So, You Want to Defund the Police? Start by Busting the Police Union

All around the world, people are waking up to the idea that the criminal justice system has been designed to brutalize and punish black and brown individuals—from videos of black men and women dying at the hands of police officers, to tear gas and other human right abuses being levied at protestors demanding solutions to police brutality—the system of police is not meant for the oppressed class. Defunding and demilitarizing them is only the first step for the realization of abolition; but how do we begin to understand the power behind the police? 

Short answer, it’s their union.

Long answer, it’s the power that the police unions over the years have been able to amass, even at the backing of major labor organizations (most disappointingly, being on part of the labor council by the AFL-CIO). The influence that they wield when making policy recommendations and funding politicians really should not be ignored. If we are looking toward defunding as the first steps in the goal of abolition, then the potential backlash from cop unions and their supporters should be researched, analyzed and dismantled before they can halt the movement towards defunding.

Already, we are seeing leaders of cop unions attempting to tamper down criticism by creating even more scandal for themselves and revealing the racism that is so deeply ingrained in the system of policing and the criminal justice system. The head of a Baltimore police union called Black Lives Matter protesters a “lynch mob”. In Philadelphia, another referred to demonstrators as “a pack of rabid animals”. A democratically elected black prosecutor in St. Louis is a “menace to society” who must be removed- “by force” if necessary, because she was in favor of police reform. And yet another union president, in NYC (where police have been absolute murderous with protesters), begged to not be treated, “like animals”. They’re attempting to put a stop to any reforms—no matter how small and miniscule—and they’re powerful enough to stop them. One single police union has spent more than $1 million on state and local races in 2014.

Police unions are the strongest and most powerful unions in the country. Their ability to negotiate contracts that give them almost full immunity when their members harm and kill someone is abhorrent, “Typically, such contracts are chock full of special protections that are negotiated behind closed doors. Employment contract provisions also insulate police from any meaningful accountability for their actions and rig any processes hearings in their favor; fired cops are able to appeal and win their jobs back, even after the most egregious offenses. When Daniel Pantaleo, an NYPD officer who was involved in the 2014 murder of Eric Garner, was finally fired, the police union immediately appealed for his reinstatement and threatened a work slowdown.” 

It is time for all labor organizations, no matter how small, to not only condemn the violence of the police force but actively work to dismantle an institution that’s history is stained with the blood of the working class and immigrants. As noted in Kim Kelly’s impassioned article, “No More Cop Unions”, the history of police violence has been against workers during strikes or at protests, “Despite their union membership, police have also been no friend to workers, especially during strikes or protests. Their purpose is to protect property, not people, and labor history is littered with accounts of police moonlighting as strikebreakers or charging in to harass or injure striking workers. The first recorded strike fatalities in U.S. history came at the hands of police, who shot two New York tailors dead as they tried to disperse. During the Battle of Blair Mountain, the police fought striking coal miners on the bosses’ behalf. In 1937, during the Little Steel Strike, Chicago police gunned down 10 striking steelworkers in what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre. In 1968, days after Dr. Martin Luther King addressed a group of sanitation workers, Memphis cops maced and assaulted the striking workers and their supporters, killing a 16-year-old boy.” The president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumpka, a former president of United Mineworkers of America harshly criticized the police for engaging in violence against striking minors. 

The AFL-CIO is now facing calls to disaffiliate from its association with the International Union of Police Associates (representing over 100,000 law enforcement employees as well as emergency personnel) from 21 council members from the Writers Guild of America East, citing the policies and the actions of the police union as being consistent with, “authoritarianism, totalitarianism, terrorism and other forces that suppress individual liberties and freedoms.” The AFL-CIO has already disaffiliated from other unions in the past, including the Teamsters, SEIU, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The federation has already disaffiliated some powerful unions, so it has the potential to kick out an organization that has no business calling itself a union. 

This is but one step in demanding the end of police violence and terror; this is but one piece of an interlocking system that needs to be collapsed, but it will be a preemptive strike in the already powerful attempt to squash legitimate demands to doing away with police.

If you are a union member, or someone interested in demanding the end of AFL-CIO’s association with the International Union of Police Associations, please sign this petition from No Cop Unions. Please also encourage your union local to condemn the violence against protesters or issue a statement in support of Blacks Lives. Solidarity means solidarity with the workers and all oppressed members of society, not solidarity with the muscle of the state and the capitalists. 

