Everything You Would Call the Cops For, The Cops Have Done to Me

By Teka Lark (June 15, 2020)

CW: sexual assault

I heard someone say, “We need the police, what if you get home invaded.” Chances of that happening are almost nonexistent for boring people who worry about being home invaded on Facebook. That’s a crime you have to plan out, it’s not a dash-and-grab kind of situation, and it typically involves people who you know.

I, unfortunately, DID get home invaded: by the police. I hid behind the piano while the police dressed in street clothes ransacked my house and destroyed my computer owing to some stories I wrote in my newspaper.

I remember my first interaction with the police. I was 14 years old, my friend had called the police on the drug dealers next door (look up Rampart for details on that). Turned out the drug dealers next door were also the police. They put guns to our heads and threatened to drop our bodies in the LA River.

My second interaction with the police, I was 15. I was a camp counselor, and for some reason, the police helped to run the camp. Anyways, a police officer offered to take me home. In the car, he put his hand on my leg. Right before he got to my house, he stopped the car and sexually assaulted me in the car. I had begged my parents to let me have a job. They said they were worried something would happen to me, so I did not tell anyone what happened, and I hung out at the library for the rest of the summer.

I have only called the police one time in my entire life.

In 2003, I called the police when my friend’s (who was on vacation) taco stand in Los Feliz looked like it had been robbed. When the police arrived, it became apparent that they were viewing me as the perpetrator of the crime, so I somehow managed to get them to let me go to the bathroom of the eatery next door, and once I got in the bathroom, I exited the window and went home.

I have been questioned half a dozen times by the police for not having a car and waiting for the bus to work as a special education kindergarten teacher. Fun fact: If the police think you’re a sex worker and question you about it, they also sexually harass and/or try to become a client when they stop you.

I have ZERO positive stories of the police. I have had 100% negative interactions. They have never solved a problem; they have never made anything better; they have almost always made things worse.

Literally, everything you call the police for, the police themselves have done to me. Is that called irony?

But really, I don’t think if you’re white, you’ll have to worry. I really can’t see the United States allowing you to be treated the way I have been treated, cops or no cops. That would be barbaric.


There is a New Possibility in the Air

By Louis Colombo (June 9, 2020)

What’s striking about Democratic proposals for police reform, aside from the awful optics provided by Pelosi and Schumer (best forgotten), is that proposals that would have seemed to most people pretty bold and forward looking a few weeks are already being met by charges that they don’t go far enough (they don’t). But the “obviousness” of this awareness shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Instead we should recognize a real win for all the folks involved in the protests – a shift in mass consciousness so that now the real conversation isn’t about whether chokeholds should be legal (duh, no), but what “defining the police means,” what that would like in action, what new resources and types of “first responders would take the place of police,” etc.

There’s a new spirit of possibility in the air, new worlds being not just imagined, but discussed, and to this we owe the protestors – the kids on the ground – a world of gratitude.



Why “Demilitarizing Law Enforcement” Will Make the Country Safer

By Mark Naison (June 9, 2020)

If we want to have a society where life expectancy and infant mortality are not at the bottom of advanced nations, and where 50% of the wealth doesn’t accrue to the top 1 percent, we have to gradually shift public funds from prisons and policing to education, health care, and affordable housing.

As we have learned from this Pandemic: NO ONE is safe when poor people and people of color are packed together in crowded residences, deprived of preventive health care, and concentrated in the most dangerous and lowest paying occupations.

As protests continue in every city, town and hamlet, we need to commit ourselves to “demilitarizing” our law enforcement apparatus and investing in a broad array of measures that improve public health and expand economic opportunity.

It is gratifying to see a broad range of leaders in business and government proclaim “Black Life Matters” and commit themselves to an honest effort to confront their own complicity in the promotion and preservation of racism and white supremacy, but without major changes in how law enforcement functions, and how public funds are distributed, these efforts at moral reformation may have little lasting impact on how we actually live
in our communities.


Labor Must Be Part of the Movement to Defund the Police

By Hyung Nam (June 9, 2020)

As we work to Defund Police and rethink public safety, it’s important for labor be a part of this struggle. We need to avoid the jobs vs justice argument we’ve dealt with in climate and #Medicare4All campaigns (people who work in insurance and billing).

There are bad individual cops but a bigger problem is the role they play for the ruling class and public officials who serve them, instead of the public and the working class. We should argue for good jobs for all. Cops also face problems with PTSD because of their jobs and what those jobs are expected to do.

We need to transform this system and fight for racial justice and an egalitarian society where we all do plenty of socially and environmentally useful work. #JustTransition!

No Longer Defensive

(Photo by Heather Mount, @heathermount)

By S. (June 2, 2020)

A number of thoughtful friends have reached out to ask me how I’m doing in the wake of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Christian Cooper and the riots that followed.

