The Jacksonville Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America condemns the brutal lynching of Memphis resident Tyre Nichols by the Memphis Police Department. Tyre will be remembered as a loving father, a talented nature photographer, a skateboarder, and because of what it means to be a Black man in America, a martyr.
Newly released body camera footage confirms what was already known - Tyre Nichols was pulled over during a routine traffic stop, approached by police with guns drawn, forcibly removed from his vehicle in the middle of an intersection, held down by five police officers, kicked, punched, pepper sprayed, tased, and beaten with batons so badly that his family later described him as “unrecognizable.”
Tyre Nichols’ lynching by the police department that exists ostensibly to serve and protect community members like himself is both tragic and unsurprising. Despite calls to defund the police that came from a wide range of community leaders, social justice advocates, and even a few politicians in the wake of the George Floyd uprisings in 2020, police budgets have never been higher, mass incarceration continues, and killer cops run rampant. In fact, 2022 was the deadliest year for police violence in American history, with cops taking the lives of 1176 people across the country. Black Americans are incarcerated at higher rates than Black folks were incarcerated in apartheid-era South Africa. On average, municipalities allocate about a third of their budget to the police department. In Jacksonville, that number has been as much as half of the city budget in recent years.
What is to be done? Guidance from most municipalities, state governments, and Washington would suggest that blank checks to police departments will lead to more favorable outcomes. Yet with police budgets at an all-time high, wanton murder by police has followed. Some will praise the requirement of departments to equip officers with body cameras, and yet, Tyre Nichols and thousands of others since the start of this reform are still dead. Some will call for an end to qualified immunity, ending the policy of moving killer cops from one department to another. And yet, even the most “liberal” of states have failed to end the practice. Some will encourage more “representation” in police departments - more BIPOC cops to legitimize the violence against these marginalized communities. And yet, the five boys in blue who lynched Tyre Nichols were all Black.
In Atlanta, Georgia, another effort by municipal and state governments to give a blank check and functionally limitless resources to a murderous police force is underway. For the past two years, the Atlanta Police Foundation has been attempting to raze acres of Atlanta Forest to create a $90,000,000 dystopian police training facility for the Atlanta Police Department known as Cop City. Courageous forest defenders have been occupying the forest, a crucial component of Atlanta’s fight against climate change and stormwater flooding, ever since.
Earlier this month, Atlanta police opened fire on a group of forest defenders and murdered an activist named Tortuguita, or Tort. Tort spent their time building housing for those affected by recent hurricanes, using their skills as a medic to provide assistance to those in need, and coordinated mutual aid projects to help support their fellow forest defenders. For the crime of protecting Atlanta Forest, Tort was extrajudicially murdered by police.
This comes as Atlanta police have ramped up the war against the Atlanta Forest Defenders, conducting multiple raids, using chemical weapons against activists, and arresting and charging some forest defenders with domestic terrorism. We condemn these extreme acts of terror against those who simply want to defend the Atlanta Forest from development and defend their community from killer cops.
The problem of racism in American police departments will never be fully remedied. An institution which finds its roots in capturing runaway slaves will always be a racist institution, no matter the reform. The widespread defunding of police departments, with robust reallocation of these funds toward the social services which prevent the need for crime in the first place is where we can start. But abolition is the only true solution, and this can only be achieved along with the other sweeping reforms Americans demand - true workplace democracy, universal healthcare, and a society of care rather than a society of fear. Rest in peace Tyre, Tort, and the untold amount of Americans lost to police violence. We will continue this fight with the rage and hope you gifted us.
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