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Minneapolis activists ask local leaders to invest in communities, not cops

Waging Nonviolence -

This story was first published by YES! Magazine.

In dramatic effect, a Minneapolis resident dumps a bag of money onto a podium during public comments at the final City Council meeting on the 2020 budget last month. The person with them, who identified himself as David, is addressing the council members.

“This is $193.40,” David says, then begins to explain that the money represents the $193 million budget Mayor Jacob Frey proposed to give the Minneapolis Police Department in 2020, more than one-third of the city’s general fund. The budget sparked protest from a number of Minneapolis residents and activists — many who attended the meeting to voice their opposition, including members of Reclaim the Block, a coalition of Minneapolis organizers and community members who advocate for divesting from police and into community-based solutions.

After the group’s protest of the 2020 police budget at three public meetings in the final months of 2019, the City Council voted to move $242,000 from the police budget and into the Office of Violence Prevention, a broad-reaching office that has the agency to fund community services in the name of violence prevention. 

The budget shift was small compared to some of the other successes residents and local organizers have had over the past year and a half while advocating for the city to divest from the Minneapolis Police Department and into violence prevention. The group argues that large issues facing the city such as homelessness, opioid addiction, and mental health crises are not only not solved by the policing, but exacerbated by them. To get at the root causes of these problems, Reclaim the Block says, the city needs to invest in community-based solutions and services that are tailored to each issue. 

While the coalition seeks to educate people year-round about community-based solutions, some of the group’s most visible work is at public government meetings where people like David advocate for a future with decentralized public services.

Sliding a coin from the pile of money, David announces, “That’s like taking a little bit less than this quarter out of this pile of money.” He pauses to draw attention to how the pile of bills dwarfs the single coin, then continues, “This quarter actually really matters because the folks at the Office of Violence Prevention can make this money do a lot of work in our communities,” David says. “We all know the folks who somehow manage to feed a room full of people on a shoestring budget like this, but just because we can stretch a dollar doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it, especially when our city has more than enough money to address the [city’s] issue[s].”

David and his companion’s display is effective and echoes the sentiment of the dozens of residents who addressed the council that evening: Fund communities, not cops.

A call for a new approach

In recent history, Minneapolis activists and organizers have made headlines calling on the city’s political leadership to defund police departments and put that money into community organizations that are making strides in violence prevention.

Reclaim the Block, which David is a part of, was created as a movement in 2018 specifically to address the 2019 budget — last year they inspired the City Council to not only create the Office of Violence Prevention, but move $1.1 million out of the Minneapolis Police Department’s budget and into the fund. That was the first time the city had showed real interest in investigating public safety options other than traditional policing. 

In 2016, a coalition of organizations — similar to those in Reclaim the Block — created a report detailing the Minneapolis Police Department’s 150 years serving the community to show that policing is not the answer to community violence and its related issues, such as homelessness, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, but in fact can worsen and contribute to it.

“A key finding of the report is that there are “viable existing alternatives for policing in every area in which police engage.”

The report, called MPD150, traced the history of the Minneapolis Police Department, from the period of slave patrols — groups tasked with preventing slave riots and capturing enslaved Africans who ran away — to modern-day U.S. police departments, and failed attempts to reform the department’s lack of “real accountability.”

To invest in those viable alternatives, the community needs the support of the mayor or City Council to adjust the city budget says Oluchi Omeoga, a core team member of Black Visions Collective, which was one of the organizations involved in MPD150.

A key finding of the report is that there are “viable existing alternatives for policing in every area in which police engage.”

“But, to shift our community to be less dependent on the police department,” Omeoga says, “we need the people in the community to actually have discussions around why do we call the police, what do the police actually do, and what are the alternatives that we need in order to keep our communities actually safe.”

Members of Black Visions Collective and other organizers lead those community conversations and help to educate their communities about police alternatives. The alternatives range from services to call — instead of calling the 9-1-1 — for people in mental health crisis, to organizations that assist people experiencing homelessness or drug addiction.

