In 2018, then-Alliance Against Displacement organized a discussion class series on abolition, called “Abolition Culture: what does a world without punitive justice look like?” This series drew out a wide range of critiques of policing and prison institutions, beginning with the “total institution” of settler colonial power, glancing over policing and prisons to focus more on psychiatric and social work institutions, and concluding with transformative justice.
This class series took for granted what we, at the time, felt was a foregone conclusion that police and prisons should obviously be abolished and focused instead on the other forms of policing power in Canada – those more sophisticated and invasive forms that sweep up communities as state actors and install the cop in your head.
Is it a step backwards now to focus on that foregone conclusion of police and prisons? I think that, paradoxically, the mainstreaming of that conclusion, where every liberal social democrat is throwing around the word “abolition,” means that a greater scrutiny is needed upon the fundamentals of the movement and politics that long predates the George Floyd uprising of 2020.
This class series is focused on the problems of abolition movement and politics as they are emerging in 2020, as an objective problem that confronts us, as well as a subjective factor that defines our movements.
Class 1: Is police abolition an end run around revolution?
Download the class 1 package as a printable pdf here
Overview: The landscape of police and prison abolition
- Mariame Kaba, “Summer Heat,” The New Inquiry, June 8 2015.
- Ruth Wilson Gilmore and James Kilgore, “The Case for Abolition,” The Marshall Project, June 19 2019.
Perspective 1: Police abolition without revolutionary politics and organization is a “promissory note” for freedom
- Joy James, “The Architects of Abolition,” (video) lecture at Brown University, April 8,2019.
Perspective 2: Police abolition and is “remaking the world”
Amna A Akbar, “The Left is Remaking the World,” New York Times, July 11 2020.
Class 2: Abolitionist past: Fighting past cops and prisons as obstacles to revolution
Download the class 2 package as a printable pdf here
Incarcerated worker and Black and Indigenous POW organizing in prisons
- Heather Ann Thompson, “Power and Politics Unleashed,” chapter from Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy.
- NEPA News special issue on George Jackson, August 1974.
- John Azpiri, “How a bloody riot and massive prison break brought down Oakalla, BC’s most notorious prison,” Global News, August 30, 2018.
Community self-defence against the police
- Donna Jean Murch, “Men with Guns,” chapter from Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California.
- Huey Newton, “In defense of self defense,” from The Huey P Newton Reader, originally published, 1967.
Class 3: “Non-reformist reforms”: The police state neutralization of police abolition
Download the class 3 package as a printable pdf here
The two opposing camps within the abolition movement
Critical review and discussion of abolition in action
The Minneapolis dream and reality
- Black Visions and Reclaim the Block, “Dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department and creating a new transformative model for safety”
- Astead W Herndon, “How a pledge to dismantle the Minneapolis Police collapsed,” New York Times, September 26, 2020.
The Chicago model
- Jacqueline Serrato, “Fifty years of Fred Hampton’s Rainbow Coalition: A look back at how multiracial Chicago-style coalition building has influenced organizing to today,” Southside Weekly, September 27 2019.
- The First Rainbow Coalition (2019), documentary, must be viewed with a VPN set to a US IP address to stream over PBS (until Jan 2021)
- We Charge Genocide shadow report to the UN, Chicago 2014
Vancouver smoke and mirrors
- Black Lives Matter Vancouver calls on the city to dismantle systems of violence and oppression, June 2020
- UBC Social Justice Center, “It’s time to defund the Vancouver Police Department,” July 20 2020.
- Clr Jean Swanson, “Decriminalizing poverty and supporting community-led safety initiatives,” City of Vancouver council resolution (pg 39-40 in the pdf)