“Defunding the Police” vs. Black Community Control of Police

“What is the State? It is a repressive organization. It is the police department. It is the army, the navy, the court system. The State emerges in human society at that juncture when it is split between those who have and those who ain’t got.”

These famous words from Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) are strikingly relevant to this critical moment in history when African people are rising up in righteous rebellion against the murder of our people by the colonial State.

The African People’s Socialist Party has always been clear that our struggle is to throw off the yoke of colonial domination over our lives. Our struggle is for Black Power over our own lives and communities.

We have fought for black community control of the police, the democratic right of the African community to hire, fire, train, discipline and control anyone who operates as a security force within our communities.

We call for the immediate withdrawal of the colonial occupying force known as the police from our communities.

We demand reparations to the families of all victims of colonial police murder and to the African community as a whole.

These are the demands of the African working class.

Any “defunding police” reform that fails to address these demands is a political sleight-of-hand designed to improve the reputation of the murderous colonial State while keeping its stranglehold on our communities intact.

Reparations and economic development, not police containment

Before the co-opting of the “defund the police” demand by liberal and white left opportunists, the Party had for decades struggled to recapture our resources from the colonial State. This struggle took the form of the demand for reparations.

An anti-colonial demand for the reallocation of resources away from police containment and towards reparations and economic development was popularized by the African People’s Socialist Party in 1996.

When the African community of south St. Petersburg, Florida rose up in a heroic armed resistance to the police after their murder of 18-year-old TyRon Lewis, it was the African People’s Socialist Party and Chairman Omali Yeshitela who gave political leadership to the resistance with both the popular demand for the replacement of a “negative public policy of police containment” and with a “positive public policy of economic development for the black community.”

Again in St. Petersburg in 2017 and 2019, the Party ran candidates for office including APSP Director of Agit-Prop, Akilé Anai, and Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM) National Chair Jesse Nevel, whose platforms called for black community control of the police as the genuine means by which to “defund” the colonial police.

Their platforms were modeled after the 19-point agenda for black self-determination created by the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations.

The 2017 platform stated: “Black community control of police, combined with economic development, will make it possible to drastically reduce the already bloated budget of the police department that discriminatorily targets black people.”

Fight for Black Power, beyond meaningless reforms

When removed from the context of an African working class-led struggle for reparations and self-determination, the call for “defunding the police” becomes hollow, robbed of any anti-colonial meaning.

Some liberals even insist that it is just a “metaphorical” or “symbolic” demand and that it does not, in fact, mean anything like taking funds or power away from the police departments.

Others have proclaimed that defunding the police means reducing the supply of high-grade military weaponry to the local police departments, but how would this have prevented the murder of George Floyd? The white pig who choked the life out of Floyd’s body did not use an AR-15 or any gun for that matter.

A few cities have even taken steps to “defund” their police departments as a public relations stunt, skimming an ounce of fat off the top of their bloated war budgets.

For example, the mayor of Los Angeles, California said that $150 million would be cut from their police budget. That is a small fraction of the overall $1.8 billion budget of the LAPD, a small price to pay to appear “progressive” during a heightened period of African rebellion.

We are not fooled. Our struggle is for self-government. We have to deconstruct the colonial relationship of the police in our oppressed and exploited communities. We have to take power.

The colonial police in the U.S. were consolidated from the runaway slave patrols. Their function remains the same today.

They are the front line soldiers for a State formed to protect the interests of the white ruling class and general white colonizer population at our expense.

It is a capitalist State born from our forced captivity as a people and subsequent enslavement and exploitation by our colonial oppressors.

As Chairman Omali Yeshitela has explained, the colonial State operates with the popular support and participation of the general white population. It is a “white people’s State,” as the Chairman says.

Before the formal consolidation of police departments throughout this country it was the regular white working class civilians who banded together with guns and ropes to kidnap, torture, burn us alive and hang us from trees.

Under colonial-capitalist rule we have no power over our own lives. Ordinary white civilians can still kill us with no consequence, like George Zimmerman or the two white men in Georgia who shot down Ahmaud Arbery. Six Africans have been found hanging from trees in the past week in the U.S.

Colonialism, the domination of our people by a foreign, hostile power for its own profit, must be destroyed.

Nothing can divert us from our path towards self-determination and power.

Black community control of the police is an anti-colonial demand that does not depend upon the false hope that the colonial ruling class will develop a conscience and stop killing us. Only power in our hands can stop this colonial murder. Only when we push out the colonial occupiers from our communities and wrest power from them into our hands will the murders end.

We demand reparations from the city governments, the police departments and the Wall Street banks who help fund them. No small percentage will do. All of it is owed to us. Every single dollar in their clutches is drenched in our blood and the value of our stolen labor.

Reparations now! Fight for Black Power! Fight for African community control of police!


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