Decentralizing who to call

For mental health crises, Hennepin County’s Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies is a hotline and mobile team of mental health professionals who can be dispatched in the county.

Kay Pitkin, the manager of COPE, says the crisis line is not a replacement for emergency responders—it can take 30 minutes to an hour for a mobile team to reach a patient, and they only operate during the week—but can provide more in-depth, comprehensive care and deescalate situations before they turn into public safety issues.

“Really what a person in a mental health crisis needs is mental health care,” Pitkin says.

Operating for more than a decade, COPE has a $4 return on investment, meaning that for every dollar invested into the program, it returns $4 of benefit to the community through costs avoided and other societal benefits.

COPE also partners with the Minneapolis Police Department and has crisis responders embedded in five precincts who respond to mental health-related 9-1-1 calls. According to Pitkin, even though the police show some resistance to working with mental health responders, the improvement in the mental health calls proves the co-responding program works. The earmarked $300,000 in the 2020 budget for the co-responders program allots enough funding to continue those embedded positions.

Decriminalizing drug abuse and mental illness

The most common criminal charge for people incarcerated in Minnesota is drug-related. Instead of criminalizing drug users suffering from the opioid epidemic, organizers of Reclaim the Block and MPD150 advocate for the decriminalization of drugs and harm reduction services that provide health care and supplies to active drug users.

One such place is Southside Harm Reduction Services, a volunteer-led program providing clean syringes to intravenous drug users and advocating for drug policing reform. 

Jack Martin, Southside’s executive director, says that the police are enforcing drug war policies that are harmful to drug users while harm reduction services meet users where they are. Providing people with the tools to avoid disease allows them to stay alive and connect with other resources if they so choose, according to Martin.

“That’s what keeps people safe,” he says.

Leaders in these services like Pitkin and Martin stress the importance of being in network with other services and knowing what solutions are available for the population they are serving.

“We have relationships with just about everybody,” Pitkin says. Helping someone through a mental health crisis can involve coordinating medication, finding stable housing, and connecting them with legal services — all of which could require a different service.

Funding

The restrictions on services such as COPE and Southside Harm Reduction circle back to funding. Both services are able to partially fund with grants, and Southside takes individual donations, but COPE’s budget is affected by local government.

Grace Berke, the community coordinator for Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, argues that a lack of transparency in the way government officials talk about funding contributes to the minimal input into violence prevention services.

Berke says that when officials don’t research or include how much money it costs to fully fund a solution, they have no context for the significance of the proposed funding.

For example, the $242,000 being moved into the violence prevention fund.

“We are investing too much money in incarceration-based policing and not enough money in community-based safety.”

“People tend to compare those dollar amounts to their own income,” Berke explains, but in terms of funding an effective community program “it may be two full-time employees and part of an operations budget.”

Just stating that the government is putting $242,000 toward a problem is “different than saying ‘We’re putting $242,000 toward this problem and the need is $60 million,’” she says.

Even though the 2020 budget passed the City Council with a unanimous vote, several council members expressed their dissatisfaction with the amount of money going toward violence prevention.

During the final vote, one council member described the moment as “a tipping point.”

 “I even hear from police, we can’t arrest ourselves out of this,” council member Cameron Gordon said.

Police department spokesperson John Elder wouldn’t comment on the mayor’s budget, but in response to the creation of Reclaim the Block and the community’s requests of divesting from the police, Elder says that it is “certainly people’s right to do as they wish, it’s not ours to second guess.”

Neither Mayor Frey nor City Council President Lisa Bender could be reached for comment, but Bender stated in the final budget meeting that she thinks the “police department needs a complete overhaul of its budget.”

“We are investing too much money in incarceration-based policing and not enough money in community-based safety,” Bender said before voting to approve the budget.

Transitions take time

To organizers like Omeoga of Black Visions Collective, the council member’s statements are baseless and in direct opposition to their statements.

Oemoga described the council as “playing a very safe game, as far as what waves they want to make and where they want to push.”

