By Ahjamu Umi
On July 4th, or the Fourth of the Lie as we call it, a number of concerned activists came together in Peninsula Park to celebrate land liberation and defending our communities. The main focus of this event was to alert people that a series of high profile direct actions are being planned. The first category of actions is future land liberations consistent with the May Day reclamation of Alicia Jackson’s home from predator banks. The second category is the development of a community program to directly challenge police terrorism in our communities.
This article focuses on the second category. Activists are fast at work studying, training, organizing, and facilitating efforts to create a conscious, disciplined and cohesive group of multi-racial activists that will consistently patrol a section of Killingsworth Street in Northeast Portland where hundreds of Black citizens a month are being arrested.
It’s important to clarify some significant aspects of this project. First, these patrols are not vigilante or Guardian Angel type actions, nor are they intended to “police” the community. Instead, the purpose is to encourage community members to join us in our training efforts in order for them to know their rights and learn to resolve problems without police intervention.
The philosophy of this action is based upon the belief that people of different racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds can learn to interact productively with one another. Effective communication and interaction reduces the need for people to call police, ultimately making their existence obsolete. We believe this is a necessary phenomenon because all available evidence confirms that police presence increases crime instead of diminishing it. In addition, police clearly function to oppress low income communities, especially of color.
Consequently, this model of action seeks neither dialogue with police, nor accountability from them: it calls for their complete eradication. Of course, this concept isn’t new. It derives from revolutionary theory and practice which calls for the increase in people’s consciousness and action, thus eliminating state apparatus that oppresses the people. This is the model we will roll out in Portland very soon.
Now, we recognize that many people will read this and say “police departments may not be perfect, but they exist to serve a purpose. Therefore, it’s impractical and unrealistic to expect to eliminate that need.” Our response to you is that police agencies have as their primary function the protection of the resources of the super rich and that their intention in poor communities, particularly those of color, is to repress and prevent those communities from potentially revolting against rich communities.
Since we know that wealth in this society has been accumulated off the backs of poor people, particularly people of color, and not – as we are consistently told – through hard work, it makes sense that poor people would revolt against the interests of rich people. And if you looking at this very real and very legitimate class struggle against White supremacy, male supremacy, homophobia, and of course capitalism, then you must understand the proper manifestation of this revolt. It isn’t the picture of mindless violence without a focus. It isn’t windows being broken. It’s the people actively organizing against the state apparatus.
Community members organizing to take care of themselves across gentrification, gender identities, and racial line is a major concern of the powers that be, because it means that fear – their most effective tool – is no longer viable. It also means the people are moving in a direction where they are looking to each other, rather than the state for solutions, thus removing power from the state to dictate the policies and politics within our communities.
So, this is what community defense looks like and it’s coming to Portland. While some of you will be talking about how it should happen, or whether it can happen, we’ll be making it happen. To those folks who both desire this kind of historic action and are committed to its creation, we say stay tuned.