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Why We Must Divest from Police and Invest in Black Communities

by Folabi Olagbaju

June 4, 2020

Greenpeace is heeding the call of the Movement for Black Lives. We’re joining a huge coalition demanding an end to the war on Black people.

© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

Our collective heartache, rage, and the outpouring of people-power is beginning to create real change.

Uprisings are surging around the country and the world in response to the horrific police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — just two of many heinous police killings of Black people. This resistance is forcing political elites to choose between justice and their constituents or backing violent police departments.

Now, the remaining three officers involved in the killing of George Floyd have been arrested and charged with aiding and abetting his murder. But as of the moment this email was sent, Breonna Taylor’s killers have not. This outbursting of people-power shows we can and must go further, we must seek deep, systemic change to put an end to carceral, state-sanctioned violence at the hands of the police.

That’s why Greenpeace is heeding the call of the Movement for Black Lives. We’re joining a huge coalition demanding an end to the war on Black people. I need you with us on this one. If millions of people of conscience show up, if people like you speak out, 2020 could be a massive tipping point in the long arc towards racial justice.

The U.S. now spends close to $200 billion per year on police and mass incarceration that continues to devastate Black communities. At the same time, Black communities have faced chronic disinvestment and racist policies, which have only served to widen the racial wealth and health gap, leaving Black families behind. And the crises keep piling up. Due to years of economic injustice and environmental racism –– from polluting power plants and freeways, Black people are now up to six times more likely to die from the coronavirus than white people.

Clearly, our country has failed Black people. It’s time to radically reimagine what will actually keep people safe. It’s time for transformative change. It’s time to demand an end to the war on Black people.

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As Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II reminds us: To truly achieve justice, we must focus both on “who” and “what” oppresses and kills Black people in this country.

Although our racist president is fanning the flames and inciting fascism, we won’t solve our problems by removing him alone. Violent anti-Black racism has been built into our country since its founding. Initially formed as slave patrols, police have always existed to maintain control over our communities rather than safety or justice.

We’re seeing that all too clearly right now, as militarized police forces use expensive equipment and weapons to terrorize protesters across the country, exemplifying the lawlessness and impunity that only police can get away with. Meanwhile, cities are setting curfews that instill fear and criminalize our constitutional right to protest. All to maintain the unjust status quo and delay justice. Could there be a clearer demonstration that this system is rotten at its core?

We must listen to and uplift the voices of Black people. We support and endorse the set of demands released by the Movement For Black Lives earlier this week for leaders in our cities, states, and federal government:

  • We demand an end to the war against Black people. We demand an end to the criminalization, incarceration, and killing of Black people. We call for not just individual accountability of officers after a murder, but entire police departments.
  • We demand a divestment from the police and investment in Black communities. We call on localities and elected officials across the country to divest resources away from policing in local budgets and reallocate those resources to the healthcare, housing, and education our people deserve. More officers, guns, jails, and prisons are not a solution to longstanding problems of racial disparities, injustice, and police violence.
  • We demand local schools, colleges, universities, and all public institutions cut ties with the police. We demand police-free schools across the country and an end to the use of police officers in public universities. All public institutions designed to serve the people must cut ties with the police in the interest of public safety.
  • We demand repair for past and continuing harms. State actors like the police, immigration agents, and corporations that have caused harm to Black communities must repair the harm done. Police departments must acknowledge the harm their institution has caused Black families, make an apology, and commit resources to families and communities who have been forced to suffer.
  • We demand immediate relief for our communities. We demand the federal government provide direct cash payments, rent cancellation, mortgage cancellation, a moratorium on utility and water shutoffs, and a cancellation of student, medical, and other forms of debt. We demand long-term economic solutions like a Universal Basic Income in order to address the immediate crisis and pave the way for a just recovery that doesn’t prioritize corporations and leave our communities behind.
  • We demand economic justice for all our people. From Minneapolis to Louisville, our communities continue to be exploited by this economy from generation to generation. At this moment of economic crisis, we need to seize the opportunity to rethink the economy and move it toward one that serves the needs of the people and the planet, not the corporations and the wealthy.
  • We demand the rights of protestors be respected. We demand that no harm come to protestors. Violations of property should never be equated with the violation of human life. We demand that local and state officials ensure that there are no abuses of power and no use of lethal force on protestors.
  • We demand community control. The most impacted in our communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us — from our schools to our local budgets, economies, and police department.

Add your name to these demands: It’s time to shrink police power and budgets and instead invest in community-led health and safety solutions, as well as resources for Black people to survive and thrive.

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Finally, if you’ve gotten this far you may be wondering “why Greenpeace? Why me?” The answer is this: to be silent in the face of injustice is to be complicit in that injustice and every piece of the murderous, polluting system that goes with it. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in a similar time of great moral crisis for our nation, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Greenpeace will not be silent or complicit. We will never stop fighting for a green and peaceful future. We will speak up and say, “Black Lives Matter.”

 

Folabi Olagbaju

By Folabi Olagbaju

Folabi Olagbaju joined the Greenpeace USA team at the beginning of 2020 Democracy Campaign Director. Folabi brings a wealth of experience as a human rights advocate and recognized leader in the global social justice movement.

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