Even if local government supported divesting from the police rapidly, the transition is unprecedented and the organizers don’t pretend that they have all of the answers moving forward.

“It’s all about practice,” says Sophia Benrud, a core team and staff member of Black Visions Collective. “As we transition into something and out of something else, you’re always going to find gaps, and I think that you have to be emergent with that. Communities that have been systemically disenfranchised throughout history have always come up and filled the gaps in the ways they need to because that’s how we survive.”

Benrud urges people — including her City Council members — to understand that the transition takes time.

“Why would you think the transition is going to happen in a year?” Benrud asks. “We gave [policing] time, and it’s still proving to not actually do anything, so why not allow something else to transform and shift and change and grow with the same commitment that’s [been given] to the police department?”

Terrorism police assessed Extinction Rebellion earlier than thought

The Guardian | Protest -

Police say Rising Up report, produced one year ago, concluded XR was not a threat

Counter-terrorism chiefs ordered a formal assessment of whether Extinction Rebellion was a national security threat one year ago and then sent a secret report about the group to police forces, the Guardian has learned.

The revelation shows that counter-terrorism police’s interest in the non-violent climate emergency group began earlier and was more extensive than previously thought.

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Rotterdam: Illegal eviction currently at De la Reystraat

House Occupation News -

Since 15:30 today there is a big police operation at De la Reystraat in the Tweebosbuurt. One squat is threatened with illegal eviction again. You can join there to just witness the scene, it would be really supportive!
Kraaken in ze abyss!

Contact: squat-vestia [at] riseup [dot] net
https://squ.at/r/7o21
http://tweebosbuurt.noblogs.org/
OpenPGP Signature : C3E3 8AEA FB8A 58DD 5ED8 11CF 956E ADCD 4837 E212

Some squats in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/NL/squated/squat
Groups (social center, collective, squat) in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/NL
Events in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/NL

source: https://tweebosbuurt.noblogs.org/post/2020/02/06/illegal-eviction-currently-at-de-lareystraat/

The COP26 climate conference can still be a success. Here's how | Ed Miliband

The Guardian | Protest -

If we want the government to address the climate emergency in Glasgow this year, we must put it under pressure to act

The Americans have a saying: “you break it, you own it”. In the world of climate diplomacy, the maxim is “you host it, you own it”. In Copenhagen in 2009, the Danes owned a disastrous climate event that broke up in rancour. In Paris in 2015, the French owned the successful agreement.

The 2020 UN climate change conference, known as COP26, which will be taking place in Glasgow in November, could be Copenhagen or Paris, or somewhere in between. Ownership and responsibility will firmly rest with the government. The events of the past few days have proved beyond doubt, however, that we cannot leave it to the government alone. We all need to take ownership of this event.

Related: Brexit has distracted us from the climate disaster awaiting us. Britain must step up | Jake Woodier

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Met chief: update public nuisance law to tackle Extinction Rebellion

The Guardian | Protest -

Cressida Dick says police need more powers to deal with protest groups such as XR

Police officers are looking to update the offence of “public nuisance” for the 21st century to ensure they have the necessary powers to tackle protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion, the Metropolitan police commissioner has said.

Cressida Dick told the London assembly she had been holding discussions with the Home Office to toughen up powers and legislation so police could clamp down on protests that aimed to “bring policing to its knees”.

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Greenpeace blocks BP HQ with solar panels on new CEO's first day

The Guardian | Protest -

Activists also use oil barrels to make environmental point as Bernard Looney takes up role

Greenpeace members have blocked BP’s headquarters with solar panels and oil barrels to mark Bernard Looney’s first day as chief executive.

About 100 environmental activists took 500 solar panels to the central London building at 3am on Wednesday as Looney prepared to take up his new role. Some protesters sat underneath the solar panels after they were prevented from installing them on the pavements and roads near the office.

