Concentration camps versus abolition

This is some follow-up related to yesterday’s post, Today Where I try to answer yesterday’s question, “what will you do?”

I had forgotten to mention my reaction to writing the Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund phone number on my skin. “Don’t go to a protest without it!” Doing that makes the idea of being arrested real.

Bail Fund phone number written on my arm

It also brought to mind the identification numbers tattooed on the skin of Jewish and other people when they were taken to the Nazi Germany concentration camps. Where most of them were killed. I wonder how much of that, if any, is taught these days. Which seems important as I’m wondering how close we are to concentration camps right now.

Today we have tremendous numbers of people in prisons. Where some are put to death.

There are scary similarities in far right politics. The America First’ Caucus proposal to Protect ‘Anglo-Saxon Traditions’. Removing restrictions on guns. The plethora of restrictions on voting rights. The criminalization of protests. The idea that an attack on the US Capitol is called for.

The greatly enhanced militarization of police. We see constant images of large numbers of police who look like solders. Who are equipped with military vehicles, equipment, and tactics.

Which is why calls to abolish the police are so important now.

The idea of abolishing police and prisons seems threatening to our safety, at first. Of course who is “our” is the fundamental part of this. The current system of policing and incarceration is certainly not making things safe for black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). It’s not only the dangers of engaging with police. It’s the constant state of terror in BIPOC communities.

I’ve been participating in the Quaker Abolition Network that was started by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh. The following is from an article they wrote in the Western Friend.

Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?

Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.

Mackenzie: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?

As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo.

Abolish the Police by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh, Western Friend, November December, 2020

Why Abolition?

The criminal justice system is violent and harmful: The UK’s prison population has risen by 90% in the last two decades, bringing the number to over 90,000. At the time of writing we are 156 days into 2018 and already we have seen at least 129 deaths in prison, immigration detention centres and at the hands of the police. As the effects of neoliberalism and austerity deepen each day, increasing numbers of people find themselves made disposable by our economic system and structural inequality, targeted by the agencies of the criminal justice system simply for being homeless, experiencing poor mental health or being born in a different country.

The criminal justice system does not reduce social harm: Policing, courts and the prison system are presented to us by politicians and the media as solutions to social problems. Yet, as the prison population has soared, we have continued to seen violence and harm in our society on a massive scale. Violence against women and girls is endemic, racism and the far right are on the rise in Britain and rates of murder and violent assaults are beginning to increase again. As politicians continue to scapegoat those with the least power in society, the conditions of structural violence that so often precede interpersonal violence remain in place.

We can build a world based on social justice, not criminal justice: All over the world, communities are coming together to build real solutions to societal problems. These solutions lie outside of the criminal justice system, in preventing harm through building a better society. By bringing together groups and organisations working for social justice, we want to demonstrate and strengthen the links between prison abolition and wider struggles for housing, health, education, and environment; and for economic, racial, gender, sexual and disability justice.

Abolitionist Futures, Why Abolition?

We are in perilous times. White supremacists are desperately implementing any way possible to retain their privilege. On the other hand, widening protests to abolish police and prisons are rapidly gaining strength.

So we return to the question, “what will you do?”

Des Moines Black Liberation asks us to create mutual aid. Asks our places of worship to open their doors. Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting supports Mutual Aid by offering their kitchen for preparation of food for those who are houseless.

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Liberation

So many people are showing what it looks like when we take care of each other!
Thanks to everyone whose donated to help houseless folks survive the extreme weather! Let’s keep this going!!
Des Moines Mutual Aid – Camp/General aid
Venmo: @DesMoines-MutualAid

Funds needed for winter survival. Donate to these mutual aid groups to support our houseless neighbors!!
Then, think of how you can create mutual aid!
Call upon the city council.
Ask your place of worship to open their doors.
Ask friends to donate.
Des Moines Black Lives Matter

Des Moines Mutual Aid
Des Moines Black Lives Matter
Des Moines Rent Relief
Des Moines Bail Fund
Edna Griffin Mutual Aid
North Des Moines Mutual Aid

“Back the Black” Des Moines City Hall, 4/17/2021
This entry was posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Mutual Aid, police, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, race, Uncategorized, white supremacy. Bookmark the permalink.

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