The Police And The Next Steps: What Do We Want? Or Do We?

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Aristotleded24
The Police And The Next Steps: What Do We Want? Or Do We?

With the issues of policing in the news recently, and open calls to outright abolish police gaining traction, I thought it would be worthwhile to have a discussion about where we go.

Policing as we know it was essentially started by Robert Peel, who reportedly came up with the following principles for policing as per Wikipedia:

Quote:

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary, of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

It's true that modern policing grew out of slave patrols and as a means to supress labour uprisings in industrial cities. But if you look closely at this list, it is clear that on many points the police are failing the public by their own metrics and best practices.

Aristotleded24

Let's also talk about the use of force with the police. Anybody who has ever worked with the public, such as retail, knows that there will always be people who insist on being unreasonable, no matter how kind and reasonable you are attempting to be with them. It is true that the police can greatly influence how an interaction goes, but even they can't always reason with someone determined to be unreasonable. That's where the use of force comes in. In appropriate circumstances, they only use the minimum amount of force necessary. As Sgt. John Roberts of the Vancouver Police Department explains, only a tiny fraction of interactions witht he public involve physical force. That makes it even more urgent that if an officer has a large number of complaints for excessive force, that should be taekn as a big red flag that the agency needs to deal with promptly.

So how should that be done? Here are 2 examples where I think officers acted appropriately:

Des Moines, Iowa Here the officers are investigating a dispute between room-mates. The investigating officer concludes that an older man should be arrested as a result. This man decides he doesn't want to co-operate, and tries to break free. The officer is able to respond with just enough force to regain control of the situation, and he explains to the man what will happen if he continues to fight. Under threat of pepper spray, the man decides to co-operate, and ends up leaving the house in handcuffs.

Springfield, Missouri Here officers were responding to a man causing problems at a park and a disturbance with his ex-girlfriend. Despite the officers repeatedly trying to convince him to leave, he does not want to. He is also very big, and the officers are struggling to restrain him. What distinguishes this video from so many of the other police beat-down videos is that one of the officers takes charge, and starts communicating with his colleagues how they are going to deal with this man. He is eventually escorted away, not a scratch on him.

One other thing I noticed about both videos is that while the officers are firm, at no point does their tone ever become threatening or hostile.

Aristotleded24

Officer Patrick Skinner, from Savannah Georgia, weighs in:

Quote:
For decades, the United States has funded and created police departments that resemble occupying military forces, unable to protect and serve. We armed ourselves literally and spiritually for a war on crime, and to quote Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, “And the war came.” What we now see deployed in many cities and towns is anti-policing. It’s the death of true community police work and, too often, the death of our neighbors. The well-documented militarization of American police departments has inevitably produced officers who see themselves and their roles as “warriors” or “punishers” or “sheepdogs.” Much of what our society finds so distressing and unacceptable in police interactions with their neighbors — disrespect, anger, frustration and violence — is not a result of “flawed” training; it’s a result of training for war.

In my limited experience as a police officer in a high-crime, high-tempo city, I and my colleagues who trained me have tried a different mind-set, a neighbor mind-set. It sounds simple, and it’s not complicated — but it is certainly not easy. I approach every person I meet on the streets as my neighbor. Often this is literally true because I live where I work. That was a deliberate choice for me, but I respect whatever others choose; I was just trying to figure out how to be a good cop, and, for me, that meant being a good neighbor. I needed to trust my neighbors if I ever wanted them to trust me. This was the opposite of how our “war on terror” was and is being fought. I finally had home-field advantage, and I was determined not to squander it.

So I began my career as a local cop by calling people my neighbors, in my reports and in my conversations. I approached every 911 call from that space and mind-set. I still do.

He gives a couple of anecdotes to explain:

Quote:
For example, if there was a phone number associated with the 911 call I was dispatched to, I called it from my personal cellphone and spoke to the person needing help while I was en route. This littlest of things has proved immensely valuable to me as I try to slow everything down while racing to an emergency. I got real-time accurate information about what colleagues and I were heading into, which was often not as serious as it was portrayed initially. I remember being dispatched to deal with a “domestic fight, he’s destroying the house,” a call that generates understandable tension and momentum in the police response. I called the number at the bottom of my computer screen and spoke to a woman, who told me her autistic brother, whom she cares for, had acted out and, having broken stuff in the house, was now standing in the yard motionless. All we needed was to know what name her brother liked to be called and what to avoid doing to make things worse, and the potential drama and risk evaporated before we ever stepped out of our cars. Conversely, sometimes the brief phone call lets us know that the situation is much worse than it seems.

