What Happened In Portland Could Happen Anywhere. Here’s What To Know

During a peaceful march on Tuesday evening in New York City, an unmarked Kia minivan pulled up alongside protesters before random men in NYPD T-shirts, khaki shorts, and sneakers jumped out to grab 18-year-old Nikki Stone, dragging her into the van.

The protestors went mad, charging the white van, trying to rescue the girl. One bystander yelling, “What the f— is wrong with you pigs?”

Video of the incident went viral, racking up over a million views.

AOC went off. The New York congresswoman tweeted, “Our civil liberties are on brink. This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”

She’s right: Unmarked cars, clandestine arrests, nameless officers—oh, my! 2020 has taken a hard left (or right), and it’s all very sketchy.

Who Had Clandestine Cops On Their 2020 Dystopia Bingo Card?

Clandestine state law dogs and federal tactical teams have been targeting protesters in major cities, seizing people and using force without identification or markings. Portland has taken center stage, as videos of shadow officers striking, grabbing, and gassing citizens have gained national attention.

These covert acts by law enforcement raise a host of issues that impact your constitutional rights—primarily the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions says you have the right not to be searched or seized by law enforcement unless they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime. This requires more than a hunch or suspicion. Probable cause is about having articulable facts.

Basically, the Fourth Amendment means five-O needs concrete info to justify ransacking your stuff or hauling you away in handcuffs. Boundaries aren’t just the cornerstone of mature relationships, but also a functioning democracy. (Quote me on that.)

This has been the law for centuries. But even though the agents know the law, they may not always abide by it. Law enforcement is usually backed by the powers that be, so they rarely suffer any consequences for violating your rights.

In his spirited testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General William P. Barr (the nation’s top cop) agreed that your Fourth Amendment rights must be protected—but he also made clear that he’s not backing down from sending agents into cities to aggressively police protesters.

You may be seeing more law enforcement soon. In fact, since sending agents into Kansas City and Portland in early July, the Trump Administration announced last week that it was dispatching officers into other major cities, claiming that federal troops are necessary to combat “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.” 

Sounds scary, right? Fortunately, criminologists confirm that we shouldn’t be sounding the alarm, as crime isn’t a big issue.

Across the board, crime rates are lower than they were last year. This recent spike in crime is a product of governors lifting the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders—basically inviting people to return to their typical shenanigans, which unfortunately includes crime.

Don’t let the fear-mongering get you. Even though crime isn’t something you should necessarily be concerned about right now, it is imperative to protect your constitutional rights by continuing to protest.

“A lot of people got scared off of joining the march after cops grabbed protestors, but that’s exactly when people should gear up and join in,” says a 30-year-old writer who attended Tuesday’s march in Manhattan. The avid social justice warrior, who prefers to remain unnamed, noted, “You have to operate from a cautious optimism: prepare for the worst but hope for the best.”

Stone likely hoped for the best upon being seized Tuesday by the unmarked officers. After spending the night in police custody, Stone was told that the NYPD arrested her for allegedly destroying surveillance equipment. We’ll have to see how those charges play out in court.

In the meantime, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio indicates that he doesn’t want what happened in Portland to happen in his city, adding, “I think it was the wrong time and the wrong place to effectuate that arrest” of Ms. Stone.

Whether or not you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time, know your rights and continue to unapologetically exercise them. No one needs the final stretch of 2020 to end with dystopia.

Images: Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Naddleez/Twitter

People Are Asking Questions About Change.Org

There are many ways to continue to support anti-racist work, one suggestion being to sign petitions. These petitions have a variety of functions: some aim to raise awareness of and bring justice for victims of police brutality, such as demanding that all of Breonna Taylor’s killers get fired and charged; some urge city leaders to remove Christopher Columbus statues. But if you’re finding these petitions via social media, then they all probably have something in common: they are hosted on Change.Org. 

With Change.Org petitions demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, Rashard Brooks, and the countless other lives lost to police violence flooding everyone’s social media feeds, it’s easy to assume that Change.Org is one of the companies supporting BLM. But it isn’t as clear cut as it seems, and as the recent confusion between the Black Lives Matter Foundation and Black Lives Matter Global Network proved, before you give your time or money to an organization, it’s necessary to do a little digging to ensure it really backs the causes you intend to support.

Here’s some background: Change was founded in 2007 to connect individuals to causes and advocacy actions that they care about. In the early operating stages, Change promoted mostly progressive causes but didn’t have any petitions. It wasn’t until 2010 that the company started to host petitions and became a for-profit organization. 

Ok, sit tight because here is where this gets really technical. Change.Org is a certified B corporation, which means that they are responsible for both making a profit and for their social and political impact. Everyone’s favorite ice cream company, Ben and Jerry’s, is another B Corporation. Ben and Jerry’s has a long history of making their political and social commitments public and participating in advocacy, such as with their now-famous Black Lives Matter statement. 

