The Rise of Defund the Police: The New Civil Rights Movement 2.0
Copaganda deceived people into thinking our police serve our communities.
For decades, the Black community has been trying to tell the world a story. Those of us, who have been blessed with the ability, have shared our tales of police violence and brutality. Our music, poetry, and other works of fiction have been the only ways to express the pain inflicted upon us. Now the world has the internet, thus the cruelty the Black community has been subjected to- that White America has denied-has been laid out, for all to see. We live in a fascist police system that only has one goal: impose racial hierarchies and protect private property (of the rich).
“You see, there are people who believe that the function of the police is to fight crime. And that's not true; the function of the police is social control and protection of property.”
Common Misconceptions Regarding Policing
So many Americans watch the Die Hard and Rush Hour series and really believe that is how police officers operate, kicking the ass of bad guys and stopping crime. They watch Law and Order and other police investigation shows and come to the conclusion that cops care deeply about solving each individual case. Meanwhile, in reality, cops are ineffective at actually solving crimes. Copaganda has shattered the minds of Americans. Even the white liberal class actually believes the police protects and serves our community.
Conservatives always propose the scenario: what would happen if a burglar breaks into your home but we Defunded the Police thus no one is available to save you? Well, the same thing that happens now. Resolution after the case. Cops do not prevent major crime. The idea that cops prevent rape, murder, and robbery is absurd. It is not even in their job description. They do not prevent rape nor do they care to solve rape cases. This explains why so many rape cases go unsolved. In fact, only 2% of serious crimes ends with a conviction. These numbers would be unacceptable in any other line of work, so why do the police get a pass at being so horrible at their jobs?
Black Americans and other disenfranchised communities, do not find this cop incompetence shocking, because we have lived experience. The police have never served our communities. I remember a few years ago, I had my apartment broken into. My door was kicked in and my MAC computer was stolen, along with my friend’s phone, and a few other goods. As a poor working-class person, I was devastated. We obviously called the police expecting them to help because our society told us this was the right thing to do.
When the police arrived at the scene, they were extremely indifferent to my plight. They seemed more annoyed than anything that I was taking their time. Influenced by copaganda, I assumed they would check fingerprints, outside security cameras, and essentially do everything they could to catch the criminal. After 5 minutes or so of conversation they shrugged their shoulders and told me, essentially, there was nothing they could do. My friend and I were stunned. This planted the seed for my eventual realization that the police are NOT helpful to the working class. This is far from a rare thing. I made a tweet months ago asking people to share their stories of cop incompetence and my story is extremely tame compared to what so many people have gone through.
Enforcing Racial Hierarchies and Class Divides
So, if police are not designed to prevent or solve crimes, then what are they for? Well, all you have to do is look at history of policing and realize their primary role has always been imposing racial hierarchies and protecting the ruling class and their money. This is why critics of Defund the Police are deeply unserious people. Their explanation of the police and what they do, protecting our communities, has never been based in truth. In fact, the police force as we know it, is a very modern construct.
I challenge defenders of our fascist police state to name a time where our police operated in the way they claim they do. The beginnings of policing in America started with slave patrols comprised of white volunteers and militia members. These men would form squadrons to capture escaped slaves, perform raids on households suspected of housing escaped slaves, and enforce plantation rule––brutally crushing slave revolts. In the north, community volunteers did night watches and other patrols which did nothing to prevent crime or serve the community. Their primary concern was stopping gambling, prostitution, disorderly conduct, and gay relationships. They served as a form of puritan police.
After the Civil War, we had the beginnings of the modern police force. They shifted their focus on enforcing the Black Codes which later led to the enforcement of the Jim Crow Laws. These forces also mobilized in every U.S. city by the late 1800s in order to crack down on labor union organizers and break up strikes. The workers and organizers that they targeted were mainly immigrants and consisted of Catholic, Italian, Irish, German, and Eastern Europeans. The ruling class hence pushed for a need for order to impose racial hierarchies and protect the assets of the ruling class. In a nutshell, the creation of modern policing is a direct result of capitalism. Capitalism can only exist with this strict implementation of racial and class hierarchies. Which is why the thought of defunding the police terrifies the ruling class.
“Both policing and punishment are firmly rooted in racism — attempts to control indigenous, Black, and Latino populations following colonization and slavery as well as Asian populations after the Chinese Exclusion Act and the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. Attempting to undo the harm of policing and prisons without attending to these immense embodiments of systemic racism is doomed to failure.”