Quote:
Recently a struggling neighbor waved me over and told me that she couldn’t get in touch with her parole officer. Failure to check in could lead to an arrest warrant for parole violation. Plus, she was running out of minutes on her prepaid cellphone. We stood on the side of the road, and I let this sworn enemy in our war on crime use my phone to check in and video-chat with the officer. Many times, we deal with neighbors who are teetering on the edge of some collapse; as cops, we can either tip them over or pull them back. Our job is to pull them back at every opportunity.

NDPP

Winnipeg Police Cause Harm

https://twitter.com/WpgPoliceHarm

 

Rest in Power Chantel Moore

https://twitter.com/KanahusFreedom/status/1270751095216734208

 

Remember Sonny Yatim

https://youtu.be/U9zeEKlc77w

 

#JusticeForRegis

 

RCMP: 'Smear Campaigns Are our Speciality'

https://youtu.be/rjoqaFg5ZjY

 

#DefundThePolice

NOW!

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

My knowledge of the police comes from a period of 7 years in the 1970s, when I was practicing law in Hamilton, so it is pretty out of date. However, from what I have seen in the media since, things have gotten worse, not better. I did not see any of the high principles listed in post #1 being used by cops to guide their actions, in fact it was the reverse. They would commit perjury daily to obtain convictions. They would regularly beat and otherwise abuse accused persons. I had one case where the investigating officers were constantly making sexual advances towards my client's beautiful young wife.

Police culture is horrendous. They put loyalty to their fellow cops above all else, and many cops are petty tyrants who get off on humiliating their helpless victims. Such behaviour is considered cool and funny by the other cops. Most fundamentally, it is clear to anyone who pays attention that the primary mission of the cops is to "serve and protect" the capitalist ruling class, not the public. Investigating crimes against ordinary people is only a side effect of the main project of protecting capital.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

For a much fuller explanation of why All Cops Are Bad, see this video by the excellent anarchist YouTuber, Thought Slime.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..having discussions about what do we want shouldn't be just an academic/intellectual exercises. it, imo, needs to be addressed along side vehicles for change. why i say this is that the discussion takes place and nothing comes of it or when our parliaments discuss it posturing takes place, minor reforms are made and after a bit of time everything goes back to where they were. power remains in power and the police/military are used to manage decent. i suggest we begin the discussion in the middle of a struggle to make real change. i'm looking at seattle.

Seattle protesters have begun to occupy city hall

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Seattle Protesters Declare Autonomous Zone Around Police Precinct After Heated Standoff with Police

quote:

OMARI SALISBURY: Well, right now I’m actually sitting right here in the middle of this new autonomous zone, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. And yeah, I mean, quickly, it was several days of just heated standoffs here, man, where it was a lot of tear gas, a lot of other types of weapons. And one thing you didn’t mention is rubber bullets or the rubber projectiles, which I also got hit quite a few times with that, as well. And the protesters just kept protesting, until the city of Seattle decided to abandon the police precinct, and which now is literally the town square here in the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

OMARI SALISBURY: Well, you know, for me, every May Day there’s something that goes on, and there’s kind of a police reaction. I didn’t come there to cover the reaction; I was just covering, you know, the protest, because they were happening nationwide. And, I mean, I found myself continuously on the frontline trying to cover it, because almost every day there was a clash there with the protesters and the police. And the issue I don’t think was really that the police responded; it was the proportionality of the response — I mean, an incredible amount of tear gas, an incredible amount of force against protesters, that I would say the majority of, you know, in the high 90 percentile, were just peaceful people that actually live in this neighborhood. And those are the people who are now occupying or created this CHAZ zone.

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..to transcript as yet to this piece. will post when it comes around.