That said, the assumption that Change.Org is a nonprofit organization makes a lot of sense. The website hosts petitions, many of which call for positive change, which gives it the appearance of an advocacy group. They also use a “.org” web address, which can lead visitors to infer that they are a nonprofit organization. In reality, as a for-profit organization, “.com” would be more honest to their users. 

Change reported that the petition titled “Justice for George Floyd” is the most signed petition on the platform, with over 18 million signatures to date. Like with any petition on the platform, when you clicked the link, you were taken through a series of steps. First, you signed it, which is the obvious step. After that, you were prompted to donate to further the cause and “get the petition on the agenda” with a pop up message asking: “Can you chip in $3 to help get the petition further?” As of June 24, this message no longer appeared.

While the prompt never directly stated that the collected funds would go to grassroots organizers or the subject of the petitions, the message that giving money will put the petition “on the agenda” gave the impression that giving $3 would help the petition go somewhere that would inspire direct action. I, personally, have made the mistake of donating to Change petitions after signing them under the assumption that my donation would go to the cause I support. 

In reality, donations made on Change.Org’s petitions are used to pay operation costs and cover marketing campaigns that promote petitions internally and promote the platform as a whole. Over the years, articles and Twitter threads have raised concerns about Change.Org’s unclear donation prompts. However, with petitions calling for justice for the victims of police brutality, criminal justice reforms, and demanding change in race relations going viral, past and present employees are now taking Change.org to task. 

An open letter signed by 130 current and former employees on Medium is calling attention to the way that Change.Org handles donations, specifically citing donations made through the Justice for George Floyd petition. The letter states: 

The petition calls for signers to “become a hero” by “chipping in,” but these donations do not go to George Floyd’s family, or to organizations fighting for Black lives. Rather, these contributions serve to market the petition and Change.org itself via billboards and digital ads. Change.org is siphoning resources away from organizations that are accountable to Black people and equipped to do deeper, long-term, community-based organizing for Black lives and liberation. At the same time, Change.org continues to host numerous petitions advocating against racial justice, and leaders of color — including multiple petitions calling for Black Lives Matter to be labeled a terrorist group — and generates revenue from those as well.

We verified such petitions exist but decline to link them for you here.

The letter also explains that part of Change.Org’s business model involves the company making money by collecting more emails. With petitions involving racial justice hitting record levels of engagement, those who signed the letter have expressed their frustration and anger with the company in no uncertain terms, “these actions constitute Change.org profiting from the death of Black people.”

Betches asked Change.Org to address concerns about how donations through their website are solicited and distributed. When asked how the company uses donations made to specific petitions, a Change.Org spokesperson said via email: “People who sign petitions on Change.org are offered the opportunity to pay for Change.org to promote the specific petition they care about to the 100 million people who visit Change.org every month,” adding that contributions are “invested into tools and support” they offer petition starters. 

Even though the Justice for George Floyd petition does not redirect users to an invitation to chip in after signing anymore, that prompt does still appear when you sign other petitions—for example, this one calling for Juneteenth to become a national holiday. Now, at least, it clarifies what the money will be used for.

Change.org chip in

It remains unclear why Change.Org has to pay itself to promote its own petitions on its own website. Asked what efforts Change.Org has made to ensure transparency when it prompts signers to make a donation, a spokesperson told Betches: 

On the payment form, we explicitly state that by promoting a petition, users are advertising the petition to other users on Change.org, and we’re proud to show promoters the number of people who will see the petition because of their promotion. The more promotions that a petition receives, the more people are exposed to that petition, and the more signatures it is likely to receive. And the more signatures a petition receives, the more likely it is to have impact in the world because of that support. 

If Change.Org uses donations to fund promotion of its petitions for racial justice, rather than racial justice itself, it’s worth considering how successful petitions can be. While they are certainly helpful in increasing public pressure and raising awareness—when millions of people signal support for a cause, it’s a pretty good hint to politicians they will lose their jobs if they don’t accommodate demands—most petitions are not binding. Yet many suggest that hitting a certain goal will automatically result in the requested action.

The “goals” that go with each Change.Org petition are actually fairly arbitrarily. According to Change’s website, “Change.org supplies a default petition goal when you start your petition, and once you near the signature goal, it will increase automatically… Once you have achieved the goal behind your petition, you can declare Victory regardless of what the signature count is or how far you may be from the goal listed on the petition page.” 

This basically means that with increasing popularity and engagement, the site’s algorithm automatically pushes back the petition’s goal. That means the petition continues to stick around to generate more signatures (and more money for Change.Org) after the initial goal is reached, and it’s up to the individual who started the petition to cap or change it. 

