As the city participates in their “zero-budget” exercise to build the police department from the ground up, the city council and mayor should seriously consider eliminating the K-9 unit from the Salt Lake City Police Department. Attempts to reform this program will only end in more violence. City leaders, including Chief Brown and Mayor Mendenhall, were unaware of the attack on Ryans because the supervising lieutenant never reported it to upper management, as required by policy (this lieutenant has since retired with full benefits). If departments choose to ignore policies without consequence or accountability, how will any policy changes protect citizens? A full evaluation of the K-9 unit clearly shows a need for abolition, not reform.
One way we can make prisons and police obsolete is by simply not calling the police in the first place, and to do that we must understand what other resources we can tap into within ourselves, our neighbors, and our larger community. This is why we put together this webinar, 'What To Do Instead of Calling the Police: Building Community Empowerment.' We hope that viewers feel empowered to build and utilize their own skills and support networks, rather than provide alternative call lists that rely on other 'experts', which oftentimes work with or are just as harmful as the police. If you missed the webinar, you can view it and find more resources within this post.
The significance and impact of Black radical thinkers and writers cannot be understated. As we honor traditions of Black Radicalism this Black August, we turn to some of these revolutionary thinkers to inform our understanding of the world and of leftist organizing. Their words, still relevant today, call upon us to continue the centuries-long tradition of radical and decolonial organizing efforts. We hope this list can make revolutionary writings accessible, and can help us to incorporate the Black radicals who have led us to this point—and who will lead us forward—into our abolitionist, anti-imperialist, and anticapitalist struggles.
While Utah’s attitudes toward the incarceration of drug offenders has changed over time, there could also be continuity in who the dominant Utahn community considers to be dangerous. When “our kids” are experimenting with drugs, it is a bit of harmless fun; possession in that case should carry lenient penalties. But when a “Mexican criminal gang” is engaged in trafficking, we see incarceration as a necessary punishment to keep them off the streets. Because of the history of racism in the War of Drugs, we should maintain a healthy skepticism toward the ways in which law enforcement tries to characterize drug users.
Mendenhall referred to the property damage several times as “violence.” When our city officials selectively classify violence as paint and broken windows, they devalue threats to actual lives and livelihoods. They prioritize the aesthetics of their deluxe offices over people’s pain and suffering. But we know the expression of grief and pain is not violence. We know that standing in the streets to draw attention to injustice is not violence. We know that breaking public windows–bought with our money–that do not feel pain, that do not have hopes and dreams, that do not have family members who love and mourn them, is not violence. We know that lives are beyond value, as opposed to buildings, which do not have feelings or a body for violence to be committed to them; nor do they have a community that will mourn for their loss or pain.
In spite of what some ignorant people would have you believe; the homeless population really isn’t comprised solely of drug-addled wastrels and lazy parasites. We are capable of being thinking, feeling, loved and loving people. Many, perhaps most, are mentally or physically disabled, unable to work and in need of better treatment options. In some cases, people in this group have been forgotten, abandoned by or are without family, and therefore do not have that support.
Operation Rio Grande does not care about making Rio Grande safer for the homeless, they care about making it more palatable for business owners. That's why their solution involves brute force, violent power, and fast action. They want the homeless out of sight and out of mind. They aren't working on anything towards improving services and actually helping people. Just look at the way they talk about the phase 2 and phase 3—they never account for how they will provide for the needs of 600 people arrested. They have yet to find treatment and services for so many people, but had no problem arresting all of them in a matter of days.
According to a 2019 report, “Human Rights Watch has consistently found in research across various countries that criminalization makes sex workers more vulnerable to violence, including rape, assault, and murder, by attackers who see sex workers as easy targets because they are stigmatized.” Unsurprisingly, police are often the biggest perpatrators against the sex work community. Moreover, as the World Aids Campaign found, sex workers are at greater risk of experiencing health disparities due to criminalization. These risks are exponentially multiplied for trans sex workers, and sex workers of color.
Utah's prison history is one made up of larger and larger prisons being constructed with more and more beds, which are then filled up with more criminals for lesser and lesser crimes. Politicians and officials today are now forced to insist that the goal of incarceration practices in Utah isn’t to “warehouse” people, but when at the very beginning our first state prison was one located far, far from the rest of the community, one has to wonder how true that is. Like other parts of the country, Utah is caught up in a sort of juggling act, prosecuting people, jailing them, releasing them but then doing the whole thing over again when those individuals eventually end up committing the same “crimes” over again.