Seattle Activists Create Autonomous Zone Near Abandoned Police Precinct After Days of State Violence

We continue our interview with Seattle-based citizen journalist Omari Salisbury, who has been live-streaming the uprising and police crackdown there, and get an update on how protesters have barricaded a six-block autonomous zone, declaring it “Free Capitol Hill.”

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..a blow by blow report

Seattle-area protests: Live updates for Wednesday, June 10

..first post

6:40 am, Jun. 10, 2020

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Protesters poured into Seattle City Hall last night, led by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, and listened to speeches advocating Durkan’s removal before settling in for a movie night on Capitol Hill. This came after protesters and the ACLU sued Seattle, blaming Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best for “unnecessary violence” at demonstrations. Read how Tuesday unfolded.

Manuel Ellis called Tacoma police "sir" as he told them he couldn’t breathenew video shows. Ellis' family is calling for an independent investigation of the moments leading up to his death under police restraint.

Why do white people seem to be changing their minds, suddenly, on the justice system and race? Columnist Danny Westneat looks at the titanic forces at work.

But ... “what happens if white people lose their will to fight?” Writer Natachi Onwuamaegbu explains how, as a Black woman, she doesn’t have the choice to stop thinking about racism. She shares what it's like to be a young Black woman in America today.

How to teach your kids about racism in America: For starters, get past the idea that young kids are unaware of differences. Four faculty members at Seattle universities explain how they’ve talked about race with their own children, and how they train teachers to address it. Plus, here are recommended books for youth on this topic.

CrossFit's CEO is out after his tweet about George Floyd sparked a backlash and led other companies to cut ties.

..last post

11:06 pm, Jun. 10, 2020

CHAZ protesters spend the night organizing a concert and movie night

Capitol Hill protesters — or denizens of the new "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" — spent another night by the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct listening to speakers, sharing food, dancing and creating colorful street art.

A small concert popped up at one intersection during the night, featuring funk/hip-hop band Marshall Law, a group based in Seattle. A cardboard sign was propped up in front of the band's makeshift stage. It read: "Defund the police, fund the community, free all protesters."

"What we're doing here — it's for a purpose," one of the band members said after the show, according to a livestream of the event.

After Marshall Law wrapped up their performance, it was time for another movie night.

On Tuesday night, the group rolled out a large projector and watched Ava DuVernay's "13th," a documentary that focuses on the racial injustice of the country's criminal justice system. On Wednesday, they screened "Paris is Burning," which features drag queens living in New York City during the mid-to-late 1980s.

NDPP

The Demands of the Collective Black Voices at the Free Capitol Hill To the Government of Seattle Washington

https://t.co/CUnvbLAuLW?amp=1

"This document is to represent the black voices who spoke in victory at the top of 12th & Pine after 9 days of peaceful protest while under constant nightly attack from the Seattle Police Department. These are words from that night, June 8, 2020...

The Seattle Police Department and attached court system are beyond reform. We do not request reforming, we demand abolition..."

NDPP

"Domestic terrorists have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course. LAW & ORDER!"

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1270923257844301836

Defend the CHAZ!

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

epaulo13 wrote:

..to transcript as yet to this piece. will post when it comes around.

Seattle Activists Create Autonomous Zone Near Abandoned Police Precinct After Days of State Violence

We continue our interview with Seattle-based citizen journalist Omari Salisbury, who has been live-streaming the uprising and police crackdown there, and get an update on how protesters have barricaded a six-block autonomous zone, declaring it “Free Capitol Hill.”

quote:

OMARI SALISBURY: Yeah, good morning. Thank you, Amy. So, I’m literally in a building that’s just 10 feet from the East Precinct. I’m in the heart of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or the CHAZ. And, I mean, I think we’re going into day number three or day number four here. And these guys are very serious about creating their autonomous space. I actually attended a town hall meeting yesterday where they’re trying to find a mayor and formalize all their policies.

quote:

OMARI SALISBURY:

And, you know, every day, you didn’t quite know. It was three days of violence, three days of peace, two days of violence. And then, Sunday was the day that just got real ugly out here. Even though they couldn’t use the tear gas anymore, there was all kinds of other chemicals in the air. And the rubber bullets came out, the National Guard. The rubber bullets came out. Our security guy, our security guy in front of me, he got shot five times with the rubber bullets, just, you know, protecting me so I could keep the stream going.

