State Violence

When I think of recent state violence I think of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. I remember how shocked I was to see military equipment in the streets and pictures of police who looked like soldiers.

And the sustained military style actions against the peaceful, praying people at Standing Rock. Nahko’s “Love Letters to God” is full of disturbing images of that time. One of my most favorite lyrics in the song is:

And the silence, never been so loud in the violence
Never been so proud of a people
When we’re fighting for a change, not afraid to lose it all despite all the rage

I had forgotten the song also contains “Can’t breathe”

So we burn a little sage and write poetry
Wiser than the enemy will ever be
The minority
And authority
Are you here to protect or arrest me?
I can’t tolerate the hate, and I’m losing sleep
Can’t breathe, cause they’re choking out a war in me

Global uprisings are demanding changes to policing and turning attention to the complex web of systemic racism. Following are four statements and resources related to state violence. My friend Christine Nobiss, Seeding Sovereignty, writes silence is violence. We can speak up and not be silent ourselves.

Following that there is a statement from the Kheprw Institute (KI) where I spent a lot of time when I lived in Indianapolis. Then a list of alternatives to policing from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Also information related legislation and a tool to help you write a letter to Congress, from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

You can also contact your representatives’ offices and speak with the staff there about your concerns. In 2018 Christine and I, along with Shazi and Fox Knight, Shari Hridna, and Sid Barfoot met with Senator Chuck Grassley’s staff in Des Moines to talk about Savannah’s Act and the SURVIVE Act which are related to violence against women.


Police Brutality is not just physical violence. It’s also the absence of action. In this historic moment, White folx around the country are standing in solidarity with the Black community during the George Floyd uprisings with the slogan, “Silence is Violence”. The same can be said for cops that don’t act when they are required to serve and protect. Beyond the physical brutality they inflict, police instigate death through inaction and are complicit for the crime of murder without lifting a hand.

It’s a known fact in World Majority and LGBTQIA2S circles that cops are slower to respond to calls for help in these communities, neighborhoods, and reservations. The practice where cops drop “problem” persons off in the middle of nowhere, even in winter and in the middle of the night has deadly consequences. They also do not use their resources to look for missing World Majority and LGBTQIA2S folx as they do for White folx and they are quick to write off murders as anything but what they really are.

However, the police are not alone in this absence of action as the US colonial-capitalist regime and mainstream/white supremacist media outlets largely ignore the daily murder and abuse of World Majority and LGBTQIA2S folx.

Congress remains a majority heteropatriarchy that is engaged in a culture of misogyny, homo and transphobia, racism, xenophobia, environmental extraction, and the never-ending violence of Indigenous land theft and inner-city gentrification. The current administration is a prime example of the old, white, male guard having a fit about sharing power as is evident in the extreme measures that have been taken to dismantle human and environmental protections in order to maintain an outdated Imperial status quo.

Mainstream media is also complicit in the murders and disappearance of World Majority and LGBTQIA2S folx as they do little to cover our situations and when they do, they also provide excuses for the terrible acts that have been inflicted on us. According to the Pew Research Center, newsrooms are less diverse than other US industries as, “more than three-quarters (77%) of newsroom employees – those who work as reporters, editors, photographers, and videographers in the newspaper, broadcasting, and internet publishing industries – are non-Hispanic whites…” Beyond these numbers, there are also many openly right-wing news conglomerates that push a conservative and white supremacist agenda. 

There is no more tolerance for the white heteropatriarchy and this uprising, led by the Black community, is exactly what this country needs to overcome the double edged sword of brutality and silence that white-christian-supremacist institutions employ to keep so many down. As we move to defund the police let’s also remember to upend Congress and invest in honest World Majority and LGBTQIA2S led media.

POLICE, GOVERNMENT AND MEDIA SILENCE IS VIOLENCE by Christine Nobiss, Seeding Sovereignty, June 10, 2020

Dreasjon Reed was killed on Wednesday May 6th, his murder recorded on Facebook live. Over the course of 24 hours, 3 people were killed by IMPD. They were McHale Rose, Ashlynn Lisby and her unborn child in addition to Dreasjon. The Kheprw Institute grieves with the rest of the families and the community at large and remains steadfast in our belief that all Black lives matter. We support the protests and the efforts to make these atrocities more visible through these methods. As civil rights leader, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said “A riot is the language of the unheard.” With the recent murder of George Floyd, we also stand in solidarity and support of Minneapolis residents and their efforts for justice and accountability.

However, the voices and cries of Black people and allies calling for accountability and justice have continued to be unheard by all parties and institutions responsible for state violence. With the murder of 16-year-old Michael Taylor in 1987  to Aaron Bailey’s murder in 2017, the officers responsible were not held accountable in criminal court despite the families being awarded damages in civil court. This is a pattern repeated, from Emmett Till to Sandra Bland. The deaths of Black people at the hand of the state is not a new story. It is a tiring, traumatic, and exhausting one but not one that is unfamiliar. We also recognize that state violence has existed in this country from enslavement of African peoples four hundred years ago to mass incarceration today. The challenge is not just limited to the police. Redliningfood apartheid, housing injusticeexploitation of labor, and environmental injustice are all examples of state-sanctioned` violence. This history of state violence, especially in Black, brown and Indigenous communities, are directly tied to how these communities are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

This fight is a long one. This is a moment where our movements are compromised by dissent, informants and infiltrators. We should not be distracted from the importance of leadership, particularly the emerging young leaders, many of the protesters are friends and peers of Dreasjon, stepping into calling for accountability and justice for their friend. It is also critical to take lessons from yesterday to protect their efforts to organize. Communities have consistently organized to address the issue of police brutality, through dedicated and relentless calls for accountability and justice. At Kheprw Institute, we seek to address the long history of state violence, in all of its forms, through our work in institution building, self-determination, relationship building especially for Black, Brown and underrepresented communities and support of the leadership efforts in our communities to address its injustices. We must stay steadfast in utilizing those tools to mitigate/reduce the impact of state violence in our communities but understand that a transformation in our society that centers the value of all Black lives is fundamental.

