Timely book recommendations

I’m joining a book discussion tomorrow that will be facilitated by activist, organizer, and educator Mariame Kaba as part of Project NIA. We’re reading The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist. As I tweeted earlier today, “Lay didn’t try to “reform” slavery, but treated it as the absolute horror it was, calling out ALL who participated in the system. Inspiring! Solidified my stance on PIC abolition.”

I highly recommend reading this book about an extraordinary man who fought against slavery for 40 years (during the 1700s), “suffering endless persecution, ridicule, and repression, without a movement to support and sustain him.”

This book feels especially timely as we mourn Tortuguita (forest defender/climate justice warrior, and abolitionist) who was murdered by the police for defending against Cop City in Atlanta AND the murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police (not going to link because don’t want to inadvertently include video). Also? This book is timely because in 2022, the police killed more people than ever (1,176) which is nearly 100 people killed every single month.

We cannot reform state sanctioned violence. We must defund the police. We must abolish the police. Then, all those billions of dollars must go to communities so that people are housed, fed, and receiving health care. Police do not keep us safe. We keep us safe.

Benjamin Lay pushed back against a system that many considered inevitable and here-to-stay. Back then, people thought it was futile to oppose slavery and we’re currently facing that same mindset regarding the police. Do you know how/why we have police in the United States? They started as slave patrols, men hired to hunt down enslaved people who ran away. Policing has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with protecting capital.

I’m tired and upset, and possibly not writing very eloquently, so if you’re interested in learning more about prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition, I highly recommend Mariame Kaba’s We Do This ‘Til We Free Us. She and the other contributors do a stellar job getting across their information and perspectives.

I’m currently working to find an agent to represent my middle grade novel about two kids in a small town divided over the presence of a for-profit prison, and was able to write the ending I wanted for that story. In the meanwhile, a whole lot of people are fighting for the creation of a safer reality in the here and now. Benjamin Lay would be proud.

‘Merica, amirite?

On our way up the street for a hike in the open space (our much-needed break from the coup attempt by the terrorists** white nationalist fascists), I was disappointed but not at all surprised to see this sign still prominently displayed in front of a house:

In case you missed it, this sign loudly proclaims POLICE PROTECT US and
VIOLENCE IS NOT THE ANSWER.

Sure, dude.

I can’t help think about how Standing Rock protestors fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline were hit with water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets during the Obama administration.

Or how over the past year of historic protests and marches for Black Lives, militarized police forces around the country brutalized protestors.

Or how almost exactly one year ago, 37 climate activists and I were arrested and jailed for singing a song outside the Colorado chamber as Governor Polis (Democrat) gave his State of the State address. We later learned from a former CO state legislator about an incident in which a spectator yelled a death threat during a legislative session. That person (a white male) was merely escorted from the building. No handcuffs. No fine or charges. No jail time.

What’s happening today as the entire world watches? Cops are taking selfies with the terrorists** white nationalist fascists who broke into the capitol.

This isn’t a shock. An armed militia entered the Michigan capitol in April 2020 , legislators in session wearing bullet proof vests, and nothing was done about it. Violence has not only been tolerated, but encouraged, throughout our nation’s history. This country was built on genocide and white supremacy, and only certain kinds of dissent are allowed. The police only protect a certain demographic.

Same as it ever was.

** edited to replace my use of “terrorist” after reading this tweet:
https://twitter.com/bodega_gyro_ao/status/1347245711482646530
absolutely not my intent to amp up the “war on terror” with added policing, surveillance, etc. that would target other groups

Defund the Police

The growing movement that calls for defunding the police, instead putting that money into community programs, is getting push-back from the pundits, elites, consultants, establishment politicians . . .aka the comfortable/powerful. Why?

The policemen or soldiers are only a gun in the establishment’s hand. They make the racist secure in his racism. ~Huey Newton

Photo credit: Ira L. Black – Corbis – Getty Images

We dump obscene amounts of money into police departments around the country, departments that harass, oppress, and murder Black people.

The NYPD’s budget is $6,000,000,000. That’s more than the city spends on health, homelessness, youth development and workforce development COMBINED.

That NYPD budget is higher than the entire military budget of Ukraine, a country with a population 5x that of NYC.

NYC spent $229.8 million on police misconduct lawsuits in a single year.

But it’s not just NYC. Austin’s police department budget is $440,000,000. That’s more than the city spends on public health, housing, libraries, city planning, parks & recreation and EMS combined.

Minneapolis spent more than 11 percent of its budget on policing. For comparison, just 1.5 percent went to the Health Department.

LAPD budget: $3.14 billion

CDC budget: $11 billion
+ EPA budget: $9 billion
+ FEMA budget: $3 billion
+ OSHA budget: $558 million
_____________________________
= TOTAL: $23.6 billion
**************
US police budget: $115 billion

I could go on and on, but it’s pretty clear: this insanity must end.
#DefundPolice