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

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 1 Reading Package

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

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 2 Reading Package

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

The Chicago model

Vancouver smoke and mirrors

Class 3 Reading Package