Three weeks ago, I organized a screening of a compilation I had created of video from various Black Lives Matter protests in which I had participated (I am a videographer). I titled the event “A Perspective of Black Lives Matter in New York City: From Trayvon Martin to Deborah Danner.” The idea was to discuss the movement as it had evolved and imagine its future, where it must go. In this, I included myself, whether I have the good fortune to take office this year or not. Despite that, I must confess, I didn't know what to expect. The event was small, or, as I like to call such environments, “intimate.” Half of the attendees were Greens and half were Anarchists. If you don't know the origins of the Green Party or much about its platform, you might think we would have little in common. In fact, the opposite is true. The Greens ARE “Eco-Socialists,” after all.
I had set up the compilation to force viewers to see, really see, the pain inflicted by killer cops. The shots were long – with pauses as mothers and fathers found themselves at a loss for words, cried for their children, or looked into the camera as if waiting for an answer to the question in their eyes, always the same question, always unspoken: Why? Why did my child have to die? I cut in scenes of my own child, my own black son, on the bullhorn leading chants. Energetic, eager, smart, so smart, and very much alive. I guess I needed to share my own fears, fears that keep me awake at night sometimes, to share my sense of urgency. If answers and solutions come, they will come too late, no matter whether that happens in a month or in another five years.
My campaign manager urged me to find the clip I had made of the woman who came to a Trayvon protest to support Zimmerman, which she pronounced, as Gabe pointed out, like Superman: Zimmer-Man. The protesters were traumatized, shocked and angry, and said so, but she was in no danger. Yet white cops still came to escort her to “safety”: back to the safety of her prejudice.
This is the enemy we face, not her specifically, but the attitude she represents, that police and all other security officers are basically good, out there on the “mean streets” risking their lives, that they wouldn't chase down and brutalize or kill anyone without a good reason, and that whatever they do to “protect the public” is justifiable. The lack of indictments, convictions, and jail time attests to this widespread attitude because even when cops are dragged in front of a jury, and precious few times they are, the jury, made up of people like Zimmer-Man's biggest fan, invariably take the cops’ side.
The question is how do we protect the public from their so-called defenders. Many ideas surfaced. Civilian review boards with actual power, third-party investigators, the recruiting of cops from their own neighborhoods, all of which the Green Party supports. But other ideas emerged, too.
“Has the Green Party ever considered abolition?”
“Not that I have heard. But unlike the other parties, we would.”
Copwatch was floated as a model we might emulate if we went down that road. In fact, I had included an interview I had done with Jose Lasalle, probably the most well-known member of the branch in New York City. Copwatchers patrol their neighborhoods, carrying only cameras, with which they capture wrongdoing (by the police) and later for which they seek accountability from the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Before potential Copwatchers hit the streets, they must undergo training. They need to be aware of laws and people’s rights so they know when to tape police and what to tell the community members they seek to keep safe.
We didn't solve the police's war on black and brown men, women, and children that evening, but we remembered some of those who had died; those, like my son, we desperately want to keep safe; and those who have been fighting for so long to put the cops in check and imagined a future where we might not “need” them anymore (if we ever did).
I am in the process of exploring what police abolition might look like and in crafting legislation to that end. If you have thoughts, do share.