None of this is to discount the importance of petitions or the tech infrastructure often required to manage tens of millions of users who want to sign them. Still, it is crucial to consider where petitions come from and who they go to. At the bare minimum, they can raise awareness for different causes. When they are most successful, they provide the necessary amount of public pressure needed to push officials to make a change.

A Change.Org spokesperson said the company is honoring requested refunds as quickly as possible and added that they have solicited feedback from users about their understanding of, and satisfaction with, how their donations are used. When asked how much money the “Justice for George Floyd” petition has earned the company, the spokesperson said Change.Org planned to announce how those contributions “will be used to drive impact on this petition and support issues of racial justice, very soon.” We will look forward to that.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for alternatives to Change.Org, ColorofChange.Org is a Black-owned and -run nonprofit that fights for racial justice. They host petitions and amplify the voices that matter the most in these conversations. If you do sign a Change.Org petition and would like to donate money specifically address racial justice, check out some of the groups in our Good Influence Fund.

Additional reporting by Amanda Duberman 

Images: Change.org (2); Postmodern Studio / Shutterstock.com

Would You Give Away Free Money To Bad Politicians? Oops! You Already Are

In the words of every philosophy professor I’ve ever had, “let’s do a quick thought experiment.” Imagine you hire someone to do a job with a pretty clear description and expectations. If that person kept messing up on such a large scale that you had to crowdsource the funds to fix the damage that they did, you’d probably fire them, right? 

Now, imagine that you’re putting together a team of new hires. Some of them might be pretty good at their jobs, but you still have a few really sh*tty employees. Even the good ones seem ill-equipped to step in to help fix or prevent the others’ mistakes. Maybe you call some people who run teams similar to yours and find that they’re all experiencing the same thing.

I might not be an employer or anyone’s boss. Still, even I can reach the conclusion that there is something deeply wrong with continuing to pay people who not only suck at their jobs but make other people’s lives way harder, when they don’t end lives themselves. No sane person would continue paying those employees, so how did we get to where we are now with the police officers sworn to protect us? And the elected officials, like mayors and city council members, we specifically chose to keep them in line?

Well when you don’t vote in local elections, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Imagine if you called firefighters and they just beat the shit out of you instead of putting the fire out

— Ethel (@Ethelmonster) June 5, 2020

Like most people, I’m a huge fan of being told exactly what I need to do to fix a problem. But as with most things in life, there is minimal success in quick fixes, especially when it comes to long-standing, fundamental, systemic injustices. This means that there’s no one action that we need to take, and nothing will be fixed in a single day, even if that single action is voting for president in November. In an op-ed earlier this month in the New York Times, Stacey Abrams wrote: “to say that the answer is to go cast a ballot feels not just inadequate, but disrespectful.” 

1 in 13 black americans that have lost their right to vote due to felony convictions as part of systemic racism in the justice system. so before you say to “take your anger to the voting booth” just know not everyone has a voice there.

— parker (@momappreciator) June 2, 2020

I discussed the issues of speaking about voting as a ‘solution’ with Dr. Anna Mahoney, the director of research at Tulane University’s Newcomb Institute. She explained that “we in the United States have a long history of keeping all kinds of people out of what we consider to be ‘traditional electoral politics.'” 

“Who the President is, is really really important. Not just because of the constitutional powers that are assigned to the executive branch, but because of the informal powers that the President has,” explained Dr. Mahoney. Whether we like it or not, the way the President frames these issues and his language surrounding police brutality has a big impact on voters and other political issues. As Biden senior advisor Symone Sanders pointed out in a recent Sup podcast, there’s a reason why the people protesting in D.C. are doing so outside the White House — not their mayor’s office. 

Obviously, we need more than just a shift in the way we discuss police brutality, which is where our local governments come in to play. In my mini-lesson on local government, Dr. Mahoney clarified some of the local offices that have the most influence in police protocol and behavior. 

“Mayors are really important, because, in a lot of places that choose police chiefs, and their relationships are significant,” she said. Sheriffs and district attorneys also play a significant role in working with law enforcement. “Thinking about cases that district attorneys choose to put forward is really important, and we have seen really groundbreaking elections in other states like New York.” 

Basically, from the President all the way down to smaller local offices, the people we elect make a huge difference in our policing. Yet, they’re rarely a big point of focus due to the decline in local media sources. Local officials create community-specific legislation and set budgets that determine how we fund police departments and pay our officers. 

Abrams tells us that we must “protest to demand attention to the wrenching pain of systemic injustice as a society. Vote because we deserve leaders who see us, who hear us and who are willing to act on our demands.” Those of us who can vote must work on electing people who make will make sure that, at the very minimum, those who are getting paid to “serve and protect” us are doing that and not targeting, harassing, and killing our neighbors and fellow community members (i.e., the other people who pay them.)

Right now, especially, it is really vital to continue protesting and donating to important causes. Every single voice and action matters – but, as we all know, your activism has to go further than your Instagram feed, and it must last longer than the next few weeks. Unless we carry this with us to November and beyond then, we are only hurting ourselves. As President Obama wrote, when it comes to the divide between protesting and voting, “it’s not an ‘either-or,’ it’s a ‘both-and.'” 

Ready for a daily newsletter that takes sides? Subscribe to the Sup daily email for five-minute lunchtime updates, Monday through Friday. 

What We Mean When We Say ‘Defund the Police’

Protestors across the country have taken to the streets over the past two weeks to demand an end to police brutality. But exactly how do we do that? In an ideal world, police would simply stop brutalizing people, but as you may have seen from the countless videos of cops beating on citizens protesting that exact brutality, we are for sure not living in a world anywhere close to Utopia.

One proposed resolution that has entered the mainstream conversation is defunding the police. For many (read: white people) this is a new, and even confusing concept. You might be asking yourself what defunding the police would entail, and how it could work in a society that has yet to eradicate violence and crime. The idea of taking resources from the people whose job is supposed to be “to protect and serve” might make you question who would be there for you when you needed those services. These are valid questions and concerns, and they have answers.

Hi. When republicans want to defund things like food stamps they just call it tax cuts.

Happy to help.

— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) June 9, 2020

Why Should America Spend Less On Policing? 

In America, the government collectively spends about $100 billion on policing. On top of that, the United States spends about $80 billion on incarceration. That’s a *shit ton* of money being funneled into criminalizing and locking up our citizens. And there is a major racial disparity at play here. Black men make up about 13 percent of the male population, but about 35 percent of those incarcerated. Similarly, while Black women make up about 13 percent of the female population, 44 percent of incarcerated women are Black.

All of this is no coincidence. The entire concept of incarceration and policing was born out of racism and slavery in America. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, unless convicted of a crime. This made it so white slaveowners who were pissed they were losing slaves could still get that free labor by arresting and incarcerating Black people. Black people were targeted for petty crimes like“walking without a purpose” or “walking at night,” or homelessness.

Police have not just disproportionately targeted, arrested, and incarcerated Black people. They also murder them at considerably higher rates than white people. A Black person in America is 2.5 times more likely to be murdered than a white person. The demonstrations across the nation and world have brought necessary attention to the unjust murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the police. But these two horrific killings were not isolated. The list of Black people in America that have died at the hands of police brutality is disturbingly long. Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tony McDade, and many others make up a list that continues to grow without police accountability.

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Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. [📸 @leshon_lee]

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Given ample evidence that Black people’s encounters with police could be more likely to harm than protect them, an entire, marginalized group of our society left feeling unable to contact the police for their safety. That a collective $100 billion spent to “keep Americans safe” that excludes a huge portion of America. How is that fair and just? Spoiler alert, it’s not.

If we want to practice what we preach when we say that Black Lives Matter, then we have to fight for a society that spends its resources on protecting Black lives, and stands up when Black lives are being taken. Continuing to fund the police and giving them the means to take Black lives away from themselves and their families — whether it be by incarcerating them or killing them — then we are, with our action and our inaction, saying that Black lives don’t matter.

So, if we want to protect Black lives, we must, say it with me now: defund the police.

Defund Planned Parenthood: "We can't let the government subsidize murder!"

Defund police: Well hey now…

— The Betches Sup (@Betches_Sup) June 8, 2020

What Does “Defunding” Mean In Practice?

Defunding the police means diverting funds meant for police departments and reallocating them to social services that invest in communities subject to over-policing. What if 9-1-1 wasn’t the only number you could call when you needed help? What if professionals who were better trained to deal with moments of crisis and could help with de-escalation through nonviolent methods? What if asking for help didn’t have to mean dealing with the possibility of legal penalty? Sounds nice, imo.

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#linkinbio to the #googledoc featured here. The author’s intro is the very last slide. The author says not to worry about credit of the images, instead for us to focus on imagining living in this world together. I want to live in that world with y’all! Let’s prioritize reparations & black futures. Let’s embrace decolonizing so-called law enforcement and dismantling not only police, but also the prison-industrial complex that has wreaked havoc for far too long. #nooneisdisposable #buildbelovedcommunity #reparationsnow #allseedsusedtobefree this shit has gone too far.

A post shared by Queer Appalachia (@queerappalachia) on

For example, what if when someone needed to report an overdose, they were able to contact healthcare professionals who are trained to deal with substance use and overdoses could come to the scene and assist them without getting the law involved? Then, this person could get the care they need without the fear of being criminalized or even brutalized by police who see them as lawbreakers who deserve punishment. The failed war on drugs has shown us that criminalizing drug use has only exacerbated the problem, so really, leaving the police out of these types of situations would be beneficial.