Workers of the World Unite! We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Chains!

(Photo 1 Credit: ABC News) (Photo 2 Credit: The Guardian / Star Tribune)

Black Lives Matter and Anti-Racism Works

“Thank you to the Anderson, De Dios, and Sandoval-Moshenberg families. I appreciate this opportunity to speak my truth 

Before I begin I would like to have a moment of silence to acknowledge the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Manahoac, Nacotchtank, Piscataway First Nations tribes on which we are standing, working, and learning in today.

For those who don’t know me, I am Jocelyn McCullough

I am a proud and unapologetically Black girl in America 

I am a scholar 

I am a student leader at Justice High School 

I am the great grand-daughter of a Tuskegee airman

I am the granddaughter of Black Panthers who were at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963- 57 years ago

I am also the great cousin of Emmet Till who like George Floyd was murdered because he was a Black Male

I am an anti-racist  

And I am here to tell you that WE ARE DONE DYING 

WE ARE DONE DYING At the hands of the police

WE ARE DONE DYING On Video

WE ARE DONE DYING Without accountability

          I am here for 
Breonna Taylor
Antwon Rose 
Alton Sterling 
Trayvon Martin
Laquan Mcdonald
Sandra Bland

and countless others who have been killed at the hands of police
whose names will never make it on the news

I am here today because my father’s, mother’s and little brother’s life matters as much as any white person’s life 

I am here today because every Brown and Black man, woman and child deserves equal protection under the law of THESE United States of America

I am here 57 years later, just 10 miles from where my grandparents marched alongside freedom fighters still asking this same question

When will America stop tolerating injustice, police brutality, economic oppression, and racism?

That is who I am and why I am here.  

I know you are here because you want to be the generation that fixes the problem as opposed to passing it on to your children and grandchildren.  

As I continue to speak and while the sun still shines every day ask yourself why you are here and what are you willing to do?

As Sweet Honey in the Rock sang (in Ella’s Song):  

We who believe in freedom cannot rest

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons

We believe  Black lives matter everywhere whether it be in your child’s classroom or on their little league soccer team. 

Black lives matter every day and everywhere.

Black lives matter When 
people of privilege pull their kids out of their local public school to go to one with less people of color

Black lives matter  When 
parents know their children’s curriculum is sugar-coating history but don’t care enough to use their white privilege to say anything about it. 

Black lives matter when 
the same prison system that was used to keep Black people in chains is now profiting off of detaining immigrants.

Black lives matter when 
their white children don’t have more than a few Black or Latino students in their AAP,  AP or IB classes. 

Black lives matter
When Black children are expected to close the achievement gap as if something is wrong with THEM and not the racist and classist education system.

Black lives matter when
You are proud of living in a diverse community but not in any way are supporting people of color in your community.  

Black lives matter when
creating schools and highways named after people who wanted to keep Black people in chains. 

Once it is understood that Black lives Matter 

The recent immigrant family will be able to get their child into IB/ AP classes 

Once it is understood that Black lives Matter 

The transgender or biracial child will not have to deal with 100 microaggressions a day. 

Once it is understood that Black lives Matter 

The Asian child who has been trying to explain the horrors of police brutality to their family will be heard.  

Once Black lives matter and are respected there will be no more George Floyds.

As Malcolm X said: You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.

           Change is Needed Now

For me to go to a school that was named after a confederate and many of my friends of color not knowing why that’s offensive is a clear example of why change is needed now

This is an example of one of the many dangers of our history being taught from a white supremacist perspective. 

 For me to go to a school where many immigrant children aren’t able to play varsity sports because they can’t afford to be on expensive club teams is why change is needed now 

For me to go to a school where white children are coddled when they express racism while students of color are silenced is why change is needed now

Or that Black students make up less than 2% of the student body at the illustrious Thomas Jefferson high school

This is an example of one of the many dangers of our history being taught from a white supremacist perspective. 

Shows me we have some real work to do right here in Fairfax County


We must educate ourselves and our community
We must demand justice
We must Disrupt Racism

You all need to vote for all the Black people who have been wrongfully incarcerated. 

 
You need to vote for people like me who are too young to vote but are being mentally and physically impacted by Racism every day. 

Together we can capitalize on this moment
The world is watching us,  America,
watching us and waiting for us to decide
What are we going to do next? Are we going to continue to accept the status quo or dismantle our racist systems? 

