Back to OAEC News >

Juneteenth Call to Action

Blogpost published on: Thursday, June 18th, 2020

OAEC aligns with the following demands and principles that come directly from the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) around the upcoming Juneteenth weekend. We urge you to read and get behind them too. In addition to showing up in the streets if you can, one of M4BL’s calls is to support the movement financially. OAEC is making a contribution and we encourage you to do so as well.

From M4BL’s SixNineteen.com

The Context 

The deaths of Black people by law enforcement and vigilantes is the result of centuries-old anti-Black attitudes flanked by prejudicial legislation and a “Wild Wild West” approach to law and order meant to intimidate Black people and control our behavior. Many elements—such as racist stereotypes, stand-your-ground laws, law enforcement and vigilantism that have treated Black people with a guilty-until-proven innocent approach, and antiquated policing systems with roots in slave catching—coalesce to create a network of deadly terror for Black communities nationwide. This network, compounded by a criminal legal system with a history of antipathy toward us, wreaks havoc on Black bodies like George, Ahmaud, and Breonna.

Right now, uprisings are taking place in all 50 states, and more than two-thirds of Americans agree that police violence is systemic. We haven’t experienced mass mobilizations like this since the uprisings led by courageous Black folks in Ferguson and St. Louis. These actions include small towns, as well as major cities in both red and blue regions.The energy is sustained and escalating. The Movement for Black Lives is alive and vibrant.

 

What is Juneteenth About? 

Juneteenth is a nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the US. To many black Americans, it is seen as more important than the Fourth of July. On June 19, 1865 a group of over 250,000 enslaved black people were notified that the Civil War had ended, of which they were unaware. Many confederate states were not adhering to the Emancipation Proclamation to maintain their control. It has now become a day, week, or month of celebrations, actions, gatherings and events organized by Black folks for Black liberation.

 

The Plan

Juneteenth is a day that honors Black freedom and Black resistance, and centers Black people’s unique contribution to the struggle for justice in the U.S. This Juneteenth is a rare moment for our communities to proclaim in one voice that Black Lives Matter, and that we won’t tolerate anything less than justice for all our people.

M4BL Demands

  1. Defund the police.

Over time, police budgets have steadily grown as local towns and cities experience budgetary shortfalls for critical resources like public education, houselessness, and mental health. With outsized budgets, this positions police to fill gaps left by a lack of other services. This also brings police, who have a history of using deadly force against Black people, in closer proximity to our children, neighbors, and communities. Today, police budgets account for 25 percent and higher of all local budgets. Given that we’re in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression now is the time to scrutinize police budgets; rethink the role of the police; and center our health, safety, and well-being. We need bold, visionary action right now.

Much has been made of reintroducing existing use-of-force regulations as a potential way forward to end police violence. Regulations are important, as they can function as a guide for police departments of any size or scale. But we cannot be more clear: They are insufficient as a solution to the problem of police violence, either incrementally or as a tool of transformation.

  1. Invest in Black communities.

The record unemployment our nation is currently experiencing comes at the tail end of decades of disinvestment in Black communities and Black people. It is time to make real investments in our communities. That means diverting wasteful spending on militarized police and investing in community-based programs like healthcare, education, and housing that we know keep us safer, allow us to thrive, and preserve our dignity.

  1. Call for the resignation of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has a long history of racism, division, fear mongering, and the weaponization of hate. From calling for the execution of innocent Black boys dubbed the Central Park Five in the 80s to defending murderous white supremacists in Charlottesville to using racist political messaging to support his reelection, Trump has continually put our families in danger and rolled back the rights of marginalized groups. His recent declaration, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” has put every protestor at risk. Trump and his administration have brought harm, suffering, and divisiveness, and it is time for him to resign.

 

M4BL Principles 

  1. We Keep Us Safe:

We respect one another and seek to heal and look out for one another. We reduce the potential for our people to get hurt, to be unwell, and during a global pandemic, to fall ill.

  1. Respect Black Leadership:

This is a moment during which people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are putting Black lives at the center of the conversation. We encourage that. Putting Black lives at the center also means respecting Black communities and long-standing Black leadership that have worked for justice in various communities for many years. Respecting Black leadership doesn’t mean always deferring to Black folks. It does mean listening to Black folks, supporting Black folks, and on a weekend like Juneteenth, being a respectful guest in our sacred space.

  1. Find Your Lane:

Freedom is for everyone and will require all of us to win. Whatever you do, do it for justice. There is no one “right” way to protest. We will need art, and chants, and marches, and direct action, and electoral justice. This is an “all hands” moment. 

  1. Make All Black Lives Matter:

When we say “Black lives,” that means everybody. We want all Black people to thrive. Black people of every gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, ethnic background, class origin, country of birth, region, or religion are included. Everyone in, nobody out.

  1. Change the System:

This is our time to confront the deepest systemic wounds of our country. There are no easy answers and no quick “feel good” solutions. Sustainable movements require sacrifice in order to topple oppressive systems. We’re not interested in nibbling around the edges or accepting symbolic concessions. Black people have struggled for centuries for true freedom—our time is now. Joining us here means you accept the work immediately ahead of us, and the long march to victory.

  1. Invest in Black Communities:

As we take action, let’s be mindful of supporting Black communities, local Black vendors, and Black institutions, and ensure they are in better condition than how we found them. Let’s intentionally honor each other, our Black community institutions, and at a time when environmental disaster hits us the hardest, our Earth.

  1. Do the Work at Home:

This is a moment in which all of us must address anti-Black racism in our many communities. Anti-Black racism is evident in violent policing, but it also exists in our workplaces, ethnic groups, our families, and local communities. Let’s do the work at home and ground our organizing for change locally.

