Evanston Fight for Black Lives met with Mayor Hagerty this afternoon and organized a display of support beforehand, encouraging residents to demonstrate outside his office at Evanston's Civic Center.
"Police abolition is a term I learned some years ago at an educational event. The more “radical” Black women I met, the more they taught me. This learning coincided with the televised images of Black folks being killed by police and a ground swell of frustration that seemed to be building outside of these once “radical” spaces.
Abolishing the police is possible. It’s a process that involves very intentional and systematic thinking, but it’s possible.
Defunding the police is possible.
I would also argue that it’s urgent and past due. Defunding (unlike abolishing which calls for total dismantling of police systems) is the reassignment of city dollars from the Evanston Police Department (EPD) budget to programs, services and supports that address community needs.
A homeless person sleeping in the park? An “unfamiliar” Black man sitting in a parked car? A homeowner using a leaf blower? Boys riding their bikes on the sidewalk?
All of these are situations in which Evanston residents have called the police on our neighbors. Are these situations that needed the response of someone armed with a gun, taser, pepper spray, and a bullet proof vest?
Defunding the police is needed to confront the the over-policing of Black, brown, and poor folks BUT in Evanston there’s another factor: we must admit that part of the over-policing is because residents think this is their only option for so-called “safety.”
What some people call 911 for is subjectively considered “unacceptable” or “inconvenient” by the caller but is actually rooted in racism and white supremacy. Sometimes it is because we simply want someone else to deal with our “problem." What defunding the police calls for is an invitation for everyone to confront our societal problems of inequity, discrimination and violence without perpetuating the same system that was literally created to catch slaves.
I realize that police provide a sense of safety for some people, however, can we only feel safe with armed officers on the street risking their lives? Why does having armed officers deal with your intoxicated neighbors make you feel safe? How does it make your neighbor feel?
Defunding is a reasonable and achievable government action. I stand ready to support defunding EPD. I am ready to fill our community with more services while working towards making Evanston a place where we don’t equate safety with guns and arrests, a city that actually practices radical racial justice. This year, 2020, has already shown itself to be an unbelievable year. That also means that changes which may have seemed previously unbelievable are now possible. As Lucille Clifton said, 'We cannot create what we cannot imagine' and frankly, my elders who served this city before me have been imagining this opportunity for centuries."