Seeing history repeat itself during an unprecedented global pandemic was too much. The senseless deaths of George Floyd, D’Andre Campbell, and Regis Korchinksi-Paquet at the hands of the police and the killing Ahmaud Arbery by white white supremacists has sparked protests and revolts across the United States, Canada and around the world. Even as we are expected to remain in quarantine, mourning and outrage has spilled into the streets for over two weeks now demanding justice, an end to anti-Black racism and the defunding of the police. This is not the first time that Black communities and their allies have had to take the street to demand that Black Lives Matter. But these have been game changing weeks. Corporations and public officials scramble to catch up to the times, looking for photo ops and promising to do better all the while hoping that the same racist police brutality that sparked this moment will succeed in bringing protesters to heel. Despite those best efforts, this uprising has already achieved significant gains and have shifted the conversation about the role of the police. Instead of making empty promises of reform, power is being made to respond to the demand to defund police and invest in communities instead. We offer up this reading list as a resource to help understand the historical roots of racist policing, the demand to defund the police and to support the fight against anti-Black racism and settler-colonialism.
Racism, the Police State, and Canada
Defunding The Police Will Save Black And Indigenous Lives In Canada by Sandy Hudson (Huffington Post)
Black communities, indigenous communities, and communities living in poverty have an intimate knowledge of the ways that police can brutalize and inflict violence upon us. Their presence is no assurance of safety to these communities. On the other hand, you have communities – wealthier, non-Black, non-Indigenous, privileged communities who tend to feel safe because they have a rarely used option to call the police when they feel their safety is threatened but are generally not interacting with police.
Right now, the only emergency option available for most people who are experiencing mental distress is to call 911. Both D’Andre Campbell and Regis Korchinski-Paquet died while the police were attending to calls about their mental distress. As their tragic deaths show, when victims are not the right kinds of victims, police have utterly failed. Demands for increased accountability measures and community policing would divert more resources to police. But police budgets already make up a massive portion of city budgets. What if we diverted that funding to create free transit, increase access to housing, increase adult support for children in schools, and other services that create true safety and security?
“Instead of relying on police, we could rely on well-trained social workers, sociologists, forensic scientists, doctors, researchers and other well-trained individuals to fulfill our needs when violent crimes take place. In the event that intervention is required while a violent crime is ongoing, a service that provides expert specialized rapid response does not need to be connected to an institution of policing that fails in every other respect. Such a specific tactical service does not require the billions of dollars we waste in ineffective policing from year to year.”
Canada protests for George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet: Black Canadians face a racist system, too by El Jones (Washington Post)
While Canadians may be tempted to condemn police violence when it happens state side, we are less eager to recognize and challenge the long history of anti-black racism in our own country. From slave ownership to carding and police brutality, racism has deep Canadian roots. As the tragic deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, Eishia Hudson, Jason Collins, and Chantel Moore have shown, police have continued to kill black and indigenous people, even as the novel coronavirus pandemic has otherwise brought our world to a stand still.
“If Americans think of Canada as the not-so-racist neighbor to the north, that might be because that is the myth white people in Canada like to tell themselves. Canadian exceptionalism narratives locate anti-black racism as a problem felt acutely ‘over there.’ But black people have been suffocated for centuries in this country; we have long felt the boot on our necks here, as well.”
Yes, Canada Has a Racism Crisis and It’s Killing Black and Indigenous Peoples by Pam Palmater (Canadian Dimension)
Anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and violence in policing is as big an issue in Canada as it is in the United States. From coast to coast, Black and indigenous people are more likely to be killed, and the officers responsible such violence are rarely held accountable for their actions by civilian review boards or the courts.
“Blatant denials that racism exists in Canada serve only those who benefit from it, but silence is also violence. Silence is complicity that allows police abuses to continue unabated and in the case of Black and Indigenous peoples, to get worse.”