Angela Davis brilliantly lays out that we cannot seek to reform a system of policing that is so firmly rooted in racism. The liberal idea that we can reform such a system that was designed to suppress disenfranchised communities will always be a fool's errand. Racial capitalism and forces of oppression that created our police state are rooted in the same ideology that created imperialism and inhumane immigration policy. If you are supportive of ending U.S. imperialism or if you wish to Abolish ICE, you must recognize that the battle to end our racist police state is rooted in the same struggle.
Police, as we know it, have not forgotten their colonial roots. They still are engaged and complicit with the systematic racism that targets Black Americans to this day. As Black Americans gained more rights, white supremacy began to adjust. White supremacists knew they had to find another way to subjugate those who they deemed lesser. The New Jim Crow was established as a result. As Black people gained new voting rights they were harassed by community occupiers, and charged with felonies, stripping them of their right to vote. Broken-windows policing and Black people being openly targeted because of the drug war accomplished this perfectly. There was no flaw in the system; it operated exactly how it was designed.
White supremacists adjusted once again as we began the New Jim Crow. They understood that the best way to further their ideology of white supremacy was to take off the Klan hood and put on the badge. The FBI released a report in 2004 that highlighted the massive problem of white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement. This is why I am not shocked whenever I see cops treating right-wing protestors much more gently than they treat BLM activists. They see the Capitol Hill insurrectionists as neighbors, friends, and allies while BLM, Standing Rock, and Ferguson are hostile enemy combatants. This is why Black people are likely to be shot if they blink at the officer the wrong way while white people can pull insane stunts of resisting the police and get out it. It is very similar to their origins when the police would allow white domestic terrorists to lynch Black people without any consequence, while they were enforcing the previous Jim Crow. Despite these facts, liberals want to give them more money? How do you reform this? You cannot reform this deeply rooted racist system.
This new form of colonialism is drilled into minority kids at an early age. I went to a primarily Black high school, with a significant Latino population. We were subjugated to having a police officer on our campus. The police officer did not ease anxiety among the students; it increased them. The cops are now being used as an occupying force for Black kids. The devastating impacts are seen throughout the country. There are many examples of cops in schools brutally arresting Black children, including repeatedly slamming an 11-year-old boy on the ground.
Police in schools have the same effect that normal policing has. Reporting consistently shows that police in schools do not make children feel safer. And why should they? It serves as a reminder -to even little kids- that an occupying force is watching them and they better not get too comfortable. The federal courts set the precedent that police officers do not even have to protect children at school even when threats were made beforehand. If police are not there to protect the kids, why are they there? They are servants of the prison industrial complex and their presence is designed to feed into the school to prison pipeline.
This system is also designed to get minority kids used to the occupation of their neighborhood by these glorified revenue collectors for the state with the license to kill. Broken windows policing was established by social scientists, James Wilson and George Kellin. The concept was based on very simple deception: in order to prevent crime, you have to maintain order by policing minor infractions in poor and disenfranchised communities. By stopping graffiti, littering, pan-handling, the sale of untaxed cigarettes, and other forms of disorderly conduct, this will create a ripple effect that stops all major crime. The name and metaphor originates from the concept that a small broken window is a sign of neglect, which leads to greater and greater crime being prevalent in the area. The understanding that police does not solve or even prevent serious crime, as laid out earlier in this article, shows how this was a complete failure of a system.
So many police executions, like the assassination of Akai Gurley and Eric Garner, are due to the concept of broken windows policing. Eric Garner had multiple run-ins with the police, as they harassed him for low-level petty grievances. Eric Garner even had a 2007 civil lawsuit claiming the police sexually assaulted and harassed him at one of his stops. Examining how Eric Garner and many others are forced to live, struggling to survive under our broken capitalist system, but then targeted by our racist police system, shows why we must Defund the Police. Crime and petty crime go up when more and more people are forced into poverty. The best recent example of that is the skyrocketing shoplifting cases since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is due to our government abandoning us. Broken Windows Policing has been popularized and implemented in major cities for decades instead of programs designed to lift people out of poverty and increase the wellness of our communities.
Liberals and conservatives claim that police “protect and serve” their communities but we already established they do not prevent crime. What they actually do is consistently impose regressive taxes on the poor and working class in the form of fines, fees, and civil asset forfeiture. This for-profit policing is a capitalist scheme that operates to transfer wealth from minority communities back into the wealthy white ruling-class. Due to the influence of broken windows policing these infractions are brutally skewed to affect the Black Community. Black people are targeted the most to be pulled over, searched, and harassed.
