Statements from Black Visions & Reclaim the Block press conference

As we have reported, on Wednesday, June 3, Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective hosted a press conference via Zoom to address their demands for the Minneapolis City Council. Both organizations want to make Minneapolis free from police terror by defunding the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). 

Below are four statements from the speakers.

Kandace Montgomery: Black Visions Director

Kandace Montgomery, Black Visions Director

I’m not interested in spending my time today talking about the Minneapolis Police Department. They murdered George Floyd, but the real news this week is not about them — it’s about us. Black people and the movement we are leading to transform this city. 

In the days since MPD murdered George Floyd, they have been terrorizing communities across the city.

The truth is, MPD has terrorized Black and Native communities since the Department was founded 150 years ago. This is not news. 

We have been told that we cannot possibly be safe without the police. The truth is we cannot be safe with police. If there is an “unreasonable” or “irrational” idea that’s being discussed right now, it’s the idea that reforms to how police are trained or disciplined or managed will change the fact that they are a violent presence in our communities for Black people, immigrants, Native people, queer and trans people, disabled people. 

We have seen those reforms come and go. This week, we have watched videos of the police murders of George Floyd. We have also lost Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade. We have seen MPD firing tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of young Black and brown people. If we had any doubt left, the last week has shown what the police are really here to do. 

It’s time to defund and dismantle the Minneapolis police department.

To any of our community members or elected officials who feel fear or uncertainty when you hear that idea, I want to invite you to remember: we are already doing it. Our communities are doing everything we need to do to take care of each other right now. 

This week huge numbers of people have stopped calling the police. We are calling our neighbors, looking up mental health resources on mutual aid spreadsheets, making sure that every block in the city has a fire extinguisher, Narcan, and face masks. Making sure our neighbors have enough food. 

AIM patrol and Northside community members are the ones who are watching the streets and chasing white supremacists out of town.
Medics, nurses, and community response teams are literally putting out fires and responding to medical emergencies because 911 isn’t. 

This has been an incredibly painful week in Minneapolis. We have been attacked by police and white supremacists, overtaken by the National Guard, and so many community spaces have burned. Many parts of our city need to be rebuilt, so let’s rebuild a city we can proudly pass on to the young Black and brown people who are going to inherit it. A city without police terror. 

There are steps we can take today, tomorrow, and next week to start building a city where Black people — and all communities that have been targeted by police — can be safe. This work cannot be done overnight, but we can start it now. 

There are experts in our communities who know how to de-escalate conflict, intervene in violent situations, and respond to abuse. In the past, our city hasn’t taken them up on their skills. Now it’s time to invest in them and help them do what they know how to do best. 
Now is the time to put money into programs that use public health approaches to prevent gun violence. 

Now is the time to create a mental health emergency hotline that is not connected to the police. Put dollars behind community healers, health centers, therapists, and trauma response – to interrupt the cycles of trauma that lead to violence. 

Now is the time to make sure no one is sleeping on the street, that no one has to steal or cause harm to people in order to meet their basic needs. Reclaim empty housing properties, like community members are already doing at the Midtown Sheraton. 

Now is the time to put real money into responding to the opioid crisis and addiction in our communities. Fund harm reduction. Make addiction services available to anyone who wants them. Fund outreach work that prevents overdose deaths. 

As we transition away from a police state and towards a world where we protect each other, there is a lot of difficult work ahead of us. We will not be able to sit back and let someone else figure out how to respond to the issues that come up in our communities. But the question right now isn’t, “Won’t it be dangerous to dismantle the police department?” The truth is – it would be dangerous not to dismantle it. 

The whole world is watching Minneapolis. We are moving together into a more just future where our lives are protected. Today I want to ask our city leaders: are you coming with us? 

Junauda Petrus: artist and activist

Could we please give the police departments to the grandmothers?

Junauda Petrus, artist and activist

Give them the salaries and the pensions and the city vehicles, but make them a fleet of vintage corvettes, jaguars and cadillacs, with white leather interior. Diamond in the back, sunroof top and digging the scene with the gangsta lean.

Let the cars be badass!

You would hear the old school jams like Patti Labelle, Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker and Al Green. You would hear Sweet Honey in the Rock harmonizing on “We who believe in freedom will not rest” bumping out the speakers. And they got the booming system.

If you up to mischief, they will pick you up swiftly in their sweet ride and look at you until you catch shame and look down at your lap. She asks you if you are hungry and you say “yes” and of course you are. She got a crown of dreadlocks and on the dashboard you see brown faces like yours, shea buttered and loved up

And there are no precincts.

Just love temples, that got spaces to meditate and eat delicious food. mangoes, blueberries, nectarines, cornbread, peas and rice, fried plantain, fufu, yams, greens, okra, pecan pie, salad and lemonade.

Things that make your mouth water and soul arrive.

All the hungry bellies know warmth, all the children expect love. The grandmas help you with homework, practice yoga with you and teach you how to make jamabalaya and coconut cake. From scratch.
When your sleepy she will start humming and rub your back while you drift off. A song that she used to have the record of when she was your age. She remembers how it felt like to be you and be young and not know the world that good. Grandma is a sacred child herself, who just circled the sun enough times into the ripeness of her cronehood.

She wants your life to be sweeter.