Short answer: I’m optimistic.

Longer answer: 20 years ago Amadou Diallo was murdered by the police and the conversations I had with many of my friends were very discouraging. Lots of blaming the victim. The discussions turned toward the circumstances. Oscar Grant was shot with the barrel of a gun pressed against his head 10 years ago. Many of my white friends just didn’t want to talk about it.

Six years ago was Michael Brown’s murder. He was no angel according to many people who didn’t know him.

When recounting the story of a family member’s brush with police, a close white friend wanted to know why he wasn’t faster in obeying the cop. This Becky blamed my family member for his brutal treatment, false arrest, and subsequent criminal record. Today, her posts are all fire. She gets it. In the past many of my white friends, possibly you too, dear reader, would go junior CSI on me and try to prove that every dead black person had it coming.

The majority of white people I know are waking up to the reality of being black and brown in America. They are no longer questioning the narratives of police brutality. Rather they are questioning the police.

I can finally talk to you all and not be on the defensive. I’m no longer having to bury my emotions so that we can have a rational conversations about the facts and circumstances. I’m no longer having to play defense attorney trying to prove the overwhelming and unbelievable story that a white cop might kill a black person without cause.

You Plan to Go Hand to Hand with Robocop?

By Teka Lark (October 30, 2019)

The current Bosstown Dynamics video circulating is a parody of the very real Boston Dynamics and you should still be concerned.

The only thing fake about it is that the technology isn’t quite there yet, but it is only a decade off. According to Stars and Stripes (June of 2018), Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert was a former military contractor who got much of his funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Since 1994, Boston Dynamics has received over $150 million in defense funding.

I have talked about this for a decade. The police are tools. And yes, we need to discuss the individuals, but we also need to discuss the unsexy-might-be-longer-than-a-tweet policies, economic and constitutional. What kind of anti-bias and unconscious bias training do you have planned for police robots? What kind of advisory board do you have planned for drones? How long should a robot sit in jail for murdering you?

So you plan on fighting back in hand to hand combat? You are going to do a shootout with a robot? What damage do you think you can do when technology can come at you from above with a drone that never goes to sleep.

As we need to think tactically about the knowledge we have in regards to labor and technology, we also need to start thinking this way when it comes to the criminal injustice system.

The future wealthy won’t need humans to do the killing directly, they will only need the police and a system that enables them to enact those policies.


What Would Justice for Botham Jean Look Like?

By Teka Lark (October 3, 2019)

White America believes in vengeance. It believes in an eye for an eye. The Botham Jean case was so very hard to watch, because here is a Black man who was perfect, as perfectly good as a human can be–because if he hadn’t been, the defense would have found out his imperfections and smeared them all over the Internet.

People say if he were a white man, Amber wouldn’t have shot him or she would have gotten more time than 10 years – but here is the thing: a white man with Botham’s credentials and talent wouldn’t be living next door to a cop. If Botham were a white man he’d be living in NY making half a million dollars. The reason he was living next door to a cop in a Dallas suburb, was because he was a Black man, because these are the kinds of people that even the most talented of Black people end up next to when they do well. They end up next to angry, barely middle class, white people who have failed. And this puts us in all kinds of danger. People who have grown up with trauma, who are angry, because they have had their dreams crushed owing to capitalism, and only have their whiteness to lean on, are dangerous people for Black people to be around. Well they are pretty dangerous for anyone, but typically it is OK to kill Black people if you feel angry and say “you’re scared.”

They are never scared. I learned that a long time ago; they just lie, the police lie, the women on the cellphone lie, and the people next door lie, they are all liars.

Our system of justice is dishonest, punitive, and sadistic –just like our country, the United States.

You know I don’t want the kinds of wins that white nationalism celebrates, that Americans celebrate. It has never brought me joy to see a person sentenced to the maximum prison time or the death penalty, even if I know they did it.

What would a victory for Botham Jean have looked like for me? A victory would be him being alive, a system where no one has to fail, a system where everyone feels supportive, and a system that doesn’t create situations that are unforgivable. Anything less than that to me –is still losing.

I don’t want your eye. I don’t need your eye. I don’t want vengeance, I want justice.



What Could Happen if Trump Tries to Deport Children and Families

By Mark Naison (June 22, 2019)

Do not assume that Donald Trump’s planned deportation raids will produce the results he intends- unless his goal is the bring the nation to the edge of Civil War.