And then, Monday, they were going to put up a chain link fence, because they kept on having problems with the barricades. And City Hall looks like they changed their mind. They had a change of heart on Monday, and it changed from building a fence to abandoning the precinct. And we were standing right here, and the city released a statement saying that they were just reducing the footprint. But we could tell. There was moving trucks going in and out, officers carrying bags. They boarded up the building. They put a gate there. They definitely abandoned the precinct.

And then, later on that day, they removed the barricades, and the people of Capitol Hill rushed into the streets and, you know, celebrated in front of the precinct and immediately started crowdsourcing ideas of what their zone was going to look like. And, I mean, just to be full-on transparent, you know, the protesters didn’t start with the intention of creating an autonomous zone. When the police withdrew from the area, you know, it created a situation. And the police had already barricaded part of this Capitol Hill neighborhood. The people in Capitol Hill were like, “Well, hey, we don’t want the police to come back. We’ll just police ourselves. We’ll have our own zone.”

You also got to remember, this is Seattle’s art district, as well. So, you know what I’m saying? You kind of got guys who — they move quickly with the arts, with the ideas, the creative concepts and things like that. And at first, I was like, “Oh, OK, the autonomous zone. Sounds cool,” you know, and kind of ingest. But, man, these guys are just serious. It’s a real serious thing out here. And they’re actually working with — like, the fire chief comes here every morning, inspects buildings. They’re coordinating with Medic One for response, for deliveries, barricade access and everything else.

I don’t know how long it’ll last, considering the Seattle police yesterday said that they now want their precinct back, which creates an issue, because how is — you know, what’s that going to look like with the Seattle police wanting the precinct back?

But, you know, it’s been three nights of peace here. Last night was like a big block party. Everybody’s out. They put up a projector right next to the East Precinct. They watch movies and everything else. And for them, what they’re saying is — I think a lot of people thought, when they released the precinct, the precinct was going to be burned to the ground. The first thing that the community members did was surround the precinct. They said they want to protect the precinct. And they were like, “Hey, man, we want to turn it into a community center.” And so, you know, the thoughts of maybe people going in and occupying and burning it or looting it or whatever, that has not transpired here.

quote:

OMARI SALISBURY: So, Carmen Best is a rank-and-file officer here, started her career here, 26 years on the force, a Black woman police chief here in the city of Seattle.

And I think that she — the way that they’ve handled it here, I just don’t think that, whether it’s Chief Best or a lot of people, high-level politicians, not just the mayor’s office, but other people, City Hall, community leaders, they were out of touch with the actual what was actually fueling this standoff here. A lot of people put it just about George Floyd and the right, the fight for equality and everything else. The people of Capitol Hill, you know, they had a beef with the East Precinct, because, I mean, these are people who’ve never seen tear gas. They’ve never seen flashbangs or rubber bullets. So they felt like the East Precinct militarized their residential neighborhood. And because, like, every time someone would try to talk to the protesters, they would try to talk to them like, “Well, we know what happened to George Floyd was wrong. We stand with you and everything else.” But no one addressed that they had a — you know, the legitimate concern that the residents of Capitol Hill had with the precinct.

I think, like with anything, there’s been some missteps downtown with the mayor and with the police chief. And now, I mean, the biggest issue is, is that in giving up — you got to remember, on Sunday night, or even Monday morning at 1:00, all the protesters had was their voice. They had their feet and — you know what I’m saying? — their power of protest. By Monday afternoon, the protesters had a police precinct. And so, you know, the bargaining chips around this and, you know, the power struggle, the leverage and everything else went into a totally different direction. And now guys who, you might say, were just protesters are people that actually have a position of leverage with the city, because right now the East Precinct is in their hands.

NDPP

'They Let The Pigs Take Back The Precinct'

https://twitter.com/seattleYLF/status/1271170407840661505

"The liberals fucked us over, like always."

 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

NDPP wrote:

'They Let The Pigs Take Back The Precinct'

https://twitter.com/seattleYLF/status/1271170407840661505

"The liberals fucked us over, like always."

 

..to believe that the community was all about holding that station is quite moronic. they were never going to be able to hold it. and so we see the sectarian left playing a divisive role with no real platform, plan or roots in this particular community.   

