields of economics, planning, public policy and environmental science.
Abusive relationships where the abuser is a transparently horrible monster don’t tend to last long, because it becomes obvious to the victim very quickly that they need to head for the door. The ones that last are the ones where the abuser is an adept manipulator, who is able to elicit sympathy and attachment in the victim while constructing a prison of mental narratives in their head. The hardest of these to escape from is the “nice guy” abuser, the kind of abuser whose manipulations revolve around framing themselves as good and virtuous while squeezing the psychological noose on the victim tighter and tighter. These are difficult to escape because by design they are hard to recognize as abusive while you’re in them, even while you’re being drained of life, liberty and happiness to the abuser’s benefit.