 

GET INVOLVED: 6/19

Find an Event

Host an Event

Donate

 

 

 

Talking Points & Tough Questions & Answers to #DefundPolice

The police do not keep us safe: 

  • Police don’t really solve or prevent most of what is classified as criminal activity. Instead, they often escalate situations and operate primarily to threaten, surveil, and warehouse poor people and Black and brown communities, and to preserve the status quo. The very people who most need safety often feel that they cannot call the police because they know this would only make the situation worse—or threaten their lives. 
  • Spending more money on more policing does not automatically lead to less violent crime, but it does lead to a greater threat of police violence, especially toward Black folks. 
  • Piecemeal police reform efforts have proven ineffective and insufficient. They don’t work well enough or fast enough. You cannot root out violent policing with narrow reforms designed to create change over time when our policing system itself is born out of white supremacy and decades of bad ideas gone unchecked. 
  • Right now, cities across the country are rethinking municipal budgets and reevaluating whether the police are doing jobs that could be done better and more safely by other people. 
    • In Austin, Texas, 911 calls are answered by operators who direct callers to police, fire departments, or mental-health services based on their needs.
    • Other cities like Eugene, Oregon, deploy crisis teams. 

When we talk about defunding the police, we are talking about: 

  • Shifting massive spending on police that do not keep us safe and reinvesting it in a shared vision of community safety that actually works. 
    • This will not happen overnight. It will happen through a thoughtful, deliberate, and participatory process. 
    • That means spending on health and human services that meet our needs and the needs of our communities. Relative to other countries, the United States only spends a tiny amount of money on the human services that keep communities safe, and a huge amount of money on policing. 
  • Ensuring that public safety remains the responsibility of elected officials and communities—defunding police departments does NOT mean private or contract policing. 
  • Investing directly in our communities: This means well-funded schools, good living-wage jobs, affordable housing, and health and human resources. 
    • The safest communities in America are places that don’t center the police. You can find examples in every single state. Look at places where the wealthy, well-connected, and well-off live: any place where there is easy access to wages, healthcare, quality public education, and freedom from police terror. 

 

How do we defund the police? 

Defunding the police is possible: Reject any proposed expansion of police budgets and don’t allow one more cent to fund excessive, brutal, and discriminatory policing. Almost every city in the country is currently rethinking their municipal budget because of COVID-19. We have a unique opportunity to cut the spending of police forces that consume ever larger shares of city budgets, producing billions in savings that can be reinvested in a shared vision of community safety, infrastructure, and recovery that does not rely on the police.

Reducing those budgets can happen through: 

  • Withdrawing police departments from state and federal grant programs that provide surveillance tech, military gear, weapons, training, and automated decision-making tools 
  • Denying benefits/pay to police officers under investigation for using excessive force 
  • Requiring police officers (not cities) to pay for misconduct lawsuits and use-of-force settlements 
  • Removing police from schools and universities 
  • Establishing non-police alternatives to 911 calls involving people with mental-health needs or other forms of health crisis 
  • Repealing laws that hide/enable/excuse police violence and misconduct 

 

If we defund the police, what’s an example of an alternative? 

One example is a mental-health crisis: All of us may have friends and family impacted by mental-health issues, and because of that, we understand that care is complicated. If you have a friend or family member going through an episode, would you want the police to respond, knowing that the police might end up killing that friend or family member in the process? Or would you want someone who understands mental health; someone who has been there; someone who is trained to address the situation safely? In Austin, Texas, 911 calls are answered by operators who direct callers to police/fire departments/mental-health services. We should be asking ourselves why we’ve made police involvement the default when these jobs could be done more safely by other people.

 

If we defund/disband the police, who’s going to keep people safe? Defunding the police doesn’t mean an immediate elimination of all law enforcement, nor does it mean immediately zeroing out police-department budgets. We know that peacekeeping is an essential service. But a transition from over-reliance on excessive, brutal, and discriminatory policing to right-sized, reorganized, and demilitarized safety strategies is the right way to go. We can innovate new approaches to security and accountability that better serve the needs of the people without creating massive gaps in service. We learn from global partners non-militarized ways of preserving safety and enforcing laws.

 

Don’t we need the police to prevent violent crime? 

More policing doesn’t automatically mean less violent crime, and expanded police budgets doesn’t mean less violent crime. The United States spends more on policing than it ever has before, but we aren’t any safer. Devoting large percentages of our local budgets to police has created an environment for more police violence. In fact, the data shows that reducing the numbers of police officers and the size of police departments could actually reduce crime. Back in 2014, the NYPD staged a halt of aggressive police tactics as part of a protest. But the effect wasn’t what they expected: Crime actually went down when cops took a more passive role, in the same way that the protests today escalate to violence when police decide to get violent.

My friend/family member is a police officer; what happens to them if we defund the police? Are you talking about my loved one losing their job? 

No. We’re talking about a deliberate, thoughtful process to understand our community’s needs and concerns, so that we can reinvest in a shared vision of community safety. Defunding the police doesn’t mean that jobs disappear overnight. This work is urgent right now, but it will also involve the reshaping of public safety over time.

Why do we have to defund/disband police departments entirely? If police departments are the problem, why can’t we focus on specific reforms? 

Specific reforms are insufficient and too narrow in scope to make a meaningful difference; if piecemeal reforms worked, they would have worked by now. Current forms of policing are outdated and dangerous. Our only hope for the system we need is to reinvest in a shared vision of community safety, infrastructure, and recovery that does not rely on the police.

 

Stay updated on how to take action from Juneteenth and beyond: Text “Defend” to 90975