NDPP

Actually, unlike you, these youth who are putting their bodies on the line actually live there.

"We're still fighting to keep the AZ!"

https://twitter.com/seattleYLF/status/1271208947047821312

'If you fight you might lose. If you don't fight you have clearly lost.' - Brecht -

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i stand by my statement.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

CHAZ, a 'no Cop Co-op': Here's what Seattle's Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone looks like

quote:

What's the scene like inside the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone?

News reports describe the occupied area as peaceful and safe. The words "Black Lives Matter" were painted on East Pine Street. Free food has been handed out at a "No Cop Co-op." Speakers, poets and other performers share ideas and art.

A sign on the abandoned police precinct reads that the building is "property of the Seattle people." The Seattle Times reported that some protesters hope to turn the building into a community center.

A community garden has also been planted in Cal Anderson Park. "We’re forced to build new plots because people are giving us so many plants," Marcus Henderson, who was working in the gardens, told the Seattle Times.

Francis Vann, a 15-year-old high school freshman, told the newspaper that the movement happening inside the area is being driven by young people.

“A lot of times, the older people criticize the young people for how we choose to show our grief,” Vann said. “It kind of takes a lot to stir up emotions with the young people, but once we’re mad, we’re mad. And we’re mad. It’s the young people’s energy that’s out here and the old people’s wisdom that’s keeping us out here.”

quote:

Will police return to the area?

Police officials have said they plan to return to the abandoned precinct, but there is no timeline. 

"We don’t want to introduce additional flashpoints," Durkan said at a news conference about police's potential return, the Seattle Times reported.

The Seattle Times reported that a group of officers were spotted at the police precinct Thursday evening and that there was a brief confrontation with protesters. Some protesters claimed they were pepper sprayed during the incident, the newspaper reported.

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Seattle Police Department

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Angela Davis on Abolition, Calls to Defund Police

quote:

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, the call to defund the police is, I think, an abolitionist demand, but it 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. And it appears as if this is the rather superficial understanding that has caused Biden to move in the direction he’s moving in.

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.

And 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. And 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.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I want us to see feminism not only as addressing issues of gender, but rather as a methodological approach of understanding the intersectionality of struggles and issues. Abolition feminism counters carceral feminism, which has unfortunately assumed that issues such as violence against women can be effectively addressed by using police force, by using imprisonment as a solution. And of course we know that Joseph Biden, in 1994, who claims that the Violence Against Women Act was such an important moment in his career — the Violence Against Women Act was couched within the 1994 Crime Act, the Clinton Crime Act.

And what we’re calling for is a process of decriminalization, not — 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.

quote:

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, 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.

I’m thinking about the fact that we have been aware of the need for these institutional strategies at least since 1935 — but of course before, but I’m choosing 1935 because that was the year when W.E.B. Du Bois published his germinal Black Reconstruction in America. And the question was not what should individual Black people do, but rather how to reorganize and restructure post-slavery society in order to guarantee the incorporation of those who had been formerly enslaved. The society could not remain the same — or should not have remained the same. Neoliberalism resists change at the individual level. It asks the individual to adapt to conditions of capitalism, to conditions of racism.

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Harsha Walia

Abolitionist future in Vancouver must be guided by work of Red Women Rising, with 100 Indigenous women, girls, trans & two spirit people offering pathways to eliminating control of police, prisons, child welfare, carceral health & decriminalization of survival economies & housing

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“Movements Work”: As Activists Occupy Seattle’s Capitol Hill, City Bans Tear Gas, Expels Police Union

quote:

KSHAMA SAWANT: It’s absolutely horrific, the threats that Donald Trump is making to call in the troops, the military, on Seattle. And it’s no surprise to me, though, that he’s doing that, because the successes of the peaceful protest movement in Seattle, and hopefully followed by other cities, is threatening to the right-wing and reactionary regime of Donald Trump. And it also shows that Donald Trump is a coward, and movements work. And so, I think this is an example of how, when we build protest movements, when we build social movements, in unity within the working class, we can win, and we can actually become a real threat to the right wing, which absolutely is the job of our movements.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Kshama, explain. You proposed the legislation to have tear gas and chokeholds banned in Seattle. What did it take to do that? And what kind of response have you received?

