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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/15/20

Reneging on George Floyd Promises: The Minneapolis Police Name-Change Con

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From Black Agenda Report

Famed political freedom fighter Angela Davis gives a keynote speech at the NAARPR Re-founding Conference in Chicago this weekend
Famed political freedom fighter Angela Davis gives a keynote speech at the NAARPR Re-founding Conference in Chicago this weekend
(Image by Photo by Morgan Elise Johnson [The TRiiBE])
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When Black Lives Matter chapters demand "abolition" and "defunding" of the police, rather than community control of the cops, they play into the hands of charlatans and misleaders on city councils and in the halls of Congress.

"The proposed charter amendment was at best a symbolic gesture and at worst lessened police accountability for past and future crimes."

At the height of the Minneapolis rebellion a majority of the city council announced they would move towards "disbanding" their police force, in response to Black Lives Matter "abolition" demands. It turned out that what the council-persons were actually proposing was a name change, retaining a force of armed cops in a new "Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention" with a "holistic, public health-oriented" mission. But even this palliative was too much for the Minneapolis Charter Commission, which voted to delay putting the police reorganization question on the November ballot, effectively killing the measure. The city is currently required to maintain a set ratio in the number of cops per resident.

The Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar (TCC4J), which was formed in the wake of the police killing of Jamar Clark in 2015, never bought into the city council's name-change game. "The proposed charter amendment was at best a symbolic gesture and at worst lessened police accountability for past and future crimes," the TCC4J's Jae Yates told a press conference. "In opposition to the charter amendment, TCC4J instead demands community control of police [CPAC], which will meaningfully curtail the as of yet unchecked power of the MPD to terrorize Black, brown and low income communities. The CPAC legislation puts all oversight of police misconduct back into the hands of the communities that are being policed and provides continuous engagement for community members to address grievances. CPAC consists of a directly-elected all-civilian council, and has final authority over discipline, up to and including subpoena power and the convening of grand juries. In short, the CPAC legislation has all of the details that the city council's proposal lacked."

"Community control of police will meaningfully curtail the as of yet unchecked power of the MPD."

The Minneapolis coalition was among the 800 activists that gathered in Chicago last year to organize a nationwide campaign for community control of the police, under the umbrella of a relaunched National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Nineteen of Chicago's 50-member board of aldermen have endorsed legislation to create a Civilian Police Accountability Commission (CPAC). "Nothing short of CPAC is what we need and demand," said Minneapolis organizer Daphne Brown at last week's press conference. "We don't want no Community Safety and Violence Prevention Department! Council members, mayor and government in city hall, we don't want that piece of sh*t y'all trying to give us. We do not want it. We want what we demand, which is CPAC. That's the only thing that's gonna give us the power back to protect our community, protect our families and protect ourselves."

Brown has been organizing against killer cops since 2013. She doesn't hesitate to name the Black misleaders that are in on the con. "To the council members that came up with this, you went behind our backs! Andrea Jenkins, Jeremiah Ellison, y'all know that's not gonna help us." Brown continued, "We still got killer cops out here y'all. How can we accept anything from these people, knowing we still got killer cops on our streets?

Jamal Clark's sister, Danielle Burns, sees through the "good Council-bad Commission" con game that's being played to keep the blue army of occupation on the streets of Minneapolis. "It's these same folks putting forward a fake fix with their city charter amendment. Changing the police department's name, that's not justice," she said.

"We don't want no Community Safety and Violence Prevention Department!"

The same hustle-and-jive plays out across the nation, as mainly Democratic city officials attempt to reconcile protesters' demands with their obligations to the Lords of Capital, the architects of the US police state. When Black Lives Matter chapters demand "abolition" and "defunding" of the police, rather than community control of the cops, they play into the hands of the charlatans and misleaders on city councils and in the halls of Congress, for the simple reason that no legislative body will totally abolish local armed security forces. Nor would Black communities support measures that would remove the cops without replacing them with some other security force. Since "abolition" of the police is not immediately possible, elected officials are free to "interpret" the intent of protesters' demands. The result will always be "that piece of sh*t y'all trying to give us as," as Daphne Brown put it.

The Minneapolis Charter Commission is taking it upon itself to fill in the blanks that were left by the city council, and before that by protesters' simple demands for "abolition" and "defunding" of the cops. As the Washington Post reported on August 5:

"The council says, 'Trust us. We'll figure it out after this is approved. Trust us,''' Barry Clegg, a Minneapolis attorney who chairs the commission, said ahead of Wednesday's vote. "Well, I don't... We need more time to fill in these blanks so voters can make a decision based on an actual specific plan and not the promise of one."

Unless Black community activists spell out precisely how security for communities will be maintained, and to whom those forces will be accountable, the demand to "defund" the police -- like "abolition" -- is an invitation for officials to engage in word games, obfuscation and lies. As we wrote in the J uly 1 issue of BAR:

"Cuts in police budgets may rightly count as victories for the protesters that demanded cuts (or, it may actually be the result of across-the-board cutbacks due to collapse of tax revenues in the Great Depression Two). But diminished budgets do not make the police accountable to the people or allow the people to reinvent policing (or whatever folks choose to call the mechanisms of their security). Transfer of duties previously (mis)handled by cops to more competent agencies is a good thing, but will not result in People's Power unless those agencies are brought under community control, along with the police."

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Glen Ford is aveteran of Black radio, television, print and Internet news and commentary. He is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com and was co-founder of BlackCommentator.com.

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