Further Readings/Resources

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Indigenous People’s History of the United States
The New Jim Crow
Charleston Syllabus
13TH (Netflix Link)
The Destruction of Black Wall Street: The Tulsa Riot | History Teaching Institute
I’m From Philly. 30 Years Later, I’m Still Trying To Make Sense Of The MOVE Bombing
The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther
Reconstruction: America After the Civil War (Video)
The 1619 Project

For more information contact Kheprw Institute at or (317) 329-4803 ext. 775

What are some concrete alternatives to policing in our communities?

Police reforms are not working. Body cameras, trainings, and other reform measures have proven largely ineffective and will not solve this problem. We need new models for creating real public safety for all.

That includes moving money from police to fund unarmed non-police teams of first responders, city workers, and social service professionals  to assist community members and de-escalate violence when needed. Instead of relying on police, we could have:         

  • Urgent response teams that can respond to someone in a mental health crisis and connect them with services. 
  • Metro service patrol workers who could pull drivers over for things like broken tail lights or other potential hazards and help with simple repairs so everyone can get home safely.  
  • City employees who perform wellness checks on people sleeping in parks, connecting them to services or housing if needed.
  • Trauma-informed crisis intervention teams trained to disarm and de-escalate people doing harm and connect them to services.
  • Peacekeepers or school climate specialists—trained in culturally responsive de-escalation, working with students with disabilities, restorative justice, and more—who can intervene in physical altercations between students. 
  • Community organizations that are skilled in de-escalation and peacekeepers who have mechanisms in place to review emergencies, establish protocols, develop and maintain rapid response networks, and provide health care trainings to respond in an emergency without law enforcement. 
  • Community-based transformative and restorative justice processes that address the root causes of harm and violence.

Some of these ideas already have broad support. A recent Data for Progress poll found that 68% of voters support creating a new non-police first responder agency to respond to issues of mental illness or addiction.

Community groups, Indigenous communities, researchers, and policy makers have already implemented some of these ideas, and we can build upon them: 

  • Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) is a mobile mental health crisis intervention team in Eugene, Oregon formed in 1989. They handle 20% of emergency calls in their area, responding in suicide interventions and overdoses.   
  • Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK) is a group of mothers in Chicago who have transformed a troubled block into a community without police, which has led to a reduction in violence. The moms are present on the block every evening, barbecuing, feeding residents, and building relationships with the young people. They help diffuse tensions between young people and watch out for police, protecting young people who have been subject to stop and frisk.   
  • Portugal has decriminalized all drugs, largely removing police from the drug business, and it has been a success. Drug use now falls under public-health services, and HIV-infection rates and overdoses have fallen
  • In New York, Common Justice “gives those directly impacted by acts of violence the opportunity to shape what repair will look like, and, in the case of the responsible party, to carry out that repair instead of going to prison.”  Those who participate are survivors of serious felonies—such as being shot, stabbed, or robbed. Only seven percent of responsible parties have been terminated from the program for a new crime.
  • Restorative justice has a long history in Canada, particularly within Indigenous communities—and has led to a decrease in the number of Indigenous people in the criminal legal and prison systems. Other restorative justice models include Victim Offender Mediation programs, which originated in Ontario. 

Reimagining community safety. As Minneapolis and other U.S. cities take steps to defund the police, we look at how we can invest in creating more humane alternatives to truly keep our communities safe. By Mary Zerkel, American Friends Service Committee, Jun 11, 2020

Tell Congress: Enact Police Reforms

America needs police reform now! In partnership with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and more than 400 organizations, we are calling on Congress to swiftly pass meaningful police reform legislation.

Act Now  ›

Write your member of congress and urge them to take swift action in response to ongoing fatal and racist police killings and other violence against Black people across our country. There are a number of bills before Congress right now that can begin to address the broken American policing system:

The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (S. 2355): Bans federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies from using race or religion to influence police stops, searches, and immigration proceedings.

The PEACE Act (H.R. 4359): Establishes a national “necessary” use of force standard to prevent police officers from using lethal force unless all non-lethal methods have been exhausted.

The Eric Garner Excessive Force Prevention Act (H.R. 4408): Makes it illegal for police to use any hold or grip that blocks the throat or windpipe. The sort of choke holds that police used to kill Eric Garner and George Floyd.

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 1714): Would stop military hardware from flowing into the hands of civilian law enforcement agencies by ending the 1033 program.

Clicking on this link will help you write a letter about this, and send it to your US Congressperson and Senators.

Tell Congress: Enact Police Reforms by José Santos Woss, June 2, 2020, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

Urge your member of congress to cosponsor these bills and be a champion for racial justice and equitable policing.

Clicking on that link will help you write the following letter (which you can modify) and send it to your US Congressperson and Senators.

I am deeply concerned by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans at the hands of the police. Our country and our communities need police reform now.

The Justice in Policing Act, currently before the House and Senate, is a vital step. This bill would ban the use of choke holds, institute a national “necessary” use of force standard, end the militarization of civilian police departments, and implement other badly needed police reforms.

I urge you to co-sponsor this bill. It won’t fix policing or racism on its own, but it is a crucial and long overdue step forward. We must stand together against racial injustice and work at all levels of government to build systems that repair broken policies and chart a better future ahead.

This entry was posted in #NDAPL, decolonize, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Indigenous, Kheprw Institute, Native Americans, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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