During a series of questions around racial injustice and law enforcement, community control of police came up as one of the questions during last night's presidential debate, the first of three scheduled between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. A platform that only had strong roots in one or two cities six months ago is now a topic of national interest in the campaign for the highest office in the land.
"The power of our movement manifests itself in the biggest and boldest way in the wake of the George Floyd protests. In the demonstrations that we called, we had over 100,000 people mobilized across this country under the Alliance banner," said Frank Chapman, Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression. "That is what got us into the debate: cause and effect."
Everyone who has fought tirelessly with the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, the Movement for Black Lives, and the various member organizations thereof should hold this moment as proof, first that we can push grassroots change right up to the halls of power, and second that those powers that be are afraid of community control. We must press on in this fight to win.
The political establishment of this country is against democratizing control over the police, a change that should be no problem if the police were meant to serve the people as a whole. The thing that they really do not want is community control of the police, and this opposition can only make sense if the police in their current form exist to protect one class of people and repress another. Although Biden appears to be sympathetic, and some politicians in this country have even been amenable to defunding the police on some level, they all refuse to put complete control over the budget and policies and personnel of the police into the hands of the people. What they fear is a fundamental change in the power relations between police and our communities.
There are only two types of power which can affect change in this country: money, and people. While corporate interests push their agenda by financing political campaigns, hiring lobbyists, buying advertisments, etc. the only thing we have to fight back with is ourselves—people power. With strong organization, solidarity, and leadership we have carried the platform of community control from its initial conception by the Black Panther Party to the debate stage of the 2020 presidential election.
Still, it is for that very same reason that we know that by and large the only candidates who ever stand a chance in the presidential elections of this country are those with massive corporate support. Therefore, the only way we can win is to keep pushing this demand from the streets, from social media, from our local associations, and from a united front of organizations who can outmatch the strength of huge and powerful institutions.
For those who missed it, moderator Chris Wallace asked this direct question:
I do want to talk about this issue of law and order though, and in the joint recommendation that came from the Biden-Bernie Sanders task force, you talked about quote "reimaginig policing". […] What does reimagining policing mean and do you support the Black Lives Matter call for community control of policing?
Biden entirely sidestepped the question to instead advocate for "community policing", an entirely orthogonal issue to putting communities in control of the law enforcement patrolling their streets. Biden's full response:
Look, what I support is the police having the opportunity to deal with the problems they face, and I'm not—I'm totally opposed to defunding the police officers. As a matter of fact, police—local police—the only one defunding in his budget calls for a $400 million cut in local law enforcement assistance. They need more assistance […]. We have to have community policing like we had before, where the officers get to know the people in the communities.
If we want to get to the root of these issues rather than continually slapping insignificant piecemeal policy changes onto police protocols, we're going to have to fight for full, democratic control of the police. Trump stands firmly against us, and his opponent only offers insincere lip service.
We have seen how far opponents of community control will go to stop us. They will do anything they can to stop this, from lying about their own policies and history, to introducing their own watered-down legislation to detract from CPAC, to using chemical warfare and other weaponry on protesters, to taking a knee with us. The only ones who will bear this torch are ourselves. In the face of repression, manipulation, attempted cooptation, and more, we will continue to fight for community control of the police, and we will win!