By Glen Ford
10 Sep 2020
Community control puts us on the path to both defunding and abolishing the police – so why are many Black Lives Matter chapters withholding support?
The Black masses want justice, security and democracy (also known as “self-determination”) to be part of the equation.”
Despite the unprecedented wave of “Justice for George Floyd” protests that put more than 20 million people in the streets in every region of the nation in June, and the appearance of “Black Lives Matter” murals on the streets of Washington DC, New York City, Seattle, Oakland, Tulsa and other cities, police killings of Blacks have continued their grisly pace. Citing the subsequent murders of Trayford Pellerin in Lafayette, Louisiana, Miguel Vega in Chicago, Dijon Kizzee in Los Angeles, “the recent evidence of the murder of Daniel Prude at the hands of Rochester police and the continued denial of Justice for Breonna Taylor” in Louisville, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is calling for a “national day of protests” on Saturday, September 19.
“Like the pandemic, these police shootings are raging unchecked,” said Alliance executive director Frank Chapman. “The powers that be, those in and out of the Trump Administration have no intention of conceding to the just demands of the people…. The only decisive action taken has been against peaceful protestors.”
“These police shootings are raging unchecked.”
Congress and the White House have offered nothing “except a uniform chorus condemning violence in the abstract instead of the racist violence being mercilessly imposed on Black people on a daily basis,” said Chapman, in a prepared statement. He denounced “Trump’s refusal to condemn racist vigilante violence while he eagerly exploits every opportunity to deploy DHS, U.S. Marshalls and federal troops against peaceful protestors. This is not only a disturbing indicator of how far down the road he has gone toward squashing with violence and terror the people’s right to protest, it is also a testament to his willingness to be a demagogue crying for law and order to win the election or undermine it.”
The people must keep up the pressure on September 19th, with the following demands:
* We demand that the cops who shot or murdered Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, Jacob Blake, Miguel Vega, and Trayford Pellerin be immediately arrested, charged and convicted.
* We demand the immediate withdrawal of federal agents and National Guard troops sent to our cities to brutalize protestors and terrorize our communities.
* We demand real police accountability through all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Councils (CPAC) establishing community control of the police, shifting police funding to essential public services like education, housing, and healthcare and regulating police to address the real demands for safety of the people.
“Keep up the pressure.”
The Alliance was first formed in the 1973 and was resurrected last year at a 1,000-strong national conference in Chicago, where grassroots organizations from more than 20 cities pledged to redouble their efforts to win community control of police. Among them was the Twin Cities Justice for Jamar Clark Coalition from Minneapolis-St. Paul, where a cop crushed the life out of George Floyd. Frank Chapman spoke to the Twin Cities coalition at the height of the protests, in June:
“You gotta give people definite, clearly defined objectives in terms of what are they fighting for. So when we demand community control of police, we are demanding…defund and demilitarize, as well…. We will control what the police do in our community; we will decide who polices our communities and how our communities are policed. That means we can also have a decisive voice in what the budget is.”
Chicago’s movement for community control of the cops is by far the most advanced in the nation, with at least 19 of 50 city council members pledged to pass CPAC, the Chicago Police Accountability Council with powers to appoint the police superintendent, create the department’s rules and regulations, appoint members of the police board that hear disciplinary case, and approve or reject contracts with police unions.
According to the pending Chicago legislation, the cops will be subordinate to community members elected to four-year terms, who must have at least two years of experience in “civil rights, activist and organizing groups” that protect the rights of people who have faced police brutality. Community members will also be eligible to be elected to the council if they have worked to protect “minorities, LGBTQ people, immigrants, Muslim communities, people with mental illness and people who are homeless.” However, people that have been employed in or have family members in law enforcement, worked in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and/or have any connections with an entity of city government would not be eligible to run for a seat on CPAC – which would pay the same salary as Chicago aldermen.
“When we demand community control of police, we are demanding…defund and demilitarize, as well.”
