On Having a “Seat at the Table”
One day before the announcement was made that BLM Chicago, along with families who have lost loved ones to police murder, survivors of police violence, plaintiffs who are currently incarcerated and other groups were allowed a “seat at the table” to review, inspect and hold the right to enforce and sue breaches to the consent decree process — 22 year old Stephon Clark was shot 20 times by police, while holding a cell phone in his own backyard, in Sacramento, California. We cannot divorce this killing of young Stephon Clark by Sacramento PD from the legal “win” to have a “seat at the table”. One week ago, suburban Chicago police killed 34 year old mother Decynthia Clements during a traffic stop where her car caught on fire. Like Sandra Bland and Philando Castile, another life has been taken by police during a traffic stop. We have no illusions. We are neither seduced into believing that a substantive and structural change has been made nor that the fight is nearing conclusion. We know that the long fight for justice is one that is waged by masses of ordinary people standing up and demanding no more and by consistent and tireless organizing, resistance and imagining of another world.
We enter any celebration, knowing that what is legal is determined not by what is right or what is fair, but by what the current forces of power allow. We are not fooled into believing that the long historic fight to obtain justice and equality for Black people on this land will be obtained solely through the courts, or that this fight can be disconnected from mass social movement, rather we understand that this is one prong of many that can be used in our historic fight to defend and protect our human rights.
Merely being able to witness the process unfold of drafting a consent decree to address the Department of Justice’s findings that the Chicago Police Department engages in a pattern and practice of use of excessive force that violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, means that although this is historic and unprecedented, the goal post remains far reaching. The inclusion of the victims and survivors of police torture, killing and abuse should be central to the drafting of any and all legal remedies, legislation, and operating of police departments nationwide. It is the very people impacted by the abuse, blood and tears of policing who should always be included in determining the ways in which police are held accountable as well as in determining the state’s responsibility to prevent and address police abuse. In a true democracy, the people are always the deciding and governing body.
The historical and current use of police is as a tool of social control for the billionaire class. In the United States that has meant that policing was born out of protecting the rich and their assets, which included human beings as slaves, as slaves were classified as property. The direct outgrowth of slave patrols in the South into current police departments is reflected in the disproportionate violence, terror and murder that Black communities continue to experience by police. Simultaneously important, is that we acknowledge that our indigenous families are the demographic most killed by police. On and near reservations, we know that police continue to this day, to carry out the social control project of American colonial empire. Just as these separate but connected ways that US policing exist, we know that police also operate as strikebreakers, and agents of big corporations in the protection of their wealth as part of maintaining the social control necessary for the empire of American capitalism.
Disrupting and eliminating this violent policing system is a work that necessitates the inclusion of all committed to creating just and equitable systems and societies, and requires us as a society to understand how policing is a tool of the ruling class to maintain a system that is designed to be unequal and unjust.
So we celebrate our “seat at the table” while knowing that it is ultimately a new table and an entirely new house that we must collectively build. We mourn for Decynthia Clements and Stephon Clark and their loved ones and join them in demanding justice.
We honor the families who are working with us on this lawsuit and are indebted to their continued resilience and bravery.
We give thanks to our fearless and brilliant attorneys.
This is a small win in a much larger fight.