Community Rights Campaign

Publication Date: 
Thursday, February 19, 2009

schools_not_prisons2.jpgWe are told the only solution to the symptoms of urban neglect—drugs, violence, joblessness—is more prisons, more police, and more punitive and discriminatory laws to lock more people up. A racist re-enslavement complex and rising police state are enveloping entire Black, Latino, immigrant, and low-income schools, communities, and individual lives—and tracking them into prison cells. 

The Community Rights Campaign is organizing in L.A. high schools and among L.A.'s 500,000 low-income bus riders to build campaigns to push back the growing police/prison state and push forward an expanded social welfare state; push back the police/prisons/punishment approach to organizing society and push foward a resources/reparations/redistribution approach.

We organize high school students in Take Action after school clubs to stop the school-to-prison pipeline and the schools-as-jails culture in favor of building a positive, empowered learning environment. We also seek to build broad coalitions to defeat local and state initiatives (such as Prop 6 and Prop 9 on the 2008 ballot) and police state programs (such as regional gang-databases) that criminalize our communities.  Real public safety will be achieved only by challenging the Prison/Police State -- not allying with it.


  • Schools, Not Pre-Prisons! Decriminalize tardiness, truancy and all student behavior issues.
  • Cut funding for Police and Sheriffs
  • Cut funding for California’s bi-partisan prison state
  • End to the ICE Raids, Amnesty Now!
  • Stop “Broken Windows” Policies and the “Safer Cities” Initiative
  • End the racist “War on Drugs”
  • Defeat and overturn reactionary “tough on crime” laws

1 in every 100 people living in the U.S. is in prison

1 in every 45 is either in prison, on probation, or on parole

Blacks make up 40% of the 2.3 million in U.S. jails and prisons but are only 12% of the U.S. population

Latinos and Blacks make up 60% of the U.S. prison population, but only 25% of the U.S. population.

700%: The increase in California's prison population from 1984 (24,000 prisoners) to 2009 (173,000 prisoners)

$11 Billion vs $300 million: Current CA Department of Corrections budget vs its 1984 budget

Our fight for “1000 more buses, 1000 less police” addresses real public health and safety issues, by focusing on the social welfare state not the police state. In our organizing work on environmental justice in low-income communities, the debate about police behavior, police funding, and the under funding of social programs has become the elephant in the bathtub. It cannot be finessed as it now shapes people’s expectations about the role of government and their entitlement (or lack thereof) to vital government services, including the regulation of corporations, and their own civil rights and civil liberties. As such, this has become a comprehensive urban campaign to fight for a public welfare/public health centered government, as opposed to a punitive and security oriented government tied to a deregulatory agenda. We know the fight for environmental justice and public health cannot be won unless they simultaneously weaken the funding and ideological support for the “national security state.”


The Community Rights Campaign emerged from the transformative experience of Strategy Center delegates who attended the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa. There we engaged with demands coming out of the Third World, such as “Reparations for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade”, and upon our return to the U.S., we initiated the Strategy Center’s Reparations Campaign, a predecessor to our Community Rights Campaign.

After a year of studying and researching slavery reparations, we were deeply consolidated in understanding that (a) the oppression of people of color in the U.S. represented systematic human rights violations and that (b) these were manifestations of structural racism and national oppression originating in colonialism and slavery. 

In 2003, we launched our first electoral campaign-- Don’t White-Wash Our Civil Rights—to defeat Proposition 54.  That work has now evolved into our Take The Initiative electoral organizing project. In 2004, Community Rights organizers worked with students in the Bus Riders Union to build a Student Pass campaign which resulted in a major victory in 2005, forcing the LA MTA to eliminate the application process which had been limiting students’ access to low cost student passes. This student organizing laid the groundwork for our current student organizing project, “Stop the Schools as Pre-Prisons.”