Chicago, IL - The first meeting of the Interim Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) took place on the evening of Thursday September 29 at Malcolm X College. The meeting was attended by almost 200 people, most of who were members or supporters of the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) coalition. The CCPSA introduced itself to the community, set up committees to do its work, and elected Anthony Driver and Oswaldo Gomez as its president and vice president. The public comments were filled with support for the CCPSA and demands that the mayor and city council give the Interim Commission the staff and budget necessary to transform the city’s public safety system.
Last week, Ofelia Fernández, a member of the Buenos Aires legislature, announced on her social media the launch of a Map of the City’s Police, a collaborative webpage whose objective is to highlight, identify, and denounce situations of police violence within the territory of Buenos Aires; consequently allowing citizens to hold local security forces to account. This tool of citizen participation was designed in conjunction with a network of individuals and organizations. Those behind the initiative include Fernández, the representative from Frente Patria Grande alliance of the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, the Center for Legal and Social Studies, the Association Against Institutional Violence, The Shout from the South, and the magazine Crisis, who are all looking to construct novel strategies in the fight for human rights.
Elnora Gavin is a lifelong Benton Harbor resident and currently works as the West Michigan organizer with We the People Michigan. In this interview, she talks about her love for Benton Harbor, the challenges facing ordinary people there, and how they’re fighting to address everything from school closures to a disastrous human-made water crisis, and ultimately create a Benton Harbor where everyone flourishes. Eli Day, a Detroit-based writer and We the People Michigan communications director, interviewed Gavin for Convergence.
For decades, rooftop solar has allowed homeowners to generate their own renewable electricity — reducing their dependence on monopoly utilities and lowering their energy bills. However, solar rooftops are not a viable option for many people. What about those who can’t afford one? What about renters? Plus, only a portion of buildings have roofs that are large enough, facing the right direction, and sunny enough for solar. Community solar picks up where traditional rooftop solar fails. Through community solar, individuals subscribe to a portion of a nearby solar garden and get credits on their energy bill for the electricity it produces. This way, people without the financial means for solar on their rooftops and people who don’t own suitable rooftops can still reap the benefits of renewable energy.
Threats to our democracy are two-fold: a growth of support for authoritarianism by some and the withdrawal from and lack of engagement in political activity by others. Both trends stem from people’s loss of trust in their government and belief that officials don’t represent and serve them. Neither escalating partisan conflict nor escapism are solutions. However one fresh tactic is increasingly being used to establish broad dialogue, actively engage citizens in policy decisions and thereby revitalize democracy. Citizens’ assemblies have a long history, from ancient Athens and Rome to Rousseau’s Geneva and Vermont’s annual town halls. Rather than bringing all residents of a particular jurisdiction together, recently leaders have turned to selecting representative demographic samples of the population using the technique of “sortition.”
Minneapolis, Minnesota - 25 community members and organizers entered Mayor Jacob Frey’s office, June 6, to demand that the city stop stifling the East Phillips neighborhood’s efforts to build a community-owned sustainable urban farm on the site of an unused Roofing Depot plant in their neighborhood. The coalition was led by the Climate Justice Committee and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI). The site, which has decades’ worth of toxic arsenic waste in its soil and structures, is slated to be demolished by the city to accommodate more public works facilities. This would throw all of these toxins into the air of a neighborhood that already has some of the worst air quality in Minnesota.
Los Angeles, California - In a historic move, the Civilian Oversight Commission voted in favor of a resolution to support a charter amendment giving the LA Board of Supervisors, the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) and Office of Inspector General stronger oversight of the LA County Sheriff's Department. The vote also included the ability of the Board of Supervisors to remove a Sheriff for misconduct. Members of Centro CSO, impacted families of police killings, Black Lives Matter-LA, the ACLU, and Check the Sheriffs Coalition joined the meeting and spoke in favor of the Board of Supervisors placing a November 2022 ballot measure to win community control over the LA County Sheriff's Department and Sheriff Villanueva.
Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is one of those rare ideas which combine transformative potential with an elegant simplicity. The CSA model of funding and sustaining locally-rooted agriculture has grown exponentially around the globe over the past four decades. Since the first formal CSA at Robyn Van En’s Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, Massachusetts in the early 1980s, CSAs have become a household fixture across the US and elsewhere; the most recent estimate by the USDA (2012) counted approximately 13,000 CSA farms in the US alone. The success of community-supported farming has coincided with rising demand for organic food since the late 1970s. But the model’s popularization has meant that, sometimes, CSAs can be misreprented as ‘just another way’ for consumers to purchase fresh, seasonal food.
After taking control of their community, the people of Cheran decided to ban political parties, abolish police, and establish a unique form of participatory democracy based on their indigenous Purepecha traditions. As anarchists, it was truly beautiful to be in a place where the people have seized control of their community from the state, and we were delighted to see that the community, by all appearances, is doing very well. Cheran has now been self-governing for over 10 years, and despite narco-violence being endemic in much of Michoacan, the autonomous town seems to be somewhat of an oasis in the midst of Mexico’s ongoing drug war. According to a 2017 article in the Los Angeles Times, there were ZERO murders or kidnappings reported in Cheran in the six years following the uprising.
San Francisco - Aliyah Dunn-Salahuddin still remembers riding the bus home from elementary school and smelling fresh-baked pastries and bread from the Parisian Bread Factory near Evans Street. She also remembers how quickly that scent would turn to one of sewage and smoke as the bus pulled closer to her home. Dunn-Salahuddin grew up two decades ago in Bayview-Hunters Point, a neighborhood in the southeastern corner of San Francisco, jutting into the bay. It’s under four square miles, just 8.5 percent of San Francisco’s land mass. This relatively small parcel of the city holds a disproportionate concentration of its toxic and polluting sites. For decades, state and local agencies have tried—halfheartedly, advocates say—to monitor and clean up the polluted air in Bayview.
When natural disasters like Hurricane Ida occur, policymakers often wave away the damage and devastation as an unavoidable “act of god” (to use common insurance language). However, these types of response ignore deep structural deficiencies and inequities in the way critical infrastructure systems are often designed and operated in the United States. Specifically, they obscure the role of private, for-profit ownership and control of these services.
From November 22 to 24, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, founded in 1973, will be relaunching itself in Chicago, IL. A major part of the conference will be focused on work to create community control of the police to end racist, violent and murderous police actions. We speak with Frank Chapman, who has been with the alliance from the start and who is involved in the work in Chicago to create a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). They have legislation in the city government. Chapman speaks about how they have made so much progress to this goal in Chicago, what potential it will unleash for transformative change and how it ties into the long struggle for black liberation and against fascism.