Why Black Canadians don’t believe Trudeau and Canada by Hawa Y. Mire (Ricochet)
Images of Trudeau kneeling for racial justice are hard to reconcile with the Prime Minister’s history of inaction on police reform and his personal history of wearing Black and Brown identities as halloween costumes. Canadian politeness would mandate that we paper over these contradictions, but this moment calls for action and yes, discomfort. We need to think expansively about how we defund and demilitarize the police while also looking critically at other arms of state repression like CSIS and the CBSA.
“National discussions on race cannot happen overnight — and they cannot be swept under the rug with platitudes asking Canadians to stand together. They take a toll on those of us already experiencing a deluge of racism in our everyday lives. Policy change has to be justice oriented, nimble, and flexible enough to dispense with bureaucracy when expedient for Black people, and careful enough to give time for the processing of the trauma presented — 151 years of history comes with a lot of baggage.”
Abolishing the police is the only reasonable response to Winnipeg Police killings by James Wilt (Candian Dimension)
Winnipeg Police continue to harass, intimidate, and kill people from Black and indigenous communities with little to no impunity from the failing civilian oversight unit. But that’s more or less what we can expect from an institution “that was literally created and expanded to violently dispossess Indigenous peoples from their homes, suppress labour organizing, and contain the increasing mobilization of communities abandoned by the state across North America.”
“Genuine justice, seeking reconciliation and restitution when harms are done to other people, can only be fostered in social conditions that are well-resourced and led by communities. That requires the “standing down” by colonial systems of “justice” that rely on racist and punitive measures anchored in revenge. In its place can emerge many other approaches including restorative justice, reparative practices, and community-level responses to situations of intimate partner violence and other forms of violence including assaults and sexual assaults. These alternatives are grounded in harm reduction, decolonization, and community.”
Edmonton Anti-Black Racism Toolkit by Bashir Mohamed (blog)
A primer on the history of anti-black racism in Edmonton and recent BLM organizing in the city. See also: Progress Alberta, Calgary and Edmonton spend more than $750 million a year on cops. It’s time to defund the police.
Black Lives Matter, Now and Always #JusticeForRegis by Meghana Rajanahally (Spring Magazine)
“As I watch black and brown bodies continue to pile up. Whether those deaths are due to COVID-19 which has disproportionately taken the lives of black people, or murders at the hands of a police force ostensibly meant to protect us all, I am no longer able to be silent.”
COVID-19 and the pandemic of anti-Black racism by Jesse McLaren (Spring Magazine)
“Sharon Roberts, Arlene Reid and Leonard Rodriques are all Ontario personal support workers who died as front-line workers during COVID-19. Regis Korchinski-Paquet was killed at the hands of the police at her Toronto apartment during COVID-19, and Obi Ifedi was assaulted by officers enforcing physical distancing. All are Black, and highlight the pandemic of anti-Black racism that preceded and is intertwined with COVID-19.”
Sacred fire lit for Chantel Moore in Madawaska First Nation as activists call for disarming and defunding the police by Tracy Glynn (New Brunswick Media Coop
“Members of Madawaska First Nation have lit a sacred fire for Chantel Moore, a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman from British Columbia who was killed by Edmundston police on June 4 during a ‘wellness check.’ Moore had recently moved to Edmundston to be closer to her five-year-old daughter and mother.”
Defund the Halifax Police by Harry Critchley (Halifax Examiner)
An information packed case for defunding the Halifax police by the Vice-Chair of the East Coast Prison Justice Society and the Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia.
Episode 103 – abolish the police | Sandy & Nora Talk Politics Sandy and Nora Talk Politics (podcast)
Sandy and Nora help put the present moment in context for Canadians. As BLM activists have been saying for years, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism lives here. If Canadians are less aware of our own history of police violence, it’s because the Canadian Media has refused to cover it. This episode also provides an excellent starting point for anyone looking to understand the “defund the police demand”, and why it includes decriminalizing misdemeanors like transit fare evasion and expanding other types of fundings to support Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities instead of criminalizing them.