When you are wildin’ out because your heart is broke or you don’t have what you need the grandmas take your hand and lead you to their gardens. You can lay down amongst the flowers. Her grasses, roses, dahlias, irises, lilies, collards, kale, eggplants, blackberries. She wants you know that you are safe and protected, universal limitless, sacred, sensual, divine and free.

Grandma is the original warrior, wild since birth, comfortable in loving fiercely. She has fought so that you don’t have to, not in the same ways at least.

So give the police departments to the grandmas, they are fearless, classy and actualized. Blossomed from love. They wear what they want and say what they please.

Believe that.

There wouldn’t be noise citations when the grandmas ride through our streets, blasting Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Alice Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, KRS-One. All that good music. The kids gonna hula hoop to it and sell her lemonade made from heirloom pink lemons and maple syrup. The car is solar powered and carbon footprint-less, the grandmas designed the technology themselves.

At night they park the cars in a circle so all can sit in them with the sun roofs down, and look at the stars, talk about astrological signs, what to plant tomorrow based on the moons mood and help you memorize Audre Lorde and James Baldwin quotes. She always looks you in the eye and acknowledges the light in you with no hesitation or fear. And grandma loves you fiercely forever.

She sees the pain in our bravado, the confusion in our anger, the depth behind our coldness. Grandma know what oppression has done to our souls and is gonna change it one love temple at a time. She has no fear.

Dr. Rose Brewer: activist-scholar and professor

There is a long history of police violence in the Cities of Minneapolis, and St. Paul. The Minneapolis story has been well documented.  

In terms of the broader history of Minnesota, war and militarism are foundational to its establishment as a state in 1858.

Dr. Rose Brewer, activist-scholar and professor

From the white settler colonialism that initiated the state with the removal of the Dakota people into the current period structured on the legacies and ongoing practices of white supremacism and structured in the protection of the property of capital, policing is shaped by these structural realities. They are woven into the very fiber of police violence against Black communities in Minneapolis.

More concretely, by 1920s and 30s there was an identifiable Klan presence in the Minneapolis police department.

In the last 30 years multiple police killings by the Minneapolis police are on the record, as is other so-called collateral damage to Black lives.

There is the killing of Tycel Nelson in 1990, a young black teenager shot and killed by Minneapolis police.

There is the 1990 “Raid Gone Wrong:” It resulted in the deaths of Lillian Weiss and Lloyd Smalley in a no-knock drug raid by the Minneapolis Police SWAT team.

And the more recent murders of Terrance Franklin in 2013, Jamar Clark in 2015, Philando Castile in 2016 (which occurred outside of Minneapolis in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights).

And Now, George Floyd, 2020

Defund the police is embedded in this history, in a theory and practice of fundamental social change.

To defund, to invest in human needs -— education, living wages, health —  germinates  the seeds of a society, a world without police. 

Community safety comes from within. It involves a power shift to the people. Safety fundamentally comes from access to education, livable wages, wealth transfer, health with communities democratically keeping us safe.

I’ll conclude by drawing upon and paraphrasing the powerful insights of Critical Resistance scholar Ruth Gilmore: More police are not the answer to the deep structural issues of economic dispossession, state and interpersonal violence, recognizing and protecting our humanity. The answer is not replacing one repressive system with another.

Felicia Philibert:  Women for Political Change (WFPC) Education and Advocacy Director

Hi everyone. My name is Felicia Philibert and I use she/her pronouns. I am a 23-year-old Haitian-American community organizer and macro social worker. I helped launch Women for Political Change, also known as WFPC, as a nonprofit in 2018 and currently serve as the Director of our 501c3 Education & Advocacy Fund. WFPC is a multi-racial, youth-led organization holistically investing in the leadership and political power of young women and trans & nonbinary Minnesotans under 30.

Felicia Philibert, Women for Political Change

Mutual aid is the concept of a community coming together to meet our people’s immediate needs in an inherently anti-capitalist act of harm reduction.

Mutual aid is by no means a new practice. For centuries, communities have been taking care of each other and practicing mutual aid for our collective survival and liberation, especially Black, Indigenous, Queer, trans, and disabled communities. Women for Political Change is helping facilitate mutual aid work in the midst of a pandemic and an uprising.

Mutual aid can look like helping someone out who needs groceries, childcare, rent money, or a prescription. These networks are also used as vehicles for political education, resource sharing, and organizing. It is critical that we prioritize and defend the health & safety of our communities.

You might also hear the words “solidarity not charity” in relation to mutual aid. The charity system is largely built to make the donor feel good but doesn’t fully invest in the systems necessary to create long-term change for the recipients. We want to cultivate solidarity by building mutually beneficial relationships grounded in trust, empathy, and shared accountability.

We know our people can’t be politically engaged if they aren’t getting their basic needs met and connecting with their community.

To sustain the work and lives of our Black community members in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we are coordinating resource distribution of food, supplies, and knowledge through our Frontlines Fund. Through our mutual aid project, we have mobilized over 200 volunteers and are redistributing hundreds of thousands of dollars in material goods and financial aid back into the community.

Today we have two asks of you. First: Black youth have been primarily leading this movement. We ask you to invest in and trust in the leadership of young organizers, now and forever. Second: We ask you to support the expansion of our resource-sharing work by donating to WFPC on our website

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