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'Bushfire brandalism': Australian artists replace bus shelter ads with political posters

The Guardian | Protest -

Dozens of posters replaced advertising in January, in Australia’s ‘largest unsanctioned outdoor art exhibition’

• In pictures: the political posters taking over bus shelters

It’s amazing what you can get away with in a hi-vis vest.

On Thursday 30 January, pedestrians in some suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane would have walked straight past activist artists (vandals, some critics might call them) removing advertising from bus shelters and inserting artwork protesting the Morrison government and its handling of Australia’s bushfire crisis.

Related: 'Australia is on fire': the political posters taking over bus shelters – in pictures

You can smell it in the air – now is the time to really push on climate change

Related: 'Love won': vandalised George Michael mural in Sydney gets a makeover

Related: 'It's telling that people are convinced they're real': the satirical signs of Sydney’s ‘nanny state’

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'Australia is on fire': the political posters taking over bus shelters – in pictures

The Guardian | Protest -

Advertising posters around the country have been illicitly replaced with works by 41 artists protesting against the government’s response to the bushfire crisis – and encouraging viewers to donate to a cause of the artist’s choice. ‘We do not accept that this situation is “business as usual”,’ the artists in the ‘Bushfire Brandalism’ collective say. ‘If the newspapers won’t print the story, we will’

• ‘Bushfire brandalism’: Australian artists replace bus shelter ads with political posters

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Athens: “The best days have yet to come”

House Occupation News -

On the 2nd of February we took the initiative to burglarize our own house. Gare is not just for the members of Gare, it belongs to the entire movement. We hung a banner in solidarity with the free spaces and in solidarity with D. of Gare banner saying “Power to the wanted Comrade D. Chatsivachiliadi, Solidarity to the Squats, The State is the Only Terrorist”. We do this action in solidarity and also as an act of resistance: our way of fiercely protecting our ideas, our lives, our spaces, our houses, and our futures.

On 26th of August, Gare was evicted and bricked up and was one of the first in a new wave of repression against the free spaces. Gare was one of the first targeted because the job of the state is to smash the most radical parts of the movement in order to clear the way for further repression and pacification. The state is trying through law and police oppression to put a straight jacket on the furious body of the oppressed peoples. In October, after a robbery action which led to the finding of a weapons cache, including the weapons of Revolutionary Self-Defense. D. was forced on the run and made a fugitive by the state.

“It is exclusively I who took the decision and the practical responsibility to keep these objects, knowing what I had in my possession. It was a personal political decision for the safekeeping of the history of social resistance and the contribution to the needs of defense of the social struggles whenever that would become necessary and feasible, in the midst of the raw murderous attack that is endlessly inflicted on the exploited, the excluded and the movements.”

He is in this situation because the state is in the process of criminalizing the anarchist movement. They treated his positioning as a terrorist one because this is the only way they can publicly acknowledge the combative political struggle and thus depoliticize it. They then used this designation to target anyone in the movement who might have had ties to him, spreading further fear of association. This is part of their way of forcefully separating the militant and combative parts of the anarchist movement from the broader struggle.

This criminalization doesn’t just apply to this case it is also being applied to all free spaces. In this way the state reveals its true face as the real terrorist. It brings terror to all those who struggle for freedom and all those who might resist its tyranny. In this way it builds a social climate of fear and silence. The state is also targeting the squats because they put into question the authority of private property which is the foundation of capitalism. This climate of fear the state is imposing is also an attempt to isolate those unassimilable and resisting people from the broader society: to quarantine them in the ghettos of criminality and prepare for their imprisonment.

The state media is also trying to portray D. as a leader of the anarchist movement. This is part of the state’s attempt to incorporate and make understandable the anarchist movement in the state’s own language: through privatization and individualization. Civilization, capitalism, and patriarchy pretend that history is made by “great men.” We know that history is made by people working together collectively, people whose names will most likely never appear in the lines of a history book. We use horizontal structures because we understand this fact, and organize accordingly.In putting people into the position of fugitives, in attempting to impose isolation, the state pursues their plan of separating those who fight combatively from the rest of the movement, and thus in working together in the struggle against the system. This is their way of defanging our struggle.