This applies to various situations in which the police are called in to “help.” Traffic stops, people experiencing homelessness in need of assistance and/or housing, mental health crisis, and domestic issues to name a few.

Instead of giving so much money to police departments and entrusting them to better our communities with it, we could distribute funds to service workers who specialize in the different areas of social and safety services that could make more informed, less combative and violent decisions when working to de-escalate and resolves issues.

Cutting the budgets of police departments wouldn’t just mean being able to fund social and safety services. It would also mean being able to funnel more money into education, healthcare, and public programs at large.

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How do you want *your* money to be spent? a) spend it on police officers that continually abuse their positions and threaten public safety or b) spend it on welfare programs that have been systematically reduced I chose buses here because the amounts were so close but, you know, pick your thing! Want free school meals for every elementary school kid in New York? Cool, that only costs $39 million so you’ve got lots left over. Care about homelessness? Great, you could house 3,281 people for an entire year for this amount. You get the idea. As for the second image, at the protest last night, we chanted 𝘞𝘩𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘪𝘯 𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘦𝘢𝘳? 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘯𝘰 𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦. The UK sells riot guns, teargas and riot shields to the US so we’re also deeply complicit in the violence that these officers inflict. Image 1 sources: New York City Comptroller, Annual Claims Report Fiscal Year 2018 + New York City Comptroller, Financial Outlook for the MTA, 2018 Image 2 sources: The Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals, April 2020 (this was a report about how prices have risen exponentially due to COVID-19 – these are the prices *after* those rises). Police equipment prices were hard to find. I found a public document where companies bid to provide riot gear for Columbus, Georgia police force in 2017 and used the averages of those bids except for the gloves where I averaged 3 online product listings. Will provide links in stories to all of this. I don't normally use hashtags but I want these images to end up in front of some police officers themselves so excuse me while I fuck with the algorithm a bit. #backtheblue #policelife #kag #kag2020 #lawenforcementfamily #policedepartment #blacklivesmatter #defundthepolice

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“Police Reform” vs “Defunding the Police”

Police reform is a term that is thrown around when talking about how to address police brutality, and to be clear, that is different than defunding the police. This usually refers to the idea that we need to create more training programs that teach police how to de-escalate situations, provide them sensitivity and diversity workshops, and the like. This basically means giving police departments more money to teach them how to not be *checks notes* so violently racist that it results in the death of Black people? Honey, if they need extra training for that, I’m afraid it’s a bit of a lost cause at that point.

Reform also means creating more laws that would hypothetically stop cops from abusing their power, like banning the chokehold or making it illegal to shoot at a moving car. Sure, these things should be banned, but should we really be putting on energy into this kind of resolution when a huge part of this conversation is about how police aren’t held accountable? Last I checked, murder was banned too, but that hasn’t stopped them.

“iF we aBoLiSh thE poLiCe how wiLl wE sOlvE mUrDers?” White women with podcasts, Steven.

— Camilla Blackett (@camillard) June 8, 2020

Critics of police reform also point out that the Minneapolis Police Department — which the city has deemed so broken it cannot be fixed — had actually implemented numerous reforms meant to keep community members safe. George Floyd still died.

Now, maybe you or someone you know is upset by the idea of defunding the police because you/they think it’s disrespectful and wrong to take away the money they use to keep their department operating. (And because, yes, the end goal is to abolish the police.) Maybe you know a cop who you feel is a good person. You might have had good experience with cops and/or witnessed one/some do their jobs well. You might even be a cop and consider yourself to be a good one.

I believe that one, some, or all of these things can be true. But at the end of the day, cops have decided to be part of an oppressive system that historically and continuously targets, incarcerates, and murders Black people. People like to dismiss the idea that “cops are bad” by saying, “there are just a few bad apples.” I was reminded of the true meaning behind the “few bad apples” saying and how it actually contradicts this pro-cop line of thinking from a tweet my friend, comedian and writer Julia Claire:

Ah yes who among us could forget the famous adage "A few bad apples…" that has no additional words after it

— Julia Claire (@ohJuliatweets) June 2, 2020

The idiom tells us “a few bad apples spoils the bunch.” Claire points out that people defending “good cops” by co-opting the first half of the bad apples adage are completely ignoring the part where the barrel of apples is ruined from the rot that takes hold of the bunch.

Metaphors aren’t perfect, and man-built systems of oppression don’t operate in the same exact fashion as apples, but it’s worth noting that singular good qualities can’t save the ultimate ruin of the collective group, as the saying warns us.

The individual “good cops” you may know aren’t changing a system rooted in racism with their isolated acts of niceness. Some cops having moments of humanity doesn’t change the fact that in the grand scheme of things, police officers are killing Black people and not being held accountable for it because cops look out for their own. Don’t urge people to forgive the rot that has overtaken the barrel. It’s gross.

Being able to believe that the police will keep you safe is a white privilege. It’s time to stop basing our systems on the perspective and comfort white privilege provides. Defund the police.

If you would like to email your officials and asking them to defund the police, here is a link to help you do that.

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Images: Instagram: @Complex, Instagram: @queerappalachia, Instagram: @theunapologeticallybrownseries, Twitter: @ohJuliaTweets

Scenes From The Protests Against Police Brutality That Every American Needs To See

Trigger Warning: Violence, Explicit Language, Police Brutality

If you’re paying even a tiny bit of attention to the world around you, you’re probably aware of the protests spanning the nation over the past two weeks. These protests were sparked by public outrage over the graphic murder of George Floyd. However, they take place with the backdrop of a global pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black people, who are often quite literally sickened by America’s systemic racism. The protests also follow the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Both instances only came to national attention months after they’d taken place, with no evidence perpetrators would have faced consequences otherwise. Indeed, Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free. 

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From all walks of life. From every race, gender and nationality: the people of this city are what truly makes it such a beautiful place. And in solidarity, we continue to peacefully protest in the tens of thousands in support of #blacklivesmatter. ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ Photo by @lauraskills

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A second weekend of protests remained largely peaceful with seemingly fewer violent clashes with police and incredible scenes of peace and solidarity around the country.  But throughout the first week of June, militarized police forces and curfews that criminalized simply being outside resulted in thousands of arrests and countless accounts of police misconduct during what were initially peaceful demonstrations.

These scenes unequivocally show how police have continued to act violently and dangerously, even at peaceful protests… peaceful protests against police brutality and violence, no less. This is by no means a definitive list, but it should be a wake-up call that we are far from where we need to be as far as justice, progress, and equality are concerned.

A News Crew Flagged The Police To Stop Looters. They Handcuffed Black Community Members Instead.

This is one of the most absolutely insane moments I've ever seen on live television. pic.twitter.com/Uvzig8YGSa

— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 2, 2020

In this video filmed in Los Angeles, some people are attempting to loot a number of local businesses, leading to a reporter attempting to flag down law enforcement to protect the store and stop the looting. Instead of arriving calmly to the scene and taking literally 30 seconds to listen to those involved and actually, IDK, do their jobs, the police seem to go straight for the Black community members who were trying to protect their community from looting and damage. The officers largely ignore the reporter who is trying to explain that the individuals being put in handcuffs did not instigate the situation. As drivers in the area become concerned for the protesters, several exit their vehicles. They also appear to be held by police. 

Law Enforcement Trap Protesters On Highway Embankment While Launching Pepper Spray

While this video looks like a scene out of a movie about the end of the world, it was actually taken in Philadelphia and couldn’t be further from fiction. After a march was broken up by police officers spraying tear gas, protestors were forced to move up towards a highway. 17 seconds in, you can hear the unmistakable phrase we have become all too familiar with: “I can’t breathe.”

Park Police Push Through Allies

BREAKING. Some protesters have jumped the gated barrier at Lafayette Park. US Park Police push them back. The White House is behind the US Park Police l & the Secret Service. @MSNBC @nbcwashington #GeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/RzJgnvv7Vq

— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) May 31, 2020

Here, park police in DC rush a Black protester who is kneeling with his arms up. Another person who is clearly aware of their privilege joins him, trying to act as a barrier between him and the police. Despite his overwhelmingly non-aggressive actions, a group of officers rush them, forcibly pushing them back and forcing the protester to stand up. The young man’s name is Monte, and when questions were raised about the circumstances of the encounter, he shared additional footage showing an officer threatening to “hurt” him. 

Police Push Elderly Man To The Ground Who A Bleeds From The Head As They Walk Away

In this shocking scene, an older man can be seen approaching police, but clearly poses no threat. An officer shoves him violently, causing him to lurch backwards several feet before falling to the ground with great force directly on his head. The 75-year-old man, later identified as Martin Gugino, instantly bleeds from the head. The officers ignore him as bystanders plead to get him medical attention. Gugino was hospitalized with a head injury. Both officers involved have been charged with assault. They have plead not guilty.

Man Opens Door To Protesters To Protect Them From The Police

@ABC7Kristen asked Rahul Dubey "what made you open your door and say 'get inside?'"
He describes the chaos, tear gas and pepper spray. pic.twitter.com/2t3MHaFDzu

— Adrianna Hopkins (@AdriannaHopkins) June 2, 2020

Heavy law enforcement presence throughout American cities didn’t just intimidate protesters. Residents in communities where protesters were cornered and threatened were so concerned for their safety that they sheltered them in their homes. A man in DC opened his doors to close to 100 protestors who were blocked in the area by police spraying tear gas and pepper spray. The man in the video explained that there was a “human tsunami” and recounted seeing police wands and batons out. 

President Trump Forces Tensions Between Police And Protesters So He Can Walk Across The Street For A Picture

As I’m sure most of us are aware, the President of the United States will do quite literally anything for a photo op. Last week, tear gas and flash grenades were released on protestors to clear a path so that Trump could have a 17-minute photoshoot on his walk to the church. Trump has not even attempted to appear like he gives a sh*t about the Black Lives Matter movement, George Floyd, or the systemic racism in our country. The result: a picture of him holding the bible the same way someone would carry a bag of dog sh*t.

The building, the St. John’s Episcopal Church, had been damaged in unrest nights earlier. Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said she was not notified of the photo op and denounced the president for using the church as a prop.

NYPD Arrest New Yorkers Sitting On Their Stoop After Curfew

In this scene shared to Twitter by singer/songwriter Shaina Taub, she and her boyfriend are arrested while supporting peaceful protesters from their stoop. As law enforcement takes a man away, bystanders state with alarm that he lives in the building (cops have often attempted to storm city buildings where residents have sheltered protesters. see above.) Taub notes she was arrested with an essential worker grabbed from his bike and detained before he could show officers a note from his employer allowing him to earn a living this week.

last night my husband and I got arrested on the stoop of our building on the UWS just after 8 pm. we were cheering on a peaceful protest on our block. this was my small visceral window into the police brutality black folks have experienced for centuries. #DefundThePolice pic.twitter.com/SIbMxgekwi

— Shaina Taub (@shainataub) June 5, 2020

Police Trap Peaceful Protesters On Manhattan Bridge


Multiple times this week, law enforcement has implemented a “kettling” strategy, which means they literally wrangle protests like cattle into tight spaces to contain them. Not only does this force large groups into small spaces (during a pandemic, no less), but it also leaves protesters vulnerable to stampede, medical emergencies, dehydration, and more. Kettling also allows officers to make mass arrests, forcing hundreds if not thousands of peaceful protesters into an already crowded jail system during a global pandemic.

Groups Of White Men Roam Philadelphia With Baseball Bats

There are now two all white armed vigilante groups roaming Fishtown with the blessing of the @phillypolice pic.twitter.com/csGWCDZ6Nw

— Josh Albert (@jpegjoshua) June 1, 2020

This horrific footage shows an all-white vigilante group roaming Philly’s streets with baseball bats and other weapons. They only got more aggressive when the group was met by a peaceful counter-protest of individuals, many of whom were holding signs that read, “I can’t breathe.” When the police were called to disperse the incident, they immediately moved towards the peaceful counter-protest instead of apprehending the white guys holding literal weapons. One reporter was attacked by the white group for filming the incident and posted the gruesome images on his Twitter.  

Police In Kansas City Attack, Tear Gas Peaceful Protesters

This is one of the most egregious ones of these I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot https://t.co/pQgRsc0bzF

— Danny Gold (@DGisSERIOUS) June 2, 2020

This disturbing video was taken in Kansas City when cops rushed a Black man who was literally peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights. The officers spray him and a woman standing next to him with mace before three police officers grabbed the man and tackled him. Following this, officers began spraying the entire crowd with mace. 

Black Journalist Arrested For Doing His Job

Journalists nationally have been targeted by police for doing their jobs and reporting from massive protests. Many of us have seen the clip of Omar Jimenez, a Black man and a CNN reporter. Jimenez was arrested with his crew during the Minneapolis protest. In this video, cops were shooting rubber bullets at Kaitlin Rust, a reporter for NBC’s Louisville affiliate station. 

Young Man Begs For Unity And Calls Police His Family. They Arrest Him.

View this post on Instagram

@pharaohalmighty This world breaks my heart everyday of how much hatred we have for one another on both sides of the field. “I Cry At Night Because I Feel Everyone’s Pain” Sometimes it feels like a movie to me and I just want people to understand each other, respect each other, and care for each other; because then and only then can we truly connect as one nation and move forward together to provide a better world for ourselves and for generations to come. We Can Do Make More Progress Together Than We Could Ever Do Alone ✊🏽💯🖤🙏🏼 #blacklivesmatter #alllivesmatter #mylifematters #peacefulprotest #martinlutherking

A post shared by Pharaoh Almighty (@geejordan1221) on

Protesting in Charleston this week,  Givionne Jordan Jr., emotionally exercised his First Amendment rights. He literally said the words “I am not your enemy” and seems to have expressed no intention to incite any violence. Nonetheless, two minutes into the video Jordan was grabbed, arrested, and held overnight. Many on social media remarked they thought the office was approaching to grab Jordan’s hand, not detain him. 