Anti-black racism protests reignite calls to defund police featuring Sandy Hudson (CBC News – video clip)
Disarm and defund police and give money to communities featuring Desmond Cole (CBC News – video clip)
Black Lives Matter and the Demand to Defund
George Floyd’s Death Is a Failure of Generations of Leadership by Elizabeth Hinton (New York Times)
“We can’t let history repeat itself. While flames engulf at least 140 cities across the country, we must create a more egalitarian society out of the ashes by transforming policing. The blueprint was laid out in the 1960s — empowering low-income citizens to change their communities in their own vision, and investing in those alternatives at scale. Today we need the courage to act.”
George Floyd’s Death Shows the State Fails Black People by Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor (New York Times)
The simultaneous collapse of politics and governance has forced people to take to the streets to demand the most basic necessities of life, including the right to be free of police harassment or murder.
“The fact that Mr. Floyd was even arrested, let alone killed, for the inconsequential “crime” of forgery amid a pandemic that has taken the life of one out of every 2,000 African-Americans is a chilling affirmation that black lives still do not matter in the United States.”
The Police Killed George Floyd. Redirect Their Funding Elsewhere by Philip V. McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris (New York Times)
The solution to ending police violence and cultivating a safer country lies in reducing the power of the police and their contact with the public. We can do that by reinvesting the $100 billion spent on policing nationwide in alternative emergency response programs, as protesters in Minneapolis have called for. City, state and federal grants can also fund these programs.
Municipalities can begin by changing policies or statutes so police officers never respond to certain kinds of emergencies, including ones that involve substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness or mental health. Instead, health care workers or emergency response teams would handle these incidents.
“Here’s another idea: Imagine if the money used to pay the salaries of police officers who endlessly patrol public housing buildings and harass residents can be used to fund plans that residents design to keep themselves safe. The money could also pay the salaries of maintenance and custodial workers; fund community programs, employment and a universal basic income; or pay for upgrades to elevators and apartment units so residents are not stuck without gas during a pandemic, as some people in Brooklyn were. The Movement for Black Lives and other social movements call for this kind of redirection of funds.”
The Only Solution Is to Defund the Police by Alex Vitale (The Nation)
Since the murder of Eric Garner, police reforms have focused on procedural reforms to policing, such as the use of unconscious bias training and the use of body cameras. Recent studies show these reforms are not effective and often have more to do with political optics than actually curbing police brutality. See also link to Vitale’s free e-book in the Long Reads section.
“In part, that’s because they assume that the professional enforcement of the law is automatically beneficial to everyone. They never question the legitimacy of using police to wage a war on drugs, arrest young children in school, criminalize homelessness, or label young people as gangbangers and superpredators to be incarcerated for life or killed in the streets. A totally lawful, procedurally proper, and perfectly unbiased low-level drug arrest is still going to ruin some young person’s life for no good reason. There is no justice in that—and giving narcotics units anti-bias training will do nothing to change this fact.”
George Floyd protests: The police don’t change by Joel Anderson (Slate)
Police chiefs across the US condemned the murder of George Floyd. But, it’s more instructive to probe the actions of rank-and-file police officers since Floyd’s murder who have lined up to confront protestors across the US.
“The initial response of police leaders may have felt like progress, but video footage of police and protestors clashing in the streets reveals the truth: Officers are much closer to what we see in viral videos documenting their brutality than in the well-intentioned words of their leaders. Despite the shift in public statements, police haven’t changed since the protests of 2014 and 2015.”
