Socialists Must Fight to Defund the Police

On June 3rd, the New Orleans Police Department used chemical weapons (teargas) and rubber bullets against peaceful protestors marching on the Crescent City Connection bridge to the West Bank. This comes after the previous night of protests (6/2), when NOPD tried to play us by taking a knee as protesters lined up to block I-10, only to turn around and use force the next evening, in a situation with children present. The use of teargas over the CCC bridge could have ended with protestors falling off the bridge. NOPD must be held accountable for their dangerous, life-threatening actions.

Over the last several years, Black uprisings against the police in cities across the country have advanced popular understanding of policing and prisons. We have seen police departments across the country attempt to implement “reforms” like de-escalation training, community police boards, and requiring police to wear body cameras. These reforms have not proven to be effective, as Black men, women and children are still dying at the hands of cops. Here in southeast Louisiana, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and Kenner Police have been responsible for the deaths of many Black people in recent years, including Modesto Reyes, Keeven Robinson, Chris Joseph, Daviri Robertson, Armond Jairon Brown, Desmond Willis, and others.

Eric Garner was killed by the New York Police Department nearly six years ago. His death, and his final words, “I can’t breathe,” were captured with irrefutable video evidence. Yet his murderers were not held to account. Police violence has been captured on video for decades now with few consequences.

It is not the job of socialist workers to stand back and watch the uprisings re-shaping our political system and society. We do not merely provide commentary on the Rebellion taking place across the nation in reaction to police murder. We are working class organizers. These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves now: how can we support and sustain the spirit, the leadership of the Black rebellion? What steps must we take to end racist police violence?

The vague, liberal promise of “community policing” and “bias training” are not enough. They misunderstand the nature of the problem. We cannot sensitivity train the institutionalized racism and violence of the policing system out of existence. We must fight to reduce police interventions and to eliminate access to riot gear and weapons of war police use to terrorize our communities. Police officers are treated like general first responders, called for all emergency situations, even though they are an ultra-militarized force trained to arrest, shoot and kill. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We must fight to defund and disarm the police.

Currently, 30% of New Orleans’ city budget is spent on policing. That does not include the costs of Orleans Parish Prison, a notoriously unsafe, violent institution. What could we do with that money? How many childcare providers, educators, and social workers could we employ? How many youth after-school programs could we fund? How many emergency first responders, trained to safely address mental health crises, could we put to work?

As socialists who struggle for the liberation of Black, brown, Indigenous communities and all oppressed peoples in our society, we must ORGANIZE for real working class solutions. Do not let yourself be lulled into a sense of complacency by copaganda and liberal half-answers to the institutionalized state violence.

Disarm the police. Defund the police.