The keynote speaker at last year’s re-founding of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression was Angela Davis, whose writings on abolition of prisons and police have inspired many Black Lives Matter activists. Professor Davis wholeheartedly supports community control of the police. Yet most of Black Lives Matter’s 14 U.S. chapters have failed to embrace community control, instead calling for “defunding” and “abolition” of the ccps.
Frank Chapman stresses that CPAC provides communities with the power to achieve all of their goals, including abolishing police as we have known them. As he explained to Black Agenda Report, this summer:
“All of the reforms being called for, including abolishing and defunding the police – reforms that directly affect the current existence of the police as outside occupiers of our communities — are embedded in CPAC,” said Chapman. “CPAC is the way to ensuring these demands are met. CPAC puts the power of reform in the hands of communities through directly elected representatives. That’s community control. With community control, we decide the if, when, and how of policing – up to and including abolition. With community control, we can defund, demilitarize, and regulate the police out of existence. Communities can reimagine a world without police – but not without the power to do so themselves.”
Chapman is careful not to exacerbate any tensions between Black Lives Matter activists and proponents of community control of police, and his National Alliance is rigorously non-sectarian. It is our job at BAR, as activist journalists and political analysts, to point out the pitfalls of demands like “abolition” and “defunding” of the police, that do not directly empower the people. As I wrote in BAR on June 18:
“If anything has been learned from the past half century of Black reliance on Democratic Party politicians, it is that no lasting victories can be achieved without the transfer of control of public resources directly to the people. That was the meaning of “All Power to the People” when the phrase was coined, and must remain the goal of the movement, today.”
Local city councils are liable to agree to all kinds of things under the immediate pressure of massed, angry protesters and burning buildings, as we witnessed with the Minneapolis city council’s no longer operative vow to get rid of its police force. The difference between reformist demands and revolutionary (or “transformative”) demands, is that revolutionary/transformative demands diminish the power of the oppressor and his machinery of rule, while increasing the power of the people in concrete ways. No amount of promises or “woke”-sounding rhetoric from city councils that have always empowered the police to kill Black people at will, can satisfy the need for people’s power over the police.
“No lasting victories can be achieved without the transfer of control of public resources directly to the people.”
The police earn their salaries by killing Black and brown people and terrorizing our neighborhoods, whether the cops are fully-funded, or not. “Defunding” does not change the nature of policing, much less “abolish” it. Community control puts us on the path to both goals, if the people will it.
As I wrote back in June, the principled demand for community control should be expanded:
“Indeed, communities should control, not just the police, but much of the rest of their neighborhoods’ vital services and resources. The right to self-determination is not confined to the criminal justice system. Therefore, community control of police advocates would be in principled agreement with the Los Angeles Movement 4 Black Lives position : “The most impacted in our communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us – from our schools to our local budgets, economies, and police department.”
In Chicago, the teachers union supports both community control of the police and community control of the schools. With community control as our demand, we win allies among those who also seek transformative change.
Black and brown people want power to improve their lives and throw off oppression – not gestures from the rulers, but permanent, institutional power. Our people also want — and have a right to — security in their homes and communities. But, for half a century Black Americans have been criminalized as a people by the Mass Black Incarceration Regime, starved of jobs, robbed of wealth and drowned in criminal-minded cultural products. Many of our people see the narcotics trade as the only accessible economy. Crime is an acute problem in Black America, a scourge created and nurtured by the same oppressors that inflict the punishments for those ensnared in their demonic trap.
Open-ended calls to “defund” and “abolish” the police often do not play well with the Black masses, who want justice, security and democracy (also known as “self-determination”) to be part of the equation. Community control of the police – or fully-resourced community self-policing, if that is what the people choose – can provide Black and brown communities with the power, rights and resources to rebuild the social structures that have been deliberately ravaged by the rulers. And it has already proven to play well in Chicago, the second largest concentration of Black people in the nation.
September 19 should be, not only a national day of protest, but the start of a dialogue among activists as to why so many Black Lives Matter chapters have withheld support from community control of the police, a demand that, in Frank Chapman’s words, “embodies” both “defunding” and “abolition” – a principled position that their best known living Icon, Angela Davis, enthusiastically supports.