Helpful pieces for talking to the skeptics in our lives
Frequently Asked Questions by MPD150
MPD 150 is a Minneapolis-based community initiative challenging the narrative that police exist to protect and serve. This beautiful succinct resource helps explain to folks who are new to the idea of police abolition why to really “fight crime,” we don’t need more cops; we need more jobs, more educational opportunities, more arts programs, more community centers, more mental health resources, and more of a say in how our own communities function. Like prison abolition, the call to defund the police is a political vision and an organizing model for a different type of future. Police abolition is a gradual process that redirects funding into resources that support communities.
Helpful for formulating answers to questions like “What about robbers, villains, murders?.” and “why not body cameras, police review boards and other reforms?” And also that old chestnut “This sounds good in theory but isn’t it impossible?”
Why Is This Happening? Thinking about how to abolish prisons with Mariame Kaba (NBC)
Mariam Kaba talks about punishment-based criminal justice and why it doesn’t work.Particularly helpful resource to suggest to someone who is grappling to understand why police-based solutions to gender-based violence do not work
“I’m a prison-industrial complex abolitionist, which means that I have a political vision and ideological commitments and belief in organizing, that we have to organize towards a horizon where we no longer have prisons, policing, and surveillance. That we figure out other ways of addressing harm within our communities.”
Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind by Rachel Kushner (New York Times)
This profile of long-time activist and abolitionist scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore is a great primer on the movement for prison abolition and the history of policing in the United States.
“Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”
Alternatives to Calling the Police: Anti-Racist Education for Asian Diaspora in Canada during COVID-19
A few weeks ago the CBC published an article that suggested that people who experience anti-Asian racism during the pandemic should call the police. A group of Asian organizers pushed back and created this resource document.
Reformist reforms vs. abolitionist steps in policing by Critical Resistance.org
Critical Resistance is a leading organization in the movement for an end to the carceral regime. In this helpful graphic, they break down the differences between a reformist reforms which continue to expand the reach of the police, and abolitionist approaches which chip away and reduce the impact of policing. Readers will find a helpful breakdown of the pitfalls with reforms like body cameras, civil oversight boards, and community policing.
Labour and Police
Why Black Lives Matter Is Taking On Police Unions by Adeshina Emmanuel (In These Times)
Police unions are not like other unions. They have historically had and continue to have outsized political clout, which they mobilize to thwart accountability and reform measures. In addition to protecting individual members who commit brutality, Police Collective Agreement provisions often interfere with local and federal attempts to increase police accountability and avoid civil-rights infractions by inhibiting efforts to improve the handling of police misconduct, create or extend civilian oversight, and establish early-warning systems for problem cops.
“The fact that police are empowered to use deadly force on the job makes them different from teachers or firefighers—and their unions’ success in securing far-reaching contract provisions that effectively block public oversight puts them in a different category from other beleaguered public-sector unions.”
Blood On Their Hands: The Racist History of Modern Police Unions by Flint Taylor (In These Times)
For a closer look at how Police fraternal societies have attempted to obstruct accountability initiatives and protect murderous cops in major U.S. cities.
The Bad Kind of Unionism by Shawn Gude (Jacobin)
“When police unions have widened their gaze beyond issues like compensation and working conditions, it’s been almost exclusively to conservative ends. The cop who rallies for collective bargaining today will be protecting Goldman Sachs tomorrow.”
Teamsters and Cops by Bryan Palmer (Jacobin)
Minneapolis teamsters in 1934 knew something we should remember — police enforce the ruling class’s unjust order.The blue dues of police business unionists, paid in seductive green, are red with the blood of the dispossessed, be they waged or unwaged, black or white. They don’t belong in a trade union movement based on the axiom, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”
Why the Labor Movement Must Join the Anti-Racist Struggle To Make Black Lives Matter by Andrew Tillett-Saks
This article supplies many concrete examples from US history of how racism has devastated the US labour movement, and how the weakness of the labour movement has made anti-racist struggle more difficult. It also provides a list of concrete steps unions can take to build the anti-racist movement that can finally provide the conditions for the growth of labour movement power.