Who are we?
What are we willing to sacrifice for justice?
Which side of this revolution will you be on?

Will YOUR grandchildren be here still chanting and singing “We shall overcome” 60 years from now!

It gives me hope that there are a lot of people here today! And I want all of you to join me in song
While we sing honor the native land you stand on.  
While we sing think about what conversation you want to have at the dinner table tomorrow as well as what book you will read next. 

Thank you for everyone for valuing and hearing my voice today! 
WE will now sing This Little Light of Mine 
Please join us in song and DON’T be afraid to get into it and clap your hands

Thank you!”

(Photo Credit: Facebook / Mary De Dios)

On the assassination of George Floyd, anger and hope bring justice #BlackLivesMatter

Another murder by police officers, this time in Minnesota. The video of the assassination of George Floyd, a Black man, by white police officers has shocked, as if it was new and surprising. North or South, the location has no importance. The justification for murders, lies, and other means of destruction of the Other, the otherness grows unscathed from any sufficient doubts. Modern society talks about training, well-trained police officers, well-trained doctors, and well-trained nurses, but what is training if life is annihilated quickly and with “legitimate power”.

The headlines are descriptive: Four Minneapolis officers are fired after video shows one kneeling on neck of black man who later died. Although the article raises questions, it fails to tell the evidence of constructed racism, which is gendered as we observe the incommensurable level of violence imposed on women’s, intersex’s, transgender’s bodies. 

This time, it was a Black man. 

Numerous books, studies are available from which those who would like to learn more about the reasons for this blatant injustice can educate themselves. Still, there is always someone to create a rationale of destruction, of wars of all against all. 

Women are also part of the making of these destructive rationales, as now white women tend to assimilate with their men. The story is different for women of color; they have survived invasion, slavery, and all these “beauties” that were totally justified and still are.

I affirm that being a feminist is not only about having the right to vote (finally), to control our own body, it is about injustice, it is about crude, violent domination by patriarchal thought. This very domination that has created these ice men that can take all their time to assassinate someone because he is a dark-skinned man. There is no separation of good and bad, what makes the difference is the justification, the construction of violence and discrimination as legitimate means.

I have written on many issues that are clear examples of this justified violence. I have written about the cold-blooded decision to send drones to kill women, men, and children far away in Yemen, using a perfect justification of war against terrorism. In reality, they killed people who were in the wrong location, wrong class, wrong belief system.  

I have written on the massive incarceration of gendered bodies of color in Baltimore, a majority Black and Brown city which the man in power in the United States “discredited”. That mass incarceration was justified despite all the work and studies that demonstrated that these policies were non-sense. 

I have written on the shackling of pregnant women while they are in prisons or jails in the United States. The cruelty of shackling women’s bodies for no other reason than asserting power over women’s bodies is apparent and yet invisible, another evidence of madness justified.

I have written about economic cruelty that has deprived women, men, and children of their dignity and sometimes killed them. That’s how the so-called “crisis” in Greece that was actually driven by speculation was justified. 

I have written about new ways of exterminating the undesirables, using the Mediterranean sea as a means of extermination. The justification was easy to find: defend the borders in a time of obscene globalization. That justified Frontex, a legitimate army, to “defend” borders against precarious lives. 

In all these examples, and many more, justifications serve a market driven killing of this Black man, George Floyd. Look at the armaments, observe the development of digital blindness, and the overwhelming growth of inequalities with our worldly wealth being held in very few hands. 

At the end of her life, Hannah Arendt anticipated this danger as she saw the new justification for madness coming: it was called neoliberalism. She declared that if it takes over the world, life would become superfluous. Life has become superfluous for many and for a long time. 

Excuse my anger, although Audre Lorde taught me that anger is sometimes necessary. I want to end acknowledging all the sisters and brothers that have fought these justifications to crude injustice with a passion. All the writing, poetry, and art have been made in the name of justice to inspire us. 

Thank you to all of you, and let’s again remember Audre Lorde, who wrote Sister Outsider to convey hope, encourage solidarity, and instill power to fight sexism and racism that make these things possible. Emmanuel Levinas enounced that at the decisive hours when the lapse of values is revealed, human dignity consists in believing in their return. More than their return, let’s imagine these values and organize everywhere to defend them in solidarity.