KSHAMA SAWANT: Absolutely. And, you know, this is what’s happened. This Monday is absolutely historic. Our movement was able to force a unanimous vote on the Seattle City Council, which is dominated by the Democratic Party establishment, to make Seattle the first city in the nation to win a comprehensive ban on the use and purchase of chemical weapons and other barbaric weapons used against protest movements, so tear gas, as you mentioned, mace and pepper spray, rubber bullets, flashbang grenades, water cannons, ultrasonic weapons. I mean, these are just horrific weapons that are being deployed against peaceful movements. And as you said, Nermeen, we also won a ban against the police use of chokeholds.

And what it took to win was an absolutely determined and united movement on the ground, because despite all the co-opting of the vocabulary of the movement by the Democratic Party establishment saying, “Black Lives Matter,” “We want to dismantle and reimagine the police” — despite all of that, there was a shameful attempt by the Democratic establishment to drive a truck-sized amendment into the bill, basically gutting the bill. And we were able to force them to back down because of the ferocity of the movement, where we said, “Absolutely not. This is the bare minimum you need to do. In fact, you need to pass this strong ban, make Seattle the first city, have other cities follow, make this a national trend, and defund the police by at least 50%.”

AMY GOODMAN: Police union, Kshama Sawant? What have you done about the police union in Seattle?

KSHAMA SAWANT: That’s a very important thing, Amy. I’m so glad you brought this up. This shows the momentum that the movement is having and the tremendous solidarity there is among the working class to fight unitedly against racism and police violence.

So, we won these important, historic bans against chemical weapons and chokeholds on Monday. And then, last night, on Wednesday night — and I speak as a rank-and-file member of the teachers’ union myself — the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, the rank-and-file and progressive unions won a vote to expel Seattle’s police from the Labor Council by saying that there is no place for a racist, anti-poor, anti-homeless police department in the Labor Council, because the labor movement itself was built on the understanding that an injury to one is an injury to all. You cannot build a working-class resistance against capitalism’s exploitation unless the working class comes together against all forms of oppression, like racism and sexual violence. And that is the only basis on which we can all unite against economic inequality, as well.

And I think that’s why these demands have to also be connected to — ultimately, really, in addition to winning defunding the police by at least 50%, we also need to fight for an independently elected community oversight board with full powers over the police, including hiring, firing and subpoena powers, because not a single police officer responsible for the murders of Black and Brown people at the hands of the police has been held accountable, because they are serving at the behest — the police are serving at the behest of the Democratic establishment, and the Democratic establishment itself is complicit in these crimes. And that’s why, you know, it’s not a coincidence that alongside the removing of the Seattle police from the Labor Council, there’s also a demand within the rank and file in the labor movement, and within the Democratic Party, actually, to demand that Democratic establishment Mayor Durkan resign. And this really calls for the labor movement to break from the Democratic establishment itself and build independent political parties for the working class.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Kshama, you’re also calling for the imposition of a tax on Amazon. Could you talk about what you’re asking for and how you think that’s connected to these protests and support for Black Lives Matter?

KSHAMA SAWANT: I think that’s very important. I mean, as Black community members, as the movement itself, that has broken out in the wake of George Floyd’s brutal murder in Minneapolis, the movement is saying, you know, the police have the knee on the neck of the Black community, but the system itself has its knee on the neck of the Black community. And then, furthermore, vast majorities of marginalized communities and the working class, we face police violence, lack of affordable housing. If you look at the epidemic of evictions, economic evictions because of skyrocketing rents in Seattle and in the historically Black neighborhood that we live — that I live in right now, the community has been denuded of its Black population because of skyrocketing rent.

And so, it is crucial that alongside defunding the police by at least 50%, the movement is also demanding that the City Council pass a very strong Amazon tax — that is, tax on big businesses to the tune of at least $500 million every year, so that we can fund a massive expansion of publicly owned, permanently affordable social housing and public sector unionized jobs, because that will actually — that is putting real dollars on the table to address racist gentrification and racism in our city.

And just to give you a sense of how much solidarity there is, in the 15 days of the protests that have broken out in the city, we have collected 15,000 signatures for the tax Amazon ballot initiative, because people are making the link between the need to fight police violence —