“Racism is the lynchpin that holds corporate America together—as well as the shoals upon which American labor has sunk for centuries. Racism in America—past and present, from the colonial to the Trump era—divides workers so to prevent an effective united front. The American labor movement must seize the opportunity presented by the current upsurge and put its institutional support behind the anti-racist movement. It is more than a moral matter. Organized Labor’s very existence depends on it—no American worker movement will succeed so long as racism remains rampant in America.”
The Police Were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People, Not ‘Serve and Protect’ by Sam Mitrani (In These Times)
This article gives a good summary of the origins and role of the police in the US that other resources on this list give more detail on. It gives historical examples of when groups of rank-and-file police officers tried to be less oppressive towards the working class communities they came from and were disciplined for it.
The Socialist Case Against the Police – Part One: Origins & Function by Brian Bean (Rampant Magazine)
Modern policing emerged between 1820 and 1850 from the need to quell resistance to three interrelated developments in the early modern period: the British colonization of Ireland; the expansion of racialized slavery in the US South the rapid growth of a large, unruly urban working class in northern cities undergoing capitalist industrialization, whom factory owners needed to discipline and punish. Police don’t solve, stop or prevent crime because they were never designed to. Cops are the tools of the bosses, from the day they were invented to today. Policing is the violent enforcement of unequal social relations.
“There is an unbroken blue line in the history of the US South from slave patrol to modern police as the private violence of the labor camp was moved into the city.”
Abolish the Police: Part Two of The Socialist Case Against the Police by Brian Bean (Rampant Magazine)
This second part of the socialist case against the police takes a close look at what role the police play in our everyday lives, and whether they should be considered potential allies in the fight for a better world. Because of their class position and repressive role, the only means of improving the police is to abolish the very institution. Police abolition is tied up with the abolition of capitalism, and our efforts to rid ourselves of police is necessarily part of the struggle for a complete social revolution.
The role of the police is protecting capitalism by David Whitehouse (Socialist Worker)
This is the most detailed description of the historical development and role of police forces on this list. It provides an analysis of the importance of the street and street culture to working class community, and ‘public order’ policing as a response to that.
Feminist Perspectives on Policing and the Carceral State
How Can We Reconcile Prison Abolition With #MeToo? By Victoria Law (Filter)
As accusations against celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby mounted, calls for justice centered arrest and prison. The most vocal calls for “justice” failed to recognize that harsher punishments and lengthier sentences have always fallen hardest upon—and devastated—people and communities of color, while providing little safety or prevention from gender violence. Increased criminalization replaces abuse by an individual with abuse by law enforcement, courts and prisons while doing nothing to address the root causes of violence against women.
“many of the conversations about mass incarceration and prison abolition continue to center men, a focus that leads to a false binary in which men are incarcerated and women are victims. It’s a divide that excludes people (of any and all genders) impacted by both interpersonal and state violence, and thus fails to meet their needs.”
How Anti-violence Activism Taught Me to Become a Prison Abolitionist by Beth E. Richie (feminist wire)
The anti-violence movement buys into the carceral state by advancing “anti-violence” campaigns that rely on arrest, prosecution, and punishment as ways to solve the problem of gender violence. The focus of the problem is individual incidents of abuse rather than public policies that result in state violence against women and queer communities, which are ignored by feminist groups who invest in or accept resources that are tied to the growing punishment industry.
Against Carceral Feminism by Victoria Law (Jacobin)
Relying on state violence to curb domestic violence only ends up harming the most marginalized women. This article traces the negative impacts on women of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act in the US, which increased police resources and created tougher sentencing.
The Domestic Violence I Survived Taught Me the Importance of Prison Abolition by Michelle Zacarias (Transform Harm)
A complex personal account that emphasizes how women of colour have to navigate between interpersonal and state violence, finding community alternatives to the police to actually find safety.
