The white, capitalist ruling class has used policing as a means of enforcing and maintaining a racial and economic caste system since the early days of colonization. In the last 50 years, police agencies have widened the scope and scale of their systemic violence; through surveillance, informants, and others forms of covert policing, these agencies have expanded their mandate from crime control to crime prevention – leading to entrapment as well as the application of racist and classist “crime-predicting algorithms”. Despite a sharp decline in violent crime over the past quarter century, this expansion of policing capacity has been accompanied by an increase in both militarization and deployment of police (Source). Between 1980 and 1986, the use of Paramilitary Police Units (PPUs) doubled. And by 1995 they quadrupled (Source). While their stated purpose is to combat “high risk” situations such as hostages and terrorism, warrant work constitutes more than three of every four PPU deployments. This means that soldiers armed with assault rifles and kevlar to the socks are handling work once assigned to regular police officers (Source). Today, over three quarters of the arrests made by these units involve a warrant of apprehension, that is, a warrant issued for the arrest of an individual who fails to appear in court on time.
With the surge of these units, as well as their growing militarization, it is no surprise that that they have replicated the language, training, and tactics employed by the military abroad here at home. PPUs train with the US Armed Forces, and over 60 percent of them have stated that, in turn, they provide training to other policing agencies (Source) — thereby importing the colonialist mindset of the US military and ensuring its dissipation across the country. There is no question about how this affects us; time and time again police shoot first and ask questions later when interacting with black and brown people. The criminalization of poverty in the United States has damned black and brown existence to the point that the families of those who fall victim to police brutality have no recourse to demand justice or accountability.
Individuals with mental health issues also face high rates of violence in their interactions with police. Police agencies largely do not provide officers with adequate crisis intervention training, and because there is no accountability for police actions, individuals in mental health crises are disproportionately killed by police (Source). In one instance in which race and mental health crisis intersected, the Richmond Police Department killed Marcus-David Peters on May 14th, 2018. Marcus-David Peters was a high school biology teacher, Summa Cumme Laude graduate in Richmond, and, most importantly, a beloved member of his community. On the day of his murder, an officer responded to a call about a man who was clearly mentally distressed. Within 18 seconds of the officer arriving at the scene, he shot an unarmed Marcus-David Peters twice, and Marcus-David Peters died shortly afterwards (Source).
In response to Marcus-David Peters’ murder, the people are fighting back and demanding better. As socialists, we recognize the need to join with those standing up to this institution that claims to protect us but so often only protects capital and those who control it. That is why we call on all YDSA chapters to support Justice and Reformation’s National Day of Action on October 13th in the most visible way they can. Justice and Reformation is asking for activists to participate in a number of activities based on their capacity, from sharing Marcus-David Peters’ story to organizing marches in solidarity. For further suggestions on actions your chapter could take, please see the Justice and Reformation’s website for a full list of ways you can participate remotely. For those seeking to participate in the Day of Action in Richmond, Virginia, contact the Virginia Commonwealth University chapter of YDSA at [email protected] for details. Otherwise, for those with questions about organizing around this day of action from afar, please email the YDSA NCC at [email protected] for assistance.