What Abolition Looks Like, From the Panthers to the People
Calls to defund prisons and policing is neither new nor hopelessly utopian
This article is part of Abolition for the People, a series brought to you by a partnership between Kaepernick Publishing and LEVEL, a Medium publication for and about the lives of Black and Brown men. The series, which comprises 30 essays and conversations over four weeks, points to the crucial conclusion that policing and prisons are not solutions for the issues and people the state deems social problems — and calls for a future that puts justice and the needs of the community first.
What if Trayvon Martin was offered a ride home instead?
— Dream Defenders, “Defund Police and Rebuild Our Communities”
The slogan “Defund the Police” has become a political lightning rod. To Donald Trump and his people, it is a terrorist plot hatched by socialists (read: Democrats) and thugs (read: Black people). Joe Biden and most of his party stalwarts run from the idea, proposing instead to increase funding for law enforcement for better equipment and training. Abolition also has its share of critics on the left who think it is utopian fantasy and a political dead end. All sides share two things in common: They believe police keep us safe, and they fundamentally misunderstand the demand to defund or abolish the police.
For Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other communities of color, especially the poor, women, and LGBTQ folx, the police are often a threat to safety and security — alongside a racist and sexist “criminal justice” system, inadequate income, housing, health care, and schools, and neighborhoods divested of services and overrun with toxins and unchecked violence. This is why abolition is necessary. Abolition works to dismantle systems that have caused harm, namely police and prisons, and reallocate funds to social and economic resources, and to develop new systems of community-controlled public safety and restorative justice. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition made up of over 150 organizations, came up with such a plan to divest billions of dollars from…