“In the beginning, our physical altercations resulted in more shame than anything else. I was ashamed as a woman who proudly identified as a feminist. I was ashamed that I wasn’t “tough” enough to hold my own in a fight (I’m a hood femme from the West Side of Chicago, we don’t show weakness). I was ashamed that after everything my mother taught me about never letting men mistreat me, I had allowed myself to be in the situation. But it wasn’t until the first time that the cops showed up to our apartment that I felt genuine fear.
Looking back, I made a decision that I felt was right for my circumstances. So often, the criminal justice system retraumatizes victims of domestic and sexual violence, further magnifying the harm inflicted. Despite the fact that an estimated three women die every day from intimate partner violence, we are continually punished for defending ourselves. Studies show that women of color and low-income women are disproportionately affected by mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence.”
Surviving Rape as a Prison Abolitionist (Transform Harm)
“People try to poke holes in the prison abolition movement by asking “what about rapists, do you want them just wandering around?” but they already are.”
Union statements on the protests and anti-Black racism
CUPE calls for solidarity in the face of racism and violence by Canadian Union of Public Employees
“We must challenge and not be silent in the face of police brutality, white supremacy, and all forms of racist violence in the workplace and in our society. CUPE will remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure diversity and inclusiveness and to fight racism and hate in all its forms.”
Anti-Black racism runs deep but so does our commitment towards combatting it by Canadian Labour Congress
“The CLC is committed to raising awareness on the role of Canada’s labour movement to combat anti-Black racism, including providing educational opportunities to union members, as well as to the broader public, and publicly advocating for accountability and systemic change at the policy level.”
George Floyd’s words a reminder of the racism and hatred yet to be overcome by Amalgamated Transit Union
“The Amalgamated Transit Union has a long history of fighting for social justice as well as the rights and equal treatment of all people regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. If any good is to come of this, we in the labor movement and the nation must unite to stop the systemic cycle of injustice, racism and hatred that plagues our country.”
Anti-Black racism: It’s everyone’s fight by Public Service Alliance of Canada
“Silence as white or non-racialized people is complicity with white supremacy and with continuing acts of systemic anti-Black violence. What actions can we take collectively against anti-Black violence and oppression? How can we best support the Black community? We must challenge our systems and institutions. We must speak up in the face of injustice, racial violence and white supremacy. We must challenge our unconscious biases. We must be part of the solution.”
BC teachers stand together against racism and police brutality by BC Teachers’ Federation
“The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in broad daylight is the most recent manifestation of police brutality against African Americans. This latest murder has added to a long list of murders and violence toward Black community members at the hands of law enforcement, that has now reached a tipping point. Untold numbers of people are now taking to the streets in the USA and Canada to protest the ongoing violence against Black lives. We stand in solidarity with all those demanding an end to these egregious human rights violations and the white supremacy they reflect in both our countries.”
Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard (Fernwood Press)
Delving behind Canada’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, Policing Black Lives traces the violent realities of anti-blackness from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms and beyond. Robyn Maynard provides readers with the first comprehensive account of nearly four hundred years of state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization and punishment of Black lives in Canada.
The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale (Free E-Book, Verso)
This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve. In contrast, there are places where the robust implementation of policing alternatives—such as legalization, restorative justice, and harm reduction—has led to reductions in crime, spending, and injustice. The best solution to bad policing may be an end to policing.
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Edited by Joe Macaré, Maya Schenwar, et al. (Free E-Book, Haymarket)
What is the reality of policing in the United States? Do the police keep anyone safe and secure other than the very wealthy? How do recent police killings of young black people in the United States fit into the historical and global context of anti-blackness? This collection of reports and essays explores police violence against black, brown, indigenous and other marginalized communities, miscarriages of justice, and failures of token accountability and reform measures. It also makes a compelling and provocative argument against calling the police.
Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware (University of Regina Press)
The killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 by a white assailant inspired the Black Lives Matter movement, which quickly spread outside the borders of the United States. The movement’s message found fertile ground in Canada, where Black activists speak of generations of injustice and continue the work of the Black liberators who have come before them.