Justice for George Floyd is justice for all, #BlackLivesMatter

(Photo credit !: CityBeat) (Photo Credit 2: Jurien Huggins)

Episode XIV: Tonight You Have Your Answer/The Specter of Barak Obama

Episode XIV: Tonight You Have Your Answer/The Specter of Barak Obama

It is a time of purges and pandemic

There is record unemployment and long lines form at food banks 
Farmers dump milk, food grains and slaughter animals 
Unable to find markets for their produce.

The quarantine has brought the consumer market to a standstill.

Elements of the previous administration are being swept away in 
Friday Night Firings,

While untested medicines are being used to treat COVID-19
America pulls funding from the World Health Organization
And muzzles the Center for Disease Control.

All 50 states have reopened 
Without meeting the minimum requirements for enng the quarantine safely.
Florida and Georgia falsify their data for political expediency
Sending frontline workers into the line of fire
In the American Hot Zone.

A telephone conference is held by a former two term President with 3000 of his loyal staffers still in a position to fight. 

As his successor Dolt 45 does everything in his power to erase the legacy of his triumphs

Including a failure to unveil 44’s official Nubian Presidential portrait.

Oh, why can’t you quit him, Orange Man.

The broken hearted burn Cities in America’s Heartland
Another Black Man strangled by a Thin Blue Line,
Sparking empathetic riots in other major American Cities

And I will give my Nephews “The Talk”.

It is almost the same talk that was given to me 

But served with extra side dishes of 
Plague, tear gas, and flash bangs

Tales of “Officer Not So Friendly”
And the American Injustice system 
They will face if they are ever stopped or arrested.

Boys I say, we are definitely not living in a post racial America.
And the masks you are wearing may protect you from the plague
But not the tear gas.

At first they don’t believe me
My words clashing with the Specter of Barak Obama
Their most vivid memories of a president 
Who looked like them.

Eight Years of Barak Obama and his beautiful sleeveless Queen.
As they came to consciousness 
And came of age.

Then they watch a Black CNN reporter arrested and taken into custody
As his White counterpart remains unmolested.

And they think that perhaps
Their crazy Uncle may have a point or two.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things once possible can be erased,

Who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive;
but, unwell in our time,
Sickened by all of our contradictions.

Who still questions the power of old hatreds to subvert our 
New Democratic experiment

Tonight you have your answer.

(Image Credit: Dolly Li / Oxford American)

There are no karens, it’s just the police.

It’s 4am and I can’t sleep.
Apart of me feels like I must be your Black feminist killjoy today. 
I know humor sustains us. 
I know how we feel about joy. 
But, I must be your Black feminist killjoy today if its gets us closer to naming the truth as it is. 

I know I am alive because of the level of rage I feel right now. Principled raged I must say. The type of rage I can locate to the most insidious aspects of society. Rage inherited by my foremothers. Rage given to me by June Jordan. I am in a state of rage because I am witnessing a global pandemic aided and abetted by white supremacist- capitalist- imperialist- patriarchy.  

I am in a state of rage because I have to add more names to my memory this week.

Nina Pop
Breonna Taylor
Ahmaud Arbery
George Floyd
Christian Cooper
And so many more unknown and unnamed Black people.

Nina Pop
Breonna Taylor 
Ahmaud Arbery
George Floyd
Christian Cooper
And so many more unknown and unnamed Black people. 

Nina Pop
Breonna Taylor 
Ahmaud Arbery
George Floyd
Christian Cooper
And so many more unknown and unnamed Black people. 

 

I say these names again and again and again. When I have to utter the names of Black people murdered by the police, or any other act of violence, I do not have space for “karen.” 

Yale Phd student, Yasmina Price asked us “how do we manage mourning and mockery so close together?” 

Mockery doesn’t relieve my grief anymore. 

Because karen is just useless mockery. 
Because karen provides white women with an other.
Because karen obscures the way white womanhood was constructed and how it functions.
Because karen is just white supremacist patriarchy. 

Many of us have been where Christian Cooper was as some white woman pretended to be in danger. amy cooper did not just weaponize whiteness, she always weaponized her womanhood. She is another white woman who was taught to cry to get her way, taught that her very being would elicit the world to protect her. Taught how to perform fear and mockery simultaneously. Even in her attempt to harm Christian Cooper the world still wants to protect amy because the world wants to protect white women. When you trace the grace, tenderness, and protection she is where is always goes.

Some of you are meeting these white women with mockery by calling them karens. June Jordan teaches us to remain “hostile to hostility” and for that I am a Black feminist killjoy today.

