FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

On Organizing Against Police Violence

“Organization is the weapon of the oppressed.”

– Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael)

Racialized working-class communities and individuals and Indigenous peoples in North America know the daily reality of police violence and containment. We do not need the intervention of civil liberties organizations, critical criminology courses or the exposure of police violence at a G20 Summit to become conscious of the fact that when the police serve and protect, we are not included within that protective cloak.

Based on our experience of colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalist exploitation, we are quite aware of the fact that the police serve and protect the interest of socially dominant groups. We have the scars, memories of loved ones and comrades maimed or killed or the presence of the police in our communities as an occupation army as objective and wise teachers of the true role of the police in an oppressive society.

The killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, after a trial in Florida, inspired outrage and mobilization among Afrikan people and others of good conscience across North America.

On July 27, 2013, a Toronto cop killed 17-year-old Sammy Yatim in a case that reeks of unwarranted and excessive use of force against this racialized and mentally distress child. The killing was caught on tape and widely circulated in the media. This killing has mobilized many of Toronto’s youth and others in the street and on blogs, Facebook pages and walls and twitter.

However, mobilizing around each case of police violence and sitting down when the issue in no longer showing up in our Facebook news feed and in the mass media will not tackle this oppressive behaviour. We need to organize on a 24/7 basis against police violence. It can only be done through organizations and the accompanying programmes and projects that check the action of these agents of violence.

The following actions are offered as a path to organizing the community against police violence and they ought to be executed as part of an integrated and comprehensive approach:

1. Form local community-controlled organizations that organize, educate and mobilize against police violence. In the past, we have neglected to organize local communities and equip them with the knowledge, skills, attitude and material resources to tackle police violence.

2. Develop “Know Your Rights” educational programmes so that the members of the community are aware of the full range of their rights and the information that they can legally withhold from the police. Often-times members of our communities consent to the search of their person and possession as well as give the police personal information out of ignorance of the dictates of the law.

3. Organize Copwatch programmes that visually record the interaction of the police with members of the community. The Black Panther Party was the originator of the practice of observing and recording the action of the police. We should acquire the audio-visual resources to document acts of police violence. The negative reaction of many cops on being filmed interacting with the public is an indication that they might have something to conceal from us.

4. Create smart phone applications that record acts of police violence. The New York Civil Liberties Union has created a “stop and frisk” phone application that films police action, alerts users to the location of an incident of police violence and generates a survey to document the details of the contact with the police.

5. Organize a creative and sustained public education campaign. There has been a decline in Canadians’ confidence in the police. Police accountability organizers should use this development to educate the people about the structural nature of police violence. The police are the guardians of the systems of privilege and social domination and we need to make this reality a self-evident truth in the consciousness of the people.

6. Develop a roster of human rights and criminal defense lawyers. The names and contact information of these lawyers would be widely circulated on wallet-sized cards with “Know Your Rights” information. These lawyers would serve as first responders when one is detained or arrested by the cops. The Law Union of Ontario could be a source for the recruitment of lawyers to defend people against police violence. You would search for progressive lawyers in your community, if there is not an association of social justice-oriented lawyers.

7. Sue the police in small claims court. We would educate and support people who are victimized by police violence to seek financial compensation in small claims courts for certain types of violation of their rights.

8. Use human rights tribunals to make police violence financially costly. Some complainants have used human rights tribunal to win financial awards or settlements from city governments and/or cops. The wide-scale and successful use of the tribunal might force the city to reign in the violent behaviour of the police.

9. Link our work against police violence to the mass incarceration of indigenous and racialized people. The class, gender and racial implications of the prison industrial complex must be exposed, challenged and eliminated.

We need to join or create organizations and build a mass movement to fight police violence and the prison industrial complex.

Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is an organizer with the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity and the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.

More articles by:

Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is an educator, organizer and writers. He is an organizer with the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail