Campaign to Shut Down Rikers statement:
Resistance in the face of co-optation
May 19, 2016
In Oct. 2014, a group of individuals formerly incarcerated at Rikers and their comrades united to form Resist Rikers. Together, they executed a series of escalating direct actions at the entrance to the belly of the beast itself, Rikers Island jail complex. About a year later, our campaign emerged to strengthen those existing grassroots efforts to shut down Rikers — a torture chamber infamous for its culture of violence against Black, Brown, and poor people.
In recent months — following years of grassroots organizing and multiple high-profile cases — the topic of shutting down Rikers has breached and found some permanence in mainstream conversation. A variety of liberal political figures began weighing in, rapidly co-opting the work of the grassroots movement that valued, above all else, community inclusion. Specifically, a separate effort to close Rikers formed with at least $900,000 in funding from billion-dollar philanthropic foundation(s).* The conversation of closing Rikers has become increasingly synonymous with building new neighborhood jails, which is entirely incompatible with our campaign’s abolitionist perspectives.
The co-optation of grassroots resistance by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has long-standing historical precedent. It is of little surprise that in 2016 we are still fighting the same oppressive system, expanded in both its reach and might. White supremacist capitalist patriarchy is designed to sustain itself by effectively adapting to changing social dynamics. The NGO-ization of dissent has been an effective tactic used by those in power to tame and re-direct rightful anger away from any real, radical restructuring of oppressive systems. Mass incarceration itself is the very product, to a large extent, of this adaptation following the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.
As a campaign, we are turning our focus to re-strategize effective next steps in confronting agendas that promote re-incarceration, such as smaller community jails and other re-branded extensions of the racist police state. We continue to demand that the City of New York divest from jails and instead, invest funds into communities that are sorely lacking adequate educational, health and mental health, and employment resources and services — all of which would serve to ultimately decarcerate NYC, something that the City Council approved 1,300 new cops and 1,800 new jail guards will never achieve. With the recent NYPD raids of public housing communities, it is clear that we must swiftly address and combat these liberal agendas.
We are not here to appeal to the oppressor’s morality. We are here to free our people from chains and to fight for the liberation of all oppressed communities.
Stay tuned for upcoming meetings, events, and other ways to get involved. We believe that with the ongoing support of other radical activists and organizations, we will persevere and succeed in shutting down Rikers!
Shouts to Millions March NYC, NYC Shut It Down: The Grand Central Crew #blacklivesmatter, NYC Jails Action Coalition (JAC), Peoples Power Assemblies, New Yorkers Against Bratton, Incarcerated Nation Corp, Why Accountability, Copwatch Patrol Unit — CPU, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, ICE-FREE NYC, Asociacion Pro Derechos Del Confinado Ñeta Inc. NYS, and all other people in the struggle.
Special thanks to Akeem Browder, brother of Kalief Browder, for helping to found and launch our campaign. Your strength and fearlessness knows no bounds.
#ShutDownRikers #NoNewJails #Justice4Kalief
*Data obtained from Open Philanthropy Project