In places where public sentiment is strongly against such policies, I.C.E. Agents may face such massive civil disobedience that they will need US military escorts to carry out their mission, since local police will not cooperate and governors will not send the national guard in support

There are two examples from US History which anticipate such a scenario

The first took place after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850. In response, Abolitionists not only hid escaped slaves from government agents and private detectives trying to capture them, they organized large groups of people to surround houses where fugitives had been cornered and dared agents to shoot their way in. As a result, in places where anti slavery sentiment was strong, such as Boston. it became impossible to enforce the new law. This virtual nullification of the Fugitive Slave Law was one of the major reasons behind the rise of secessionist sentiment in the South.

The second took place during the early years of the Great Depression in large sections of the Bronx. As thousands of families were being thrown into the street for non payment of rent, radicals began employing a novel tactic. Every time a family was thrown into the street, they would organize groups of outraged neighbors to put the furniture back. Since it cost money to carry out an eviction, if you did this often enough, it was actually cheaper to keep families in apartments than keep calling in marshals to throw them out. When outraged landlords decided to get the police to accompany marshals, they sometimes faced thousands of people deployed on streets and rooftops to resist the police. So effective we’re these tactics that by 1932, it became almost impossible to carry out evictions in Bronx neighborhood such as Bronx Park East and Crotona Park East that we’re radical strongholds.

It may seem that enforcing a law is a relatively straightforward thing. But enforcing a law that is widely viewed as unfair and unjust can produce such massive resistance as to render it unenforceable.


When the Klan was Tax Supported in Ohio

By Teka Lark (May 28, 2019)

People say that in Dayton, Ohio that only 9 members of the Ku Klux Klan showed up and that it was a win for US, the community.  But that was no win. According to the Time Magazine article, “9 People Showed Up for a KKK Rally in Dayton, Ohio. They Were Drowned Out by 600 Protestors” by Tara Law, it was stated that 350 police officers showed up.

I would interpret that as 359 people showed up to assert the rights of the Ku Klux Klan and white nationalism. I know it is redundant to say the Ku Klux Klan is white nationalism, but as a country, we are losing historical and institutional memory.  So I’m going to restate that as redundant as it may be for people born before 1980.

The far-right isn’t a fringe group. It is the foundation of this country. It is the 2nd Amendment which exists, so that white nationalism can protect itself against the presence of Africans and Indigenous people. It exists in the prison industrial complex, which overwhelmingly jails the poor of all races and Black and Indigenous people across socioeconomic lines.

It exists in the economics, where white households median net worth is $141,000 and the median net worth for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx households is under $15,000; where the probability of a loan denial is 36.9% higher for black-owned firm in comparison to a white, male owned business counterparts according to the American Economic Association; where all minority groups small businesses faced racial discrimination based upon data from the 1998 and 2003 Survey of Small Business Finances according to the American Economic Association.

The narrative of the far-right rights has a stranglehold on the vast majority of our school’s curriculum and states that this country was discovered by Christopher Columbus instead of stolen from Indigenous people by murdering them and moving them to locations in the coldest and most barren parts of the United States, where nothing grows.

The far-right says we’re a country that is a nation of (European Immigrants) with an asterisk on Chinese immigrants who provided the huge amount of labor needed to build the majority of the Central Pacific’s difficult railroad tracks through the Sierra Nevada mountain. The existence of this railroad created prosperity and opportunity for many white people in the US, opportunities denied to Asian, Indigenous, African, and Latinx people until after the 1960s.

The far-right also minimizes the impact of the enslavement of African people who prior to the inception of this stolen country until 1865 were legally classified as property.

The far-right is the police department who has at every point in US history taken the side of white nationalism, until it was not economically fruitful to do so.

359 people showed up in Dayton to support white nationalism and 350 of them were backed by our tax dollars and our government.


“I Hope You Get Out”: Low Key Police Abolition

By James Rotten (October 12, 2018)

I met S. at the Alamo Drafthouse to have lunch and see Monsters & Men, which centers around a murder by cop. When it ended, she left and I stayed to pay our bill. There was just one other person in the theater, sitting next to me, with one empty seat between us.

I’ve been trying to get better at low-key agitating in my daily life, so I asked him what he thought of the film. We started to get into it, then he said, “It’s complicated for me because I’m a law enforcement officer.” “Holy shit, you gotta be kidding me.” I considered making a swift exit, but figured it could get interesting and it did.

He said he was a Nevada Highway Patrol cop, just visiting Denver. He works four ten-hour shifts and often travels on his three-day weekends. He was Puerto Rican, about 30, ex-military intelligence.

He was very candid about his experience as a cop. He claimed to be one of the good ones, of course: “Most guys look for an excuse to get violent, but I’ve never had to in my three years.”

The blue wall of silence was addressed in the film and he said it was very real. “You can’t say nothing, they’ll Serpico your ass,” referring to the cop who exposed police corruption and was threatened and harassed by his fellow cops. “They might kill you. But I’m not afraid to die. I ain’t got a family or nothin.” Was he saying he was gonna flip? Sure seemed like it, but he remained vague.

