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Defunding the police—it’s about revisioning and building anew

An exchange between Angela Davis and Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman: You write in Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, “Neoliberal ideology drives us to focus on individuals, ourselves, individual victims, individual perpetrators. But how is it possible to solve the massive problem of racist state violence by calling upon individual police officers to bear the burden of that history and to assume that by prosecuting them, by exacting our revenge on them, we would have somehow made progress in eradicating racism?” Explain what exactly you’re demanding.

Angela Davis: Neoliberal logic assumes that the fundamental unit of society is the individual, and I would say the abstract individual. According to that logic, Black people can combat racism by pulling themselves up by their own individual bootstraps. That logic recognizes—or fails, rather, to recognize that there are institutional barriers that cannot be brought down by individual determination. If a Black person is materially unable to attend the university, the solution is not affirmative action, they argue, but rather the person simply needs to work harder, get good grades and do what is necessary in order to acquire the funds to pay for tuition. Neoliberal logic deters us from thinking about the simpler solution, which is free education.

Angela Davis: The call to defund the police reflects only one aspect of the process represented by the demand. Defunding the police is not simply about withdrawing funding for law enforcement and doing nothing else.

It’s about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions—mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms. It’s about shifting funding to education, to housing, to recreation. All of these things help to create security and safety. It’s about learning that safety, safeguarded by violence, is not really safety.

I would say that abolition is not primarily a negative strategy. It’s not primarily about dismantling, getting rid of, but it’s about reenvisioning. It’s about building anew. I would argue that abolition is a feminist strategy. And one sees in these abolitionist demands that are emerging the pivotal influence of feminist theories and practices.

What we’re calling for is a process of decriminalization, recognizing that threats to safety, threats to security, come not primarily from what is defined as crime, but rather from the failure of institutions in our country to address issues of health, issues of violence, education, etc. So, abolition is really about rethinking the kind of future we want, the social future, the economic future, the political future. It’s about revolution, I would argue.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now, which you can hear locally on KAOS (89.9), KOWA (106.5) or KBCS (91.3) or streaming. The full interview with Angela Davis ran on June 12, 2020.

The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which tracks white supremacist and far-right groups, has counted nearly 200 appearances by vigilantes and far-right extremists at protests in the United States over the past few weeks.

Alexander Reid Ross, a researcher at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right and author of Against  the Fascist Creep, separately counted scores of such appearances, 12 of which involved police collaboration or support.

Many officials, including President Donald Trump, have repeatedly blamed protest violence on the anti-fascist movement known as antifa and the “radical left.” But the violence in Albuquerque isn’t the first instance of right-wing vigilantes being criminally charged for actions during recent protests. On June 2, federal prosecutors in Nevada charged three members of the Boogaloo movement, which seeks to accelerate the collapse of the political system via civil unrest, with conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosives. An Army Reserve member and two military veterans were allegedly headed to downtown Las Vegas with gas canisters and Molotov cocktails. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors in California charged a U.S. Air Force sergeant linked to the Boogaloo with murder for killing a federal security officer near a courthouse in Oakland. He was also charged separately for killing a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Cruz County.

Excerpted from “Armed vigilantes antagonizing protesters have received a warm reception from police” by Mara Hvistendahl and Alleen Brown. It originally appeared on The Intercept (theintercept.com).

[Note: Watch this video for a straightforward account of the people who came to intimidate Olympia residents, including their links to other far right organizations and even a politician https://youtu.be/qaJv8k65QCE]

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