Civil Asset Forfeiture is just another way the police target and siphon wealth from the Black community. Black Americans are once again victims of our institutionally racist system. For example, 65% of people targeted for civil asset forfeiture are Black males based on an analysis done in South Carolina. 53% of civil asset forfeitures in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania are African Americans despite them only being only 9% of the population there. Nearly two-thirds of seizures in Oklahoma come from Black people, Latinos, and other minority groups. Every time an analysis is done on civil asset forfeiture, it shows this same pattern. That is why it is accurate to state that police in the United States is a force of oppression designed to implement racial wealth inequality.
I speak on this issue coming from the perspective of a Black man, but we are not the only people brutalized by our racist police system. The original sin of the Unites States was the genocide of the Native Americans, who remain a target of our police system. Even now, according to a report by the Lakota People’s Law Project, Native Americans are the racial group most likely to be killed by a police officer. They are also four times more likely to be arrested than a white person. Native American women are six times more likely to be arrested than white woman. This institutional racism can once again be linked to the same forces of oppression that brutalized Native American protesters at Standing Rock, very similar to how Black Lives Matter activists are harassed by the police.
Our Latino brothers and sisters have a long history of being targeted by our racist police system as well. The practice of over policing poorer neighborhoods leads to Latinos being targeted by searches and civil asset forfeiture. Latinos are also disproportionately killed by the police, trailing only Native Americans and African Americans. It is also important for us to stand in solidarity with the Latino and the African migrant communities, who are faced with an inhumane immigration system. The fight to abolish both ICE and the police is rooted in the same need to destroy racial capitalism and the carceral state. You are leaving the fight undone fighting for one but not the other.
The Insanity of Our Police Spending
Now that we have established that our police system is highly racist and ineffective, let's examine the police budget and ask ourselves what the hell are they accomplishing with all this money? Are we waging war on our own citizens? It seems so. The police consistently commit war crimes on the citizens they are supposed to be “protecting and serving”. Let's put this in perspective. The NYPD budget alone is three times larger than the military size of North Korea. Almost two times more than Iraq. It nearly rivals that of Iran. Funny how we see these countries as insanely militaristic, but we have fascists in uniform terrifying our communities with more or nearly the same fire power.
Liberal critics of Defund the Police are deeply unserious people. The same people who are okay with ending the drug war are opposed to slashing police budgets. This does not make sense because a large amount of money is used to fight the drug war. The fight against the war on drugs has been a complete failure that has cost us over $1 trillion dollars with nothing to show for except hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed and the violent rise of American Drug Cartels.
Ending the Drug War alone is a great way of Defunding the Police. Before the 1980s our country spent around the same for welfare programs as law and order. This number skyrocketed over the course of the Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton era and continues to this day because of the drug war. Supporting ending the drug war but opposing Defunding the Police is intellectually inconsistent.
What activists and supporters of Defund the Police claim is our method of trying to reduce or prevent crime is extremely unproductive despite the fact that we already seen in real time the remarkable success of Defunding the Police when implemented. Let's compare how other countries handle this. The US spends significantly less on social programs than European countries. The U.S. locks up millions putting authoritarian countries we demonize like China to shame. Major U.S. cities spend up to 40% of their municipal budgets on policing which leads to woefully inadequate spending on education, healthcare, and other programs to lift people out of poverty
Lifting people out of poverty is the key to preventing crime. There are multiple studies throughout the decades that show the correlation between poverty and crime. This is why I do not understand the critics of Defund the Police and why they are deeply unserious people. Is their goal actually to reduce crime or to continue to impose this system of racial and class hierarchy? As reported earlier people are shoplifting during Covid not because they are hardened criminals but out of necessity. It is obvious that spending money locally on increasing the welfare of your citizens is the logical move for a well-functioning society. This is why, when explained accurately that we want to shift these resources to actually combat societal woes instead of fear mongering nonsense, support for Defund the Police skyrockets
Rise of Defund the Police
These facts I have laid out here and along with the internet exposing the depravity of cop culture has incited the tide to finally start to turn. Liberals have spent months manufacturing consent against Defund the Police as a movement. Do not get it twisted, liberals fear mongering about how Defund the Police will harm Democrats and how it was bad messaging was meant turn the public against the movement. The establishment even resorted to bringing out the Black neoliberal sellouts to do work on behalf of attacking Defund the Police. That is why we have seen Jim Clyburn, Al Sharpton, Barack Obama, and many “Black leaders” come out against Defund the Police at this time. Barack Obama is a movement killer. Swiftly striking down the protests in Ferguson and Occupy Wall Street while in charge. Out of office he played a critical role in shutting down the Bernie Sanders campaign and making sure the NBA strike did not come to fruition. I was very happy to see Barack Obama get swiftly taken down when he tried to pull off the same regarding Defund the Police. Our generation is tired of Black liberals fighting against our movements
Ultimately their efforts were a colossal failure thus far. I cannot stress enough how impressive the current support for Defund the Police currently is despite the constant media propaganda done against it by both sides of the partisan corporate media. Last summer during the height of the George Floyd protests and calls to Defund the Police, according to 538, Defund the Police was –27 in approval. Now according to Data for Progress and The Lab, 74% of Democrats and 55% of independents support it. That is a massive, almost unheard-of shift in favor for a policy position in less than a year. The shift is palpable.