Beyond that, as someone who practices abolition as faith and as a love politic, I feel it imperative to tell you that amy cooper did not just call the police, but rather, she is the police. She is a death practitioner. Her job is to keep Black people close to death by making the world believe her very life depends on it.

white people will always feel empowered to punishment and surveillance. They will always feel empowered to be judge and jury in and beyond the court room. white supremacy grants them these powers. Always. 

white women will always understand and use their power to police Black people and if that doesn’t work, they always have their tears. The tears that move the police. 

Frank Wilderson teaches us that “white people in their very corporeality are the police.” And what we are naming as karen behavior is just another reason why we must abolish the police.

We don’t have to rename this practice. We already know what it is. 

So what is the point of this mockery? What work does the naming of karen do? What is the price we pay for mockery? 

Its 6am now. I have mourned enough today. I wonder who I’ll mourn tomorrow. 

Nina Pop
Breonna Taylor 
Ahmaud Arbery
George Floyd
Christian Cooper
And so many more unknown and unnamed Black people. 

Nina Pop
Breonna Taylor 
Ahmaud Arbery
George Floyd
Christian Cooper
And so many more unknown and unnamed Black people. 

Nina Pop
Breonna Taylor 
Ahmaud Arbery
George Floyd
Christian Cooper
And so many more unknown and unnamed Black people. 

(Photo Credit: Tim Gruber / The Washington Post)

The privilege of whiteness is the ability to take up as much space as we want, without recourse

The privilege of whiteness is the ability to take up as much space as we want, without recourse, to do whatever we want. We are seeing the stark differences between white protestors angry over the loss of luxury and Black protestors angry over the continued murder of Black men and women, and how those white people are able to act in a space they think is ONLY for them.

While white people still are trying to defend a police officer that has had a history of brutality against Black and Brown bodies and criticize justifiable rage over it, other white people are carrying AR-15s and machine guns into state Capitol buildings and able to take up as much public space as they want with no teargas; no pepper spray or rubber bullets; no death.

White women are able to threaten to call the police on an “African American man” because they know the police will protect their ability to take up space, and that that Black man will potentially be harmed and killed because she did.

White people in New York City will congregate en masse in parks. They will congregate without masks, and they will receive masks from the police while Black people are ticketed and tased for not having one. Even the process of wearing a mask can be deadly for Black men and women.

A Black man was jogging and three white vigilantes, without provocation, murdered him in broad daylight. The police did nothing. White people jog with little fear, save for the dangers of reckless motorists.

A Black woman couldn’t sleep in her own bed without being murdered by police and her partner arrested for defending himself.

White people, start learning our privilege. Stop protecting institutions that literally were created to maintain a white racial hierarchy. Start understanding how much space we take up and stop defending those that try to keep it that way.

(Photo Credits: Carlos Gonzalez / Star Tribune)

#Charlottesville: And again, Black pain and tears and suffering at the hands of white supremacy

After the car rammed into the crowd of peaceful protesters

And again, Black pain and tears and suffering at the hands of white supremacy is approved and legitimated by whites saying that “they saw it”, and “yes, it definitely was racism”. Perhaps now, people who insisted on replying to the plea that ‘Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter’ and ‘Blue Lives matter’ will understand the depths of white supremacy in this country.

Would the average American–the ones who voted for Trump because they “just wanted a change”– listen to the Black, law abiding, incredibly restrained counter protestors who narrated the racism and Hate and Evil they experienced at the hands of white supremacists if white counter protestors didn’t confirm their stories?

Did the average white American believe Chaney’s murder was motivated by white supremacy and racism only because Goodman and Schwerner were murdered at the same time, for the same reasons, and in the same way?

So, this time, the publicized terror is in Virginia. Maybe for a week or so I won’t be accused by some of my fellow Americans of ‘playing the race card’ when I speak up about, protest against, and survive each day despite our country’s not so secret love affair with white supremacy. Just maybe….

(Photo Credit: Washington Post / AP / Steve Helber)

Charleena Lyles deserved better … from the police and from The Seattle Times

On Sunday, June 18, Charleena Lyles – 30 years old, Black, mother of three, pregnant, Seattle resident – called police to report a burglary. Two white police showed up. Soon after, those two police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles. The next day, on the morning of June 19, I opened my local newspaper, The Seattle Times, only to see a defense of murder on the front page. The headline read: “Mother killed by cops had mental health issues, family says.” This was misleading, prejudiced, and unethical.

