Today is the first day of a series of actions organized by the Cops Off Campus Coalition, a network of students, educators, staff, and community members passionate about abolishing policing at all levels of education. I chatted with Alecia Harger (she/they), a sophomore at UC Berkeley and representative for both UC Berkeley Cops Off Campus and the transnational Cops Off Campus Coalition. We discussed today’s Day of Refusal, Abolition May, and the significance of getting cops off of campuses.
The U.S. positions itself as a just country with a superior legal system where people are always considered innocent until proven guilty and always granted the right to a trial before a jury of their peers. Except this isn’t true at all. Despite the promise of the Sixth Amendment, we do not have an effective right to trial because today, the overwhelming majority of cases will never see a judge.
For the past month, Derek Chauvin has been on trial for the murder of George Floyd. Finally, the verdict is out. Chauvin faced three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. To convict Chauvin, the prosecution needed to show each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution did not need to prove that Chauvin intended to kill George Floyd to convict him of the charges.
Law and Order. CSI. Hawaii-Five-Oh. American Sniper. TV shows and movies about law enforcement and the police permeate the screens of Americans across the country. Media portrayals about police officers, detectives, judges, crime fighters, and more firmly implemented into the cultural lexicon. Just because they are on TV does not mean that these shows exclusively exist for entertainment. Many shows actively depict criminal justice without showcasing the many ways it harms the lives of communities of color. These shows often work to bolster law enforcement in the eyes of white supremacy while simultaneously reducing compassion for the disproportionately Black victims of its system.
If you’ve participated or watched protests unfold in cities across the country this past year, you may have noticed that law enforcement looked more like members of our military than neighborhood police. And that’s intentional, as, over the past decades, the U.S. has made it easier for law enforcement to access surplus military equipment for everyday use.