Defund the Police

Today is Juneteenth – a day that honors Black freedom and Black resistance, and centers Black people’s unique contribution to the struggle for justice in the U.S.

And this Juneteenth, we are in the midst of a national uprising of astonishing power and urgency. Thousands of people are taking to the streets in cities all around the country. Today, the Movement for Black Lives has launched a weekend of action that includes a demand to Defund Police – a demand we’ve heard echoing across the country in these weeks of uprising.

PPF supports the call to defund the police, and we invite you to join us.

Black square with yellow and white text that reads "Defund the Police"We are in the midst of a national uprising of astonishing power and urgency. Thousands of people are taking to the streets in cities all around the country. Though this latest moment of uprising began following the brutal murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, this is not new. Black and indigenous people and people of color have been waging this struggle against white supremacy and state violence for over 500 years. It is a struggle in which we, as followers of the Prince of Peace, dare not be bystanders.

As we seek a faithful response to this moment, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship must be accountable to the commitment we’ve made to strive to be antiracist. White supremacy is the root cause and animator of the issue of police brutality, the constructor of all systems that oppress people of color and permit murder without consequence.  As a predominantly white organization, we particularly name police brutality and the white supremacy that nurtures it as an evil that is our responsibility to actively uproot, not just a “Black issue” with which we must empathize.

We confess our complicity in a world of violence, and recognize that we have sometimes believed the lie that violence can restore balance and offer security. We call ourselves to reflect: are we only committed to nonviolence when we know we can call on the police to back us up with state violence as a last resort?

There is no amount of study that can fully prepare our hearts to grapple with the reality of the white supremacy and anti-blackness that lives in us and our systems. As we continue to listen and learn, it is time for us to act.

We do not desire the false tranquility of law and order, we desire the fullness of peace with justice. Following the creative and energized leadership of organizations like Reclaim the Block and The Black Visions Collective in Minnesota, the Movement for Black Lives nationally, and many other local organizations, we have been inspired to imagine a future with no police.

From protests to schools, wherever police are involved we see the escalation of conflict and the introduction of force into situations which otherwise would have had little or none. The history of policing in the United States is inextricably bound up with white supremacy, from its inception by the transmuting of slave patrols into municipal police agencies (in certain cases), to the litany of racist policies like Stop and Frisk. Meanwhile, police as they presently exist serve the interests of property over people, which we see clearly when the police bring disproportionate violence to bear against movements like Standing Rock and Occupy, which threaten the centers of wealth and power in our society. Because the foundations of policing are inherently unjust, efforts at reform have mostly met with failure. Even where successful in changing policy, efforts at reform fail to address the white supremacy at the core of our police structures. The number of people killed by police in this country has remained stable at around 1,100 per year since we began tracking.

It does not have to be this way. 

Imagine a world in which the houseless do not have armed law enforcement called upon them for merely existing, but, when need arises, receive visits from municipal employees to check if they need shelter, food, water, or health care. Imagine a world where a person behaving erratically and in harm’s way is visited by an urgent responder trained in behavioral and mental health. Imagine a world where someone experiencing intimate partner violence can text a number and a trauma informed crisis intervention specialist meets them in a safe place. Imagine a world where we invest in the necessities that enable black life, rather than destroy it.These are the kinds of creative alternatives to policing peacemakers are being called upon to envision, and to help make a reality. This is what the demand to defund the police means: it is a call to expansive and hope-filled imagination.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship seeks to meet this challenge and find our place in this larger movement, knowing we do not have all the answers and will continue to learn and be transformed as we join this struggle. We find strength and humility from the story of Moses, who God called upon even though Moses did not feel ready; God does not wait for us to be ready to join the movement for liberation. We are bold enough to imagine a future where public safety isn’t based on state violence, but based on solidarity, mutual care, and adequate public services. We are ready to challenge the church to be true to herself, to stand with the oppressed, and like Christ to refuse to wield the sword of the powers and principalities. We are committed to joining the struggle for transforming our reality into the world we envision. We are dreaming with the youth and with our elders, with people of every faith and no faith, of a future in which no one ever has a knee placed on their neck again.

As PPF, we are doing the following:

1. Convening small group Action Circles to do intensive action-planning and learning about antiracism, relational organizing, and reimagining community safety.
  • if you’re ready for more intensive learning and action-planning,
2. Collaborating with partner organizations about a strategic campaign to engage congregations in the work to #DefundThePolice.
  • if you’re an organization that would like to explore this together, please contact Emily – emily@presbypeacefellowship.org.
3. Hosting a Virtual Book Club reading How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi.
  • if you’re ready to learn more about antiracism with others, sign up here.