A Night Of Mourning For George Floyd In Minneapolis

There also were moving images of healing and solidarity across the country reminding us of who we could be. Minneapolis residents defied the city’s curfew this week to hold an all-night vigil for George Floyd.

The motto “to protect and serve” seems to no longer hold any weight among police forces. While there are cops who don’t actively target BIPOC and aren’t outwardly racist, as we see in this video, there are far too many who sit idly by while their coworkers continue to prove that no progress has been made in the fights against racial injustice and police brutality. From where I stand, those sitting idly by are complicit in the violence and guilty of violating their sacred oath to “protect and serve.” 

As a white woman, I have an extremely limited ability to fully grasp these situations. My voice also has very little importance here. What these videos and images and situations like the ones depicted teach me is that it is not enough to post about racial injustice. It’s not enough to simply be against racism, we have to be better allies and we have to work at active, conscious anti-racism.

Donate to groups like Campaign Zero to fight to end police brutality.

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An NYC Woman Called The Police On A Black Man Because He Asked Her To Leash Her Dog

This week in White Women Need to Sit the F*ck Down: Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the cops on Christian Cooper (no relation), a black man who asked her to put her dog on a leash, in an area of Central Park where dogs are required to be leashed. Karen Amy Cooper was caught on camera, and the video of the incident has gone viral.

Christian Cooper recorded the video and has told news outlets that he began recording after he had asked Amy Cooper to put a leash on her dog. The two were in the Ramble, a designated area of Central park where dogs are required to be leashed so as to not disturb the birds. Christian was enjoying a morning of birdwatching.

In the video, Amy Cooper asks Christian Cooper not to record her, and walks towards him, her dog in one hand and its leash in another. Christian Cooper calmly asks her not to come close to him. Amy Cooper then threatens to call the cops and tell them “an African American man is threatening me.” She then proceeds to make the call, and tells the police that an “African American man” is threatening her and her dog.

Christian Cooper does neither of those things, but instead calmly continues filming while she repeats herself to the cops, each time with more and more feigned panic in her voice. Eventually, she puts the leash on her dog, Christian Cooper thanks her, and appears to walk away as he stops recording.

You can watch the full video, shared by Christian Cooper’s sister, here:

Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash. pic.twitter.com/3YnzuATsDm

— Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020

After the video went viral, a lot of people were pissed, rightfully so. A white woman threatening to call the cops on a person of color is essentially a death threat since we all know how police tend to handle situations like that. Getting shot by police is a leading cause of death for young black men in America. Historically, white women feigning victimization in encounters with black men (and young boys) have lead to their deaths. Remember Emmett Till?

Amy Cooper weaponized her whiteness — fully aware of its lethal force — against Christian Cooper when she called the police. And all because he *checks notes* asked her to put her dog on a leash.

Both parties spoke to CNN about what happened before the recording. Amy Cooper told reporters that Christian Cooper came out of a bush, screaming at her about the leash. Christian Cooper says he was not screaming and was actually pretty calm.

I mean, seeing as the video shows Amy Cooper losing her ever-loving shit while Christian Cooper just kind of chills, I know who I believe.

After Amy refused to leash her dog, Christian said, “Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.” Then he did what he meant by that, which was take out some dog treats from his pocket and feed them to her dog. Amy Cooper claimed that he threw the treats at her dog, but Christian Cooper denied that.

Christian explained to CNN that in his experience if you feed dog treats to an unleashed dog, the owner gets mad and finally puts a damn leash on the pup.

So, I guess “bird watching” and “feeding dogs treats” can be added to the list of things that white women will call the police on black men for.

Since the video surfaced, Amy Cooper was placed on administrative leave and then later fired by her place of employment, Franklin Templeton.

Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton.

— Franklin Templeton (@FTI_US) May 26, 2020

Amy Cooper told CNN she wanted to publicly apologize and also added, “I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way.” White woman caught on camera doing something racist then claims to not be racist. Groundbreaking.

In his comments to CNN, Christian Cooper said, “I videotaped it because I thought it was important to document things. Unfortunately we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where black men are seen as targets. This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn’t having it.”

In this instance, a white woman is experiencing the consequences of attempting to bring harm to a Black man by using her whiteness as a weapon. That is how this should go. Actions have consequences, and they often suck.

But you know what consequences would have sucked more? If Amy Cooper’s attempts were successful, and the police showed up to the scene with the understanding that a black man was threatening the life of a scared, defenseless white woman. Luckily, the person who actually deserved to suffer the consequences of her actions did in this case.

And, yes, Amy Cooper also mistreated her dog in this video, and has since surrendered it to the shelter she adopted it from. You shouldn’t choke your dog, but first and foremost, you shouldn’t be racist.

Images: Melody Cooper on Twitter