He expressed fear of his fellow cops. “I’ve got no problem with criminals, I come from a family of criminals. If anything ever happens to me, it’ll be from another law enforcement officer.”

He said Nevada is almost majority-Latino and admitted to his own prejudice against Latinos. “I feel like they’re all Sureños” (Mexican gangsters). “But if half the state is Latino, a tiny percentage are in a gang.” “Naw, you’re right. They (cop bosses) just push that narrative so hard. They teach us that we can be ambushed at any moment. I know it’s not true, but they try to tell us that it happens all the time.”

I told him I was an activist and a socialist, that I had been assaulted by cops multiple times, framed once, and that I fucking hated cops. He didn’t flinch—he nodded his head in fact, like “I get it.” I told him about how cops killed a comrade of mine, as well as my friend’s cousin, and how I’ve become friends with several other people who have lost loved ones to cops. He apologized.

I know it’s a fool’s errand to try to convince cops of anything and I have no hope that anything will come of this, but dude really did seem to be teetering on the edge. I asked him if he was trying to get out. He said he’s thought about trying to become a lawyer, but it’s hard to leave a career path and a job that pays well already. He also applied to Las Vegas PD, which he says pays the best in the country compared to the low cost of living there. “My rent is $300 a month! That’s why I can travel.” Apparently he lied on his application, claiming he read fewer books each year than he actually does.

He talked about getting hassled by cops and TSA for being Latino. He talked about the racist shit constantly spouted by his fellow officers. This led into me talking about the difference and interaction between individual racism among cops and the racist, structural role of police in society. I went deep for a minute, giving an overview of the Marxist view of police as enforcers of class rule. He nodded knowingly about cops’ origins as slave-catchers and strike-breakers.

I told him he was fooling himself if he thought he was a “good cop”. “Good cops provide political cover for bad cops. And lie or look the other way for them.” “You’re not going to make a bit of difference. You should quit.” And dude was taking it all in, it was a trip!

He mentioned getting shunned for his positive views of bodycams, which I awarded zero points for—“yeah, but they’re pointed at us, not y’all. And you can turn them off whenever you want, delete the footage, mute them, bury them in court.” He said he was one of the few men cops that was pro-women cops because they are better at deescalating.

We left the theater after sitting there for maybe half an hour. As we parted ways, he shook my hand, which I was uncomfortable with tbh. I told him, “I hope you get out.” Fuck every cop!

Portland Police Attacks on Protestors Part of a Historical Legacy of Violence

(By Joseph Orosco, August 14, 2018)

Alexander Reid Ross and Shane Burley have really important new article detailing the latest developments on the police violence that followed the Proud Boys/Patriot Prayer rally in Portland on August 4th.  Multiple sources immediately came out and indicated that the Portland Police Bureau deployed flash bang grenades and shot pepper ball rounds at antifa protestors after the Proud Boy gathering was winding down. Morever, the Portland Police claim that they did so after officers were attacked with projectiles from the protestors did not appear to be true based on activist video clips.  Several human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, have officially expressed concern and called for investigations.

Reid Ross and Burley write:

“Over the past two years, Patriot Prayer has led frequent demonstrations with the apparent support of white nationalist organizations and the Proud Boys, a radical-right fraternity. Often mixing in far-right talking points and alt-right agitation, the organization has become a thorn in Portland’s side, prompting mass-organized counter-protests that the Patriot Prayer attendees use as an invitation to attack demonstrators.

At another event on June 30, the Patriot Prayer crowd, led largely by the Proud Boys, initiated a series of attacks in clashes with anti-fascist protesters leading to a level of brutality unprecedented in Portland’s recent history. The violence had been escalating as the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer continued to stoke resentment against the relatively progressive city, and what they felt was unfair treatment at their rallies by both police and community members.

As the dust settled from the June 30 attack, which left several people arrested and in the hospital, Gibson announced the follow up for Aug. 4 while denouncing the police’s response. This surprised many counter-protesters, who insist that the Portland Police Bureau focused their crowd-dispersal methods — including chemical weapons and exploding “flash grenades” — almost exclusively on the left while actively protecting Patriot Prayer from advancing crowds.”

As I was reading this piece, I was also reading the graphic novel March, Book One, by Congressman John Lewis, which details his early activist days.  In particular it talks about his involvement in the Nashville student lunch counter sit-ins in 1960.  He points out that very often the white thugs would be allowed into the stores by store owners and they would proceed to beat up the students.  The police would be nearby but never intervene except when the white thugs had already gone.  Then they would come in and arrest the students for disorderly conduct.  You can watch a little of how that went down in this video from a documentary (CW: for white supremacist violence against young African American students):

I guess the lesson here is that when it comes to police action regarding protests, the more things change the more things stay the same.