First it suggested immediately that having a mental illness is somehow justification for getting shot by police. Second, it bootstrapped its own twisted logic by misrepresenting the response of the family and their communications after the shooting. They have been extremely critical of the police response.

The real story is “Police kill a pregnant woman in response to her call for help.”

How can this happen, and why does it keep happening? Why do the police keep killing black people? How can local police kill not one but TWO Black pregnant women who called for help within the past 9 months?

The Times cannot continue ignoring these obvious questions. They should investigate and report truthfully and ethically, and stop trying to protect the murderers. When they do so, they are complicit in perpetuating these crimes.

Writing last week, the week before Charleena Lyles was gunned down, Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur apparently made readers mad because of the same issues of racial bias and ignorance. In this instance, the racism was directed towards an entire neighborhood and community, Columbia City. Yesterday, Nicole Brodeur apologized. Unlike the lukewarm PR response The Seattle Times issued after reader complaints on the Charleena Lyles coverage, Brodeur’s apology seems heartfelt, sincere, and persuasive. But the apologies belie the problem at The Times. Where is the value in a newspaper that, by its own admission, “lacks sensitivity” in reporting matters of race and gender?

In her apology, Brodeur concluded, “In taking on the issue of crime and gentrification in a single column, I climbed the journalistic equivalent of an Olympic high dive and failed. I need more training … My editor recently asked me whether there was a project I wanted to work on, something long-term. And this just might be it: My own self. My own bias.” Should we all be so privileged to get paid for this work!

As a long-time subscriber and constant Times reader for my 28 years in the city, I’ve supported newspapers for their many virtues, and excused the occasional misstep. But these are not missteps, and are not occasional. The reporting on Charleena Lyles was no misstep. In these urgent times, I can no longer separate The Times from its functional perpetuation of the status quo.

If The Times editors, reporters, and columnists lack the training, skill, or vision to do good journalism, as The Times itself has admitted numerous times this week, they should not be supported.  For that reason, I’ve cancelled my subscription to The Seattle Times, and I urge others to do the same.

 

(Photo Credit: KUOW / Megan Farmer)

#JusticePourThéo: We must end police impunity and call their violence rape

Tongues are starting to loosen after the sexual police aggression on Théo in Aulnay-sous-Bois, France. More young men regularly stopped for ID check have come forward to talk about the violence always more humiliating and sexual, the insults of the police forces. They feel lawlessly trapped. Only 5% of the young people violently searched after ID checks file a complaint.

Moreover, as the press release from feminist group Femmes Solidaires pointed out, “What this crime tells us…is when a man wants to humiliate and dominate another man, he resorts to the same type of brutality as the one used to dominate a woman: rape.” They also note the uneasiness of the media to accurately identify this crime. For Femmes Solidaires, in the scale of police violence, pushing a baton in the rectum of a young man is a most serious crime and feminists must name what happened to Théo and other young men with the right word: rape. They exhort people not to turn a blind eye on this crime and conclude, “Silence tortures, impunity kills, invisibility condemns the victim to relive the same crimes.”

In addition to using rape, the police forces use homophobic and racist slurs regularly. The word “bamboula”, commonly uttered by police, carries its own colonial history. During a TV program, a police union representative admitted that although this word could be considered an insult, it remained tolerable. The anchor immediately reacted, saying “no” it is intolerable. In fact, “bamboula” is undoubtedly racist. As historian Mathilde Larrère explained, Bamboula is the name of a drum, which name became an expression of colonial racism. As she clarified, racism was born from the violence of domination and enslavement of populations to justify this very violence.

These expressions of racism shed light on identity politics as a way to differentiate the rights-bearing population from the rest that loses rights and can be mistreated, attacked and insulted. The ID checks are expressions of identity politics and the use of rape the expression of masculinity as a brutal authority.

Recently, a court decision in Bobigny, asuburb of Paris, on a similar case that occurred in 2015 has clearly stated that from now on a rape with a baton or something else committed by a police officer or not will be judged as a rape instead of violence. That decision signals what many have lounged for: police will no longer be granted impunity.

This is not over and the mobilization against violence and sexual violence cannot end with this decision.  More integrative measures should be taken to break the isolation and sense of abandonment of many “real” French residents who have been left out by the republic.