This is what movements historically are designed to do. Shift public perception. Shame on all the people who claim they are allies in the fight against racism who joined the concern trolling of the “unpopularity” of Defund the Police. The Civil Rights movement, woman’s suffrage, and the fight for gay rights did not start off as popular. Just like the movement to Defund the Police it takes activists to fight for what is right and make our strong case over and over again. This is how we shift public perception and how movements are historically won. This is why I am actually shocked at how fast the public came to accept and approve of it despite constant media lies and liberals fear mongering over Democrats “losing” because of Defund the Police (even though Republicans ran hard on that against the Georgia Senate Democrats and were crushed as a result). Social justice movements should never be about making it so the Democratic Party or anyone is “electable”. It's about demanding social change and not taking no for an answer, which is what local activist has done and continue to do to push police abolition along.
It is important to remember the battle to Defund the Police is done at the local level. And on the local level we are having a ton of success in a short amount of time. Minneapolis activists, who have been at this fight for years, were shocked at the momentum they received due to the George Floyd Protests. 18 out of the 42 largest cities in the United States reduced their police budgets at the beginning of this year. I consider this to be a victory. But think about how crazy it is that cities across this country are deciding to spend more on law enforcement when we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic instead of taking care of its own people. This is the lunacy of our current police state that must end
Police Abolitionists envisions a new society where police are not necessary. We want to equip communities and empower them to provide for their own health, housing, and safety. Defunding the Police and reimagining how criminal justice will work is key. Just as Angela Davis says, calling for simply more humane policing is the same as when people were calling for a more humane version of slavery. Due to the long history of corruption, violence, racism, and enforcement of class hierarchies that is why I consider this movement to be the Civil Rights Era 2.0. The Civil Rights Era was left undone due to leaving these massive structures of implementing racism going. If you are truly disgusted by the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice and many others join us on this path to abolition and do not apologize for seeking to rid yourself of our system designed to oppress you
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My next piece will be examining our broken election system and why Ranked Choice Voting must be implemented in order to destroy our two party duopoly. Thank you all for your support and I really hope you enjoy this piece
I can relate to what you say about being disappointed when the police did absolutely nothing after your belongings were stolen. I was similarly shocked when I was called to a friend's house — a blind friend — back in the 1990s following a theft. Except there was no break in. Over $500 worth of his belongings went missing after letting in an appraiser. No one else had been there between the time the police showed up and the time I showed up along with the call to the police. Yet they would not even so much as interview the appraiser. It left us with the impression that as a disabled person his situation just wasn't worth their time. I remember feeling angry too — and this story concerns a white (albeit disabled) victim!
While I agree with your general observation that police do not necessarily prevent crime or even solve crime all that often but there's no way to quantify what level of detterance they represent. I can tell several stories from my own life where a police officer just happened to be there when I needed one. None of this is quantifiable but it still has an impact. The only way we can judge their impact is by removing them from communities and observing the results. So far, the overall result — not just from the defund movement but because the pandemic severely damaged community budgets for policing — is that crime is on the rise at levels nobody expected.
At this point, it looks like we need serious police reform but we're also seeing that they are not easily replaced. Until the day of "reimagine" is fully funded, we can't leave communities in a lurch between the point where police are defunded and the future where there are better alternatives. On one more note — and this is going to be controversial — I think the danger of defund is that it is expressed in a classist way. Wealthy communities continue to fund their police whereas disadvantaged communities are likely to defund them faster, not just because there is a police brutality problem but because disadvantaged communities/Cities are unable to afford them. The biggest expense for any local government is policing. I fear that if we're too eager to defund we'll get there first — without the re-imagine part — and it will just be another factor in the growing level of inequality we see between the "haves" and the "have nots". Traditionally money and power define class. If we defund police sufficiently in communities of color, we will also see class have an advantage on public safety. That isn't the intention of this, I know, but it could very well be the end result.
Well written article Nick! Can’t wait to reads the next one! Keep up the great work bruh!