The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole (Penguin Random House)
Puncturing the bubble of Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more.
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Haymarket)
The eruption of mass protests in the wake of the police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City have challenged the impunity with which officers of the law carry out violence against Black people and punctured the illusion of a postracial America. The Black Lives Matter movement has awakened a new generation of activists. In this stirring and insightful analysis, activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor surveys the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and persistence of structural inequality such as mass incarceration and Black unemployment. In this context, she argues that this new struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader push for Black liberation.
Golden Gulag by Ruth Wilson Gilmore (University of California Press)
Gilmore’s text is groundbreaking in the prison abolition literature because it dispels the US dominated myth that prisons are exclusively tied to private companies. Gulag demonstrates that the rise of the prison industrial complex is tied to neoliberalism in the 1980’s and the slashing away of public services.
From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton (Harvard University Press)
In the United States today, one in every thirty-one adults is under some form of penal control, including one in eleven African American men. How did the “land of the free” become the home of the world’s largest prison system? Challenging the belief that America’s prison problem originated with the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs, Elizabeth Hinton traces the rise of mass incarceration to an ironic source: the social welfare programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society at the height of the civil rights era.
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis (Seven Stories Press)
Angela Davis’ book published in 2003 is now essential reading in the prison abolition literature. Her major contribution is exposing the ways that we take the prison institution for granted. By drawing upon the history and resistance against slavery and the convict-lease system, Davis argues that the time for prisons is approaching its end, and argues for decarceration in society as a whole.
Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the state, and law and order by Stuart Hall, Chas Chritcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, and Brian Roberts (MacMillan Press)
Moral panics have often been riled up by the ruling class to justify the criminalization of specific communities. In “Policing the Crisis,” Stuart Hall and his collaborators explore the moral panic about mugging–a conversation largely focused filtered through race–generated by the British government in the 1970’s. The book adopts a historical and structural view about how “race, crime, and youth” and adopts Gramsci’s view of the capitalist state as the vehicle for conforming civil society to the economic structure.
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, by Angela Y. Davis (Haymarket)
Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine. Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build the movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that “Freedom is a constant struggle.”
Policing A Class Society, by Sidney L. Harring (Haymarket)
An essential corrective to the ideas that police have always been around, that they are a force for deterring crime, or that they have an interest in the pursuit of justice. Looking at the growth of the urban police force around the turn of the 20th century, Harring argues that the police protected the interests of manufacturers, working almost as hired guns. Rather than fighting crime, the historical role of police was to control the leisure activity of the developing working-class and maintain the existing order of capitalist relationships.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (The New Press)
Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.
- Take care of yourself and those around you: Resources for Black Healing and Support, Greater Toronto Area
- Take actions called for by @NotAnotherBlackLife here
- Donate to a Bail Fund (Canadian bail funds at the bottom of the list)
- We Keep Each Other Safe: A Community Forum to Organize Alternatives to Policing – June 20
- 2020 Toronto Police Budget – Call For Action/Defunding Template
- 2020 Ottawa Police Budget – Call For Action/Defunding Template
- Support prisoners re-entering the community and the families of those still behind bars
- Sign this petition demanding that the Ontario government immediately repeal O Reg 114/20 which expands police powers and endangers oppressed communities
- Call Doug Downey, the Ontario Attorney-General, to demand #JusticeForRegis
- 2020 Vancouver Police Department Budget – Call For Action – DEFUND NOW
- Support Black Lives Matter – Vancouver
- Write to Mark Furey the Minister of Justice and tell him to drop all charges against Santina Rao Template letter here. Email to JUSTMIN@novascotia.ca
- Tell the Mayor and City Council to reverse the purchase of an armoured vehicle for the Halifax Regional Police
Join Spring’s online reading group: Abolish the police – June 26, 7pm EDT
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