(Photo Credit: BondyBlog)

#BlackLivesMatter, this time in France. #JusticePourTheo

Once more police violence makes the headlines. In France, Theo a 22-year-old young resident of Aulnay-sous-Bois, a northern Paris suburban city, was stop-searched by four special forces police officers few days ago. The search was aggressive verbally and physically; the telescopic (expandable) baton of one of the police officer was forced in the anus of the young man. Theo, who is black, was insulted with slang racial words including the N-word.

The police officers sprayed tear gas into Theo’s mouth, then dragged him, handcuffed, to their car. Theo was in excruciating pain covered with his own blood. Once in the police station, another police officer immediately called the SAMU (emergency medical unit). The doctors were appalled to see the damage on his body with a 10cm (3.5 inches) tear in the rectal region, with a perforated rectum; he was rushed to a hospital operating room. His injuries are serious with possible life damage. He has to keep a fecal diversion with colostomy probably for the next few months.

From Aulnay to the rest of France, the outcry was broad. Mothers of “the city of the 3000”, the neighborhood where Theo lives with his family, led demonstrations. Singing the Marseillaise to affirm that France was their nation, they also said that they were fed up with the police acting like “cowboys”. They expressed their immediate concern, demanding if their sons would be the next one to be raped by police. Some said “we are not here to be on television; here we have doctors, engineers, but we are suffocating.”

They want justice not only for Theo but for all the youth of “les quartiers,” these suburban neighborhoods that have been left out of urban policies. Meanwhile, Theo’s case is in the hand of a lawyer ready to address police violence with his case.

A former police union leader, in charge of security for the right wing political party “les Republicains” was recently elected mayor of Aulnay sous Bois. He based his campaign on law and order. Although he extolled the virtue of strong police presence, he condemned this police violence calling it unbearable and unacceptable. He understood that this time the usual argument that the victim because of his police record somehow deserved the treatment inflicted on him would not work as Theo and his entire family have had exemplary lives. In his surprise visit, even President Francois Hollande played the good guy argument in an attempt to calm down the boiling cities fed up with state and police violence.

The delinquent deserving police aggression is a political argument that has been used repeatedly in recent years to justify increasingly violent police intervention and ID checks based on profiling, including statistical profiling.

Theo’s case was referred to the Defender of the Rights, “an independent administrative authority that oversees the protection of rights and freedoms and promotes equality to ensure access to rights”. This authority had warned President Hollande about the unnecessary character and lack of supervision of ID checks, to no avail. In 2016 the Defender of Rights published a report stating that the youth that had the color of Africa, north and sub-Saharan, were 20 times more subject to ID checks. The report documents discrepancies in the treatment of populations, based on appearance, age and location of the control. The numbers show a degradation of the situation in the suburban areas with only 5% of these young pursuing legal actions against police abuse. The president of this authority declared that Theo’s affair was not a short news affair but a societal and political affair. He insisted on the importance to question these “random” ID checks poorly reported with no actual legal justification,” adding that the police of the republic should be the police for equality.

In 2009, the National Center for Scientific Research showed that in general the police control is determined by the clothes worn as well as the color of their skin, rather than something that done by the young people checked.

Part of the stigmatization or disqualification as full human being is in the language and attitude of the state authority. They are systematically addressed with “tu,” the informal you. According to the Defender of Rights, the informal “you” is used in 40% of the control of the young men of these neighborhoods compared to 16% for the general population. They are also insulted in 21% of the cases compared to 7% for the rest of the population.

The vast majority of the ID checks have no legal or investigative basis, but they are very effective in making feel the young person not belonging and always under scrutiny. Despite the recent riots, the inhabitants of these neighborhoods are committed to assert their proud presence against the constant humiliation and stigmatization encountered. People nationwide are supporting their call for dignity.

ACAT, an association dedicated to fight torture, produced a comprehensive review of the situation in France. Between 2005 and 2015, they counted 26 casualties caused by police, of whom 22 were people of color. Last summer, for example, Adama Traoré died in police custody after. The family is still demanding an explanation as to why he died.

Depoliticizing state violence is a way of justifying it. Many reports have demonstrated that something needs to change in the national policies that mistreat and racialize the youth in France. In this electoral period the stakes are high and the struggle to stop the disqualification of citizens calls for solidarity, as the mothers of Aulnay-sous-Bois demanded. It is part of the struggle for immigrants’, refugees’ and women’s rights. In this time of enmity when victims are made the culprits, people in France need to join the resistance.

(Photos Credit: Bondy Blog)