As a movement we must attack with full force this attempted isolation. Our strongest weapons are solidarity. We cannot succumb to the fear of association which is part of the states attempt to separate the anarchist movement from its radical wing.In our action we are breaking this isolation and silence. We are declaring our solidarity and support publicly for the wanted comrade. We will fight and resist state terrorism and repression. We will not allow the state to marginalize us and pretend we are separated from the social body. We will not go into the dark silently. We refuse victimhood and propose attack.

We are the thorns on the rose of freedom! We will make you bleed every time you to try cut down life with your cages and mercenaries.

NOTHING IS FINISHED, EVERYTHING IS STARTING.

Anarchist Solidarians

Gare squat
Kallidromiou 74, Exarcheia, Athens
https://squ.at/r/2y9b

Some squats in Greece: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/GR/squated/squat
Groups in Greece: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/GR
Events in Greece: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/GR

https://athens.indymedia.org/post/1602866/

‘I’ll destroy your family’: India’s activists tell of false arrest and torture in custody

The Guardian | Protest -

Uttar Pradesh’s leading protesters against new citizenship law believe they were rounded up to quell further dissent

At 73 years old, Mohammad Shoaib had grown used to harassment from police. As one of India’s highest-profile activists, he had made a name fighting for Muslims falsely accused of being terrorists by the police, earning him powerful enemies.

But in late December, as he was brought into the police station in Lucknow, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, in the middle of the night, he felt something had shifted. “Police officers abused me badly while I was in their custody and they threatened me in many ways,” he said. “One [senior officer] said to me at the police station: ‘I will fuck your mother. I am going to throw all your family members in jail where they will rot for life. I will destroy your family’.”

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Hiding in plain sight: activists don camouflage to beat Met surveillance

The Guardian | Protest -

Privacy campaigners bid to beat police facial recognition plans by wearing ‘dazzle’ makeup

Wearing makeup has long been seen as an act of defiance, from teenagers to New Romantics. Now that defiance has taken on a harder edge, as growing numbers of people use it to try to trick facial recognition systems.

Interest in so-called dazzle camouflage appears to have grown substantially since the Metropolitan police announced last week that officers will be using live facial recognition cameras on London’s streets – a move described by privacy campaigners and political activists as “dangerous”, “oppressive” and “a huge threat to human rights”.

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Vienna: Still lovin´squatting! Action in solidarity with squats! Smash §92a!

House Occupation News -

In November 2018, activists occupied an empty building in Vienna. They called their new house “Nele”. The occupation has been evicted after three weeks. There was a massive presence of police, including a lifting ramp, an emergency air cushion from the fire department and helicopters.
16 of the evicted people refused the ID control by the police and have been arrested. Two have been identified nonetheless, one other was put into custody for several months.
One of the two identified persons, who stayed on the pitched roof got a letter demanding a payment of 3808 €. The claim is that the person put themselves in danger by climbing the roof; hence is responsible to pay for the overblown police operation.
When the “Sicherheitspaket” (safety package) became law on may 25, 2018, in Austria, the §92a was updated. Because of the new interpretation of §92a SPG, it’ s now possible that people who cause a police operation can be obliged to pay for its costs if they bring themselves in danger.
Especially that the authority to decide, whether a person is in danger or not lies within the police makes this new way of interpreting the law vulnerable for misuse against all kinds of social or environmental activism. Simply people blocking a street in protest, everything could be affected by this new interpretation of the law.

STILL LOVIN´ SQUATTING!

Solidarity to all who are affected from evictions and repression! Solidarity with all who fight for autonomous Spaces!
Solidarity with the struggles in Italy, Greece, in Tweebosbuurt and in Berlin regarding Liebig34!

Video: https://vimeo.com/388353516

Groups (social centers, collectives, squats) in Austria: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/AT
Events in Austria: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/AT

source: https://emrawi.org/?Soliaktion-still-lovin%C2%B4squatting-Smash-p92a-Kostenersatz-611

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