Amid countless incidents of Blacks dying at the hands of police, the push for sweeping police reform is stronger than ever before. However, a group of grassroots organizers in Chicago is opting to take a different route — by abolishing the police altogether.
According to the Chicago Reader, grassroots groups around the city are already making moves to put their abolitionist ideas into practice. However, they insist the notion isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
The idea began with a local activist named Jessica Disu, who appeared on a televised Fox News town hall discussion on the recent killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the deadly police ambush in Dallas. The time came for Disu to voice her unpopular opinion as fellow speakers touted false claims that Black Lives Matter endorsed the killing of police officers.
“This is the reason our young people are hopeless in America,” she said. “Here’s a solution: We need to abolish the police.”
“Demilitarize the police, disarm the police,” Disu continued amid boos from the crowd. “We need to come up with community solutions for transformative justice.”
Though the idea seems far-fetched, organizations in and around the city have staged demonstrations advocating for the explicit abolition of police. For example, the Chicago Reader reports that Assata’s Daughter’s, a Black feminist group, led an #AbolitionChiNow march on July 15. A week later, the #LetUsBreathe collective staged an eight-day sit-in to demand the closure of the Chicago Police Department’s notorious Homan Square facility.
“We did the demonstration to show that police are not here to protect people, but instead harm us,” said activist Camesha Jones.
The latest push for police abolition came on Aug. 7 when a group of Black teenage girls organized an abolition march that drew hundreds of supporters, the Chicago Reader reports.
The idea of “no police” is slowly gaining ground as more groups grow tired of waiting around for top-down change. However, the new initiative begs the question, “If there’s no police, then who’s going to protect us?”
Prison and police abolitionist Mariame Kaba thinks the people can protect themselves through alternative forms of policing. According to the news site, almost all of Chicago’s current efforts of police and prison abolition can be traced back to Kaba.
“For me prison abolition is two things: It’s the complete and utter dismantling of prison and policing and surveillance as they currently exist within our culture,” the activist explained in a recent interview with the AirGo podcast. “And it’s also the building up of new ways of intersecting and new ways of relating with each other.”
One of Kaba’s many alternatives to policing and conflict resolution is the “peace circle.” A method practiced by indigenous peoples across the globe for centuries, the peace circle provides valuable alternatives to society’s over-reliance on police and prisons. In it, citizens are encouraged to openly discuss their concerns and issues in a group setting. Advocates of the practice argue that several cultures achieved nonviolent conflict resolution before the implementation of police forces.
So how will this “peace circle” protect you if someone decides to break into your house? Or harm you? The answer is, it won’t.
According to Kaba, the goal isn’t to discourage people from calling the police. Instead, it is to foster discourse between community members about alternatives to calling the police. In fact, Kaba said most people practice abolition daily, as they’re able to address conflicts without involving law enforcement.
As the police abolition movement gains traction, the CPD and Fraternal Order of Police have remained relatively hush-hush on the matter, the Chicago Reader reports. When the publication reached out for comment from FOP president Dean Angelo Sr., his assistant scoffed at the idea, stating, “I doubt he’ll want to comment on something so stupid.”
Despite push-back from law enforcement, organizations like the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and other legal aid groups have since endorsed the initiative.
“I think that you have to view it as a strategy and a goal rather than something that can be implemented tomorrow,” said Alan Mills, attorney and executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center. “When I listen to the abolitionists, what I hear is that it is possible to build a world without prisons or policing.”