Last week I attended a panel discussion titled Making Connections, Building Alliances to End Police and State Violence, at DePaul University. The panelists included representatives from grassroots Chicago organizations, including: We Charge Genocide, Project Nia, Transformative Justice Law Project, Defense Committee for Rasmea Odeh, and Organized Communities Against Deportations. Below are my notes from the panel discussion.
What does state violence look like in your community and how is it being addressed?
Defense Committee for Rasmea Odeh
- Arab and Muslim Americans have always been surveilled. 9/11 and national security became excuses to further that surveillance
- NYPD extensively spied on the Arab and Muslim American community
- Many people have been victims of entrapment by the FBI, coerced into making incendiary statements against the U.S. or to say they want to commit terrorist acts
- Surveillance of Muslim Americans is used to make for war, increase the budget of the Department of Homeland Security, and to scare the public
- The Arab and Muslim American community in Chicago is targeted by the FBI
Transformative Justice Law Project
- Six trans women of color have been murdered this year already
- Relying on police and the criminal legal system to protect trans women from violence does not work because these systems also inflict violence
- Trans women experience oppression and harm from multiple systems (education, employers, media, police)
- It is hard to obtain data about the number of trans women murdered each year because police and the media will use the victim’s gender assigned at birth, so the victim is thought of as another Black man dead from violence
- Most activism and funding targeted towards trans issues is geared towards addressing HIV/AIDS, not violence against trans women of color
What connections are important to identify across communities?
We Charge Genocide
- Mainstream media is attracted to the spectacle of police violence, but does not actively cover the daily police violence of harassment and stop and frisk
- Many Black people have articulated feeling hunted by police; we are always assumed criminal
- We need to understand that state violence is historical, it is not new.
What are the barriers that make alliances between organizations and communities difficult?
- Blackness is used to measure other groups’ position in society
- Black people are always asked to be in solidarity with others
- No one likes to listen to and take direction from Black people
- Black people are the property of everyone
- The concept of “ally” is problematic, because people take it on as an identity
- We don’t need allies, we need people willing to the work