Demilitarize LAUSD - No Tanks in LA
by Manuel Criollo on Wednesday, November 26, 2014
In the tradition of our people's freedom struggle #BlackFreedomNow
- we need to demilitarize our schools and lives, LAUSD is the first stop.
The growing outcry and struggle to bring an end to state sanction violence against the Black community is on the rise. We stand in solidarity with the national day of action under the slogan #StoptheWaronYouth coordinated by the Alliance for Educational Justice, Journey for Justice and other youth national alliances.
An important arena in that battle is the demand to Demilitarize LAUSD - No Tanks in LA. We are calling on the LAUSD and its Los Angeles School Police Department to end the collaboration with counter-insurgency programs and expanding militarization of police with the Department of Defense 1033 Program.
We want to end the school year with a strong action to call on the LAUSD to:
- Document and delineate all military weapons and materials purchased and those received from the Department of Defense and other federal programs
- End LASPD and LAUSD participation with the 1033 Program
- Agree that the LASPD as a matter of public policy destroy all weapons, not transfer them to other communities
- Work with us to urge other school boards to do the same
- Work with us to urge the LAPD and LA Sheriff's Department to end their participation with the 1033 Program
- Establish Black and Latino Community-Control of LA School Police Department
As Black youth in Ferguson and across the country have courageously taken the streets to demand justice for Michael Brown and helping to spark the reconstruction of a new freedom movement. It has inspired a worldwide people's movement to reject police murder of Black men and women, the criminalization and incarceration of Black and Brown communities and the growing suppression of protest and organizing through militarizing police and counterinsurgency politics.
Courageous people all over the world are supporting and emulating the Ferguson resistance. The question remains, can we stop other police forces from emulating the Ferguson military occupation? There is growing scrutiny of the Department of Defense 1033 program and militarization of the police. Yet, let's be clear, we have to understand that the militarization of local police were first established to squash the Black Liberation Movement in the 1960s and 1970s -and that Los Angeles was ground zero with the establishing of the LAPD SWAT team to suppress the Black Panther Party. Let's recognize that this a national plan to arm the system to the teeth in anticipation of non-violent, militant, protests. We have seen it throughout the U.S. history - from Watts to L.A. in 1992 to put down the Black and Latino community, the entire working class, and people's movements in L.A.
They have been preparing for organized resistance that has been finally breaking through from the murder of Trayvon Martin to the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. How else can we understand that Los Angeles School Police Department was given grenade launchers, an anti-mine tanks and high powered rifles by the Department of Defense? These are weapons of destruction and misery, first used in Vietnam, Apartheid South Africa and Iraq. Are these weapons there to suppress the next generation of Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Black Panthers?
State sanction violence has been on the rise for over 40 years - mass incarceration and over-policing of Black and Brown communities has been its driving force, deeply rooted in a longer-continuum of US history of conquest, slavery and genocide. The Strategy Center's Community Rights Campaign has been leading a concentrated fight to the de-militarization of our schools and de-criminalization of LAUSD's Black and Brown students that we hope can contribute to build a broader movement to Free the US 2.5 Million Prisoners. Police violence and mass incarceration are the greatest human rights violations of our time. There are 1 million Black and over 500,000 Latinos who are currently incarcerated - and when you take into account the millions of Black families and children of the incarcerated and the communities that they reside in, who have faced 40 years of heighten level of state sanctioned violence that includes police brutality and murder, mass criminalization and astronomical incarceration rates and the political, economic and social castaway in the current systems of probation and parole - creating an outcast class that can be described as the birth of a New Jim Crow as eloquently described by Michelle Alexander. When this type of racial oppression and disastrous life expectations and outcomes are taken as a whole, it can only be constituted as a form of genocide. Just as Malcolm X called for Black people to take their struggle for human rights to an international audience, we proudly salute the recent youth delegation from Chicago and also the parents of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin who have traveled to Geneva to squarely put police violence, mass criminalization and incarceration as forms of genocide on the United Nations radar.
#Ferguson2LA: Quest for Justice to End Police Violence, Militarism and Racism
In the same week of the shooting of Michael Brown and Ezell Ford, the Community Rights Campaign with the leadership of the LAUSD, unveiled the Equal Protection Plan. This ushered in a new school and police protocol to end the criminalization of student discipline. After many years of work, the Equal Protection Plan represents an important advance in an avalanche of reactionary violence and criminalization against black and brown communities as evident by the shooting of Michael Brown and Ezell Ford. A few weeks after the slaying of Michael Brown, the Strategy Center sent a delegation to Ferguson to record the voices of the leaders on the frontlines of the Ferguson resistance through our Voices from the Frontlines radio program and we worked with the Organization of Black Struggles and Hands Up United for an entire week to understand and strategize how to prevent police attacks and end state sanctioned violence. Days after we returned from St Louis, we were approached by NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Los Angeles Times about LAUSD's participation in the 1033 Program and its possession of military war weaponry that included 61 assault rifles, 3 grenade launchers and 1 MRAP vehicle. These are the same weapons used by the Ferguson Police and other St Louis law enforcement agencies against protesters days following the killing of Michael Brown. Straight out of a dystopian novel - the school police argue pre-emptive protection and tactical alert as a pre-ordain necessity; as we stated earlier the militarization of police comes out of a reactionary politics of counter-insurgency, as our society becomes crueler with constantly shrinking resources and opportunities. This mentality is also reflected in the school to jail track, our student leaders ask is the weaponry for their protection or because they are perceived as a public threat?
Students Organize and Resist - Fight for the Soul of the Cities
We have been building resistance on the ground. We have had rallies in our communities with the Fight for the Soul of the Cities' core demand, #NoTanksLA to end the militarization and criminalization of our communities. We have conducted dozen of classroom presentations and have led important political education sessions in our Taking Action forums discussing the links of Black history, police violence and undermining black and brown movements who demand power and respect throughout Ferguson and Los Angeles and analyzing and challenging the police state in our communities. As we proudly organized with the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition to successfully pass the ethnic studies graduation requirement in LAUSD, we tied the struggle for historical memory and challenging menticide of our people's minds with the struggle to end war, militarism and racism in our communities and across the globe.
#NoTanksLA forces LASPD to pack up the MRAP tank
Through our pressure and organizing, LASPD has returned the grenade launchers and have transferred the MRAP tank to the city of Barstow. And just last week, we organized a strong response to stop the expansion of police in elementary schools - what can only be called another form of militarism. In a moment of solidarity and irony, the LAUSD board dedicated last Tuesday's board meeting to #BlackLivesMatter-this invaluable and powerful three words that says the lives of black people must be protected, that the whole black experience must be understood-yet, at the same meeting the school district was going to explore the expansion of more police in elementary schools. And now, the growing call for justice from the recent non-indictment in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner murders beckons us to demand that LAUSD ends its relationship to the 1033 program, and as an institution of learning provide leadership to reject militarism and police violence.
If we value the lives of Black and Brown children and youth then we can't justify the presence of police in modern day inner city schools. As reported by the LA Daily News, the LASPD applications sent to the state office that releases military weapons under the 1033 program, the LASPD's SWAT team needed the gear to enforce narcotics laws, serve "high-risk" warrants, conduct counter terrorism, and protect students, with no real discussion or approval by the LAUSD. President Obama has called for more oversight of military weapons transfer and body cameras - yet the reality is that we need an end to police violence, criminalization and militarism. Counter-insurgency is on the rise as a military and political tactic, we need community-control of local police. LAUSD can help move the needle by creating a community-control panel to bring true oversight and accountability of the school police.