This week, the Ohio Student Association, Power U, Advancement Project, Jobs With Justice, Organization for Black Struggle, Justice Core, Florida Legal Services and my organization, the Dream Defenders demonstrated at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The IACP is a non-profit who applauds themselves on being progressive and whose mission is to “encourage all police personnel worldwide to achieve and maintain the highest standards of ethics, integrity, community interaction and professional conduct.”
Our goal was to engage police leadership at the national level to both engage them in a meaningful dialogue about police misconduct and to make them aware of our national demands:
1) Demilitarization of the police by endorsing the repeal of the 1033 program (which provides “excess” military equipment to local law enforcement) and breaking ties with corporations producing military equipment.
2) Increased police accountability to the community by establishing community review boards and creating a national database of all police stops and uses of force.
3) Implementation of racial bias and systemic oppression trainings for every police officer in America.
4) Endorsement for the repealing of laws that criminalize young Black people and contribute to disproportionate rates of incarceration. These laws include the criminalization of marijuana and zero tolerance school discipline policies.
We marched holding white crosses with names of victims of police violence and then held a press conference outside of the convention where several speakers addressed the issues plaguing our communities nationwide.
Another group was tasked with engaging the officers inside the conference. Moments after we dropped a banner reading “Our Lives Matter,” local law enforcement surrounded us. We were literally pushed outside of the building, where Antoine “T-Dubb-O” White, Shamile Louis, and myself were arrested. After being slammed down on a police vehicle, Antoine was quickly taken away. Shamile and myself sat for an hour without even hearing our charges. We were then taken behind the building, where we sat, handcuffed, in the back on the police car for 3 hours. Shamile’s screams were ignored as her shoulder bone panfully slipped from its socket.
Once we arrived at the jail, we learned that no police report had been filed and we could not be booked so we waited in a holding cell until the corporal could give them our names. As soon as we entered the jail, a young man no more than high school age sat beside us. The jail was filled with homeless people, drug users, and people with disabilities. The guards talked down and belittled them as if they were less than human. It was a gross representation of the population that is targeted and a reminder of how badly the system needs to be reformed.
A fundamental shift in the way police relate to our communities is long overdue. Extra-judicial killings, police brutality, militarization of police forces, and the criminalization of Black youth are manifestations of a daily experience of repression and targeting of our people by police. We all have to begin to affect change in our communities and speak out against the issues that have been plaguing our communities for generations. I am proud to have participated in this day of action and we are prepared to continue on with our fight as long as it takes.
Kristian Rainge-Campbell is an organizer with the Dream Defenders.