Making Police Obsolete
Rose City Copwatch will sponsor a reading from "Our Enemies In Blue: Police And Power In America" on Thursday March 10 with author and RCCW member Kristian Williams.
Thursday, March 10 at 7pm, Portland author Kristian Williams will be reading from his new book, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America. The reading, sponsored by Rose City Copwatch, will be at Vinnie's Pizza (300 N. Killingsworth). Attendance is free.
Our Enemies in Blue traces the history of policing from the slave patrols of the colonial era to our contemporary age of militarization and the War on Terror. It brings special attention to the cops' role in enforcing racial and economic inequality, and in squashing movements for social change.
In the section Williams will be reading on March 10, he considers the possibility of a world without police and describes alternative systems of public safety that have grown out of resistance movements in the U.S. and abroad. In particular, he discusses the Labor Guards of the Seattle General Strike, the Black Panther Party's survival programs, the street committees of the anti-Apartheid movement, and the Community Restorative Justice program in Northern Ireland.
Other speakers from Rose City Copwatch will relate these historical examples to the organization's long-range aim of abolishing the police and to its ongoing work monitoring police activity here in Portland.
The author will be available afterwards to sign books. Proceeds from book sales will benefit Rose City Copwatch.
Copwatch achieved notoriety in 2004, when it organized a successful grassroots effort to acquire and publicize photographs of killer cops Scott McCollister and Jason Sery. Since that time, it has offered trainings on "Your Rights and the Police" and participated in a regular "patrol" against police brutality.
"Making Police Obsolete"
excerpted from Our Enemies in Blue
There is a question that haunts every critic of police -- namely, the question of crime, and what to do about it. This is a real concern, and it deserves to be taken seriously. The fact is, the police do provide an important community service -- offering protection against crime. They do not do this job well, or fairly, and it is not their chief function, but they do it, and this brings them legitimacy. Even people who dislike and fear them often feel that they need the cops. Maybe we can do without omnipresent surveillance, racial profiling, and institutionalized violence, but most people have been willing to accept these features of policing, if somewhat grudgingly, because they have been packaged together with things we cannot do without -- crime control, security, and public safety. It is not enough, then, to relate to police power only in terms of repression; we must also remember the promise of protection, since this legitimates the institution.
Because the state uses this protective function to justify its own violence, the replacement of the police institution is not only a goal of social change, but also a means of achieving it. The challenge is to create another system that can protect us from crime, and can do so better, more justly, with a respect for human rights, and with a minimum of bullying. What is needed, in short, is a shift in the responsibility for public safety -- away from the state and toward the community. . . .
from Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America by Kristian Williams (Brooklyn, New York: Soft Skull Press, 2004).
Kristian Williams is a member of Rose City Copwatch and a resident of northeast Portland. His writing has appeared in the L.A. Daily Journal, Counterpunch, and Dissent, as well as local publications like the Portland Alliance, the Portland Observer, and the Vancouver Vanguard. He is presently at work on a book about torture and U.S. imperialism, due from South End Press next year.
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