Ten Demands for Justice: The Road to Abolition

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware of how shit has been hitting the fan in the United States for the past month and a half. The police have been terrorizing low income communities of color in this country for years, so there was already a gigantic level of animosity. Once the current pandemic was added on top of that, along with the recent lynching of George Floyd, I guess people just snapped. I don’t know why I felt the need to tell y’all what happened like you don’t know. Anyway, what you actually may not know is that people are demanding change, and an MC and activist named Awkword helped to create these Ten Demands for Justice.

Ten Demands for Justice envisions a new society in which prisons and police are no longer necessary, and communities are equipped to provide for their own health and safety. Ten Demands for Justice offers a roadmap for the defunding and then full abolition of police and prisons, beginning with immediate actions to end police violence as well as racism and classism in policing, prosecution and sentencing.

If you’re active on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen the calls for the police to be defunded. Ten Demands for Justice gives a detailed explanation of what that actually means, and how it can and must be done. The demands themselves are as follows…

1. DEFUND THE POLICE AND REALLOCATE RESOURCES TO IMPACTED COMMUNITIES

Reject any proposed police department budget expansion, and implement the highest possible budget cuts every year until the budget is reduced to zero. Cut all police salaries until they are reduced to zero. Institute a freeze on all new hires. End all new investments in police training and facility renovations. Completely remove funding for public relations. Eliminate paid administrative leave. Eliminate for-profit policing, including all quotas, fines, pay-based arrests and civil asset forfeitures. End all police contracts with government and non-government agencies providing social services. Repeal the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights. Strip power from police unions, starting by making police union contract negotiations public, pressuring the AFL-CIO to denounce police unions, and prohibiting political candidates from accepting donations from police unions. Reallocate all existing police department funds to communities of color, First Nations and socio-economically disadvantaged communities for schools, public health, social services and other needs, as determined by these communities.

2. DEMILITARIZE THE POLICE

Disarm all law enforcement, including police officers and security guards, starting immediately with all military-grade weaponry and equipment. Enforce Abuse of Force laws. Make all body and dash cam footage public. End the federal 1033 Program that provides military weaponry to local police departments. Pass HR 1714, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. Require all Byrne Grants be used for non-carceral alternatives to incarceration, instead of police department militarization. End all grants from the Department of Homeland Security, Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI and federal Justice Department. End all Pentagon giveaway defense appropriations. Cancel all police and government contracts with private and public institutions that develop surveillance technologies. Establish national, state and local legal restrictions to prevent police departments from purchasing or using military weaponry.

3. ELIMINATE DISCRIMINATORY POLICING, PROSECUTION, AND SENTENCING

Repeal the 1994 Crime Act. Abolish Public Law 280, transfer authority directly to First Nations, and mandate that any criminal infraction on Indigenous lands be subject to Sovereign Nation laws regardless if the individual is a member of the Indigenous Sovereign Nations. End broken windows policing, stop and frisk, racial profiling, repeat-offender policing, gang policing, drunk driving checkpoints, neighborhood policing, immigration paperwork requests, and all other racially biased practices. Decriminalize poverty, by repealing all laws related to the street economy (e.g., sex work or drug trades) and the occupation of public space (e.g., panhandling or public urination). End mandatory arrest and failure to protect laws that lead to the criminalization of survivors of gendered violence. End all fines and fees associated with the criminal legal process, including ticketing, cash bail, court costs, and parole and probation fees. Implement stringent limitations on the number of cases managed by public defenders. Limit prosecutorial discretion, and end prosecutor immunity. Immediately remove all law- and oath-breaking judges. Document and publicly report racial and economic disparities on a court-by-court and judge-by-judge basis.

4. INSTITUTE COMPLETE LAW ENFORCEMENT TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Create an independent national database of police crimes, brutality and misconduct. Implement independent, community-led police department reviews and data audits. Require public reporting of all police records and schedules. Immediately terminate and eliminate pensions of any officer found guilty of manipulating data, covering their badge, turning off their body or dash cam or illegally stopping a citizen from filming.

5. INDEPENDENTLY INVESTIGATE ALL POLICE CRIMES AND ABUSES OF POWER

End qualified immunity. Establish an independent national review board, along with community-level oversight committees, to investigate all police officers or police department employees who have been involved in or witness to any police-related crimes. (All police officers, police department employees, police union officials/members and individuals with any relationship to any police department are prohibited from participation, and anyone with any conflict of interest must recuse themself or face civil penalties.) Implement immediate termination of any officer found guilty through independent investigation, and require that officer participate in a pre-established program of reparative justice. Mandate that any police-related crime against any member of a First Nation be addressed according to Indigenous Sovereign Nation laws. Require all costs of police-related lawsuits be covered by officer pensions and/or personal liability insurance. Create a legal fund for victims of police brutality. Immediately dismantle any police department that violates civil rights.

6. INSTALL COMMUNITY REPRESENTATION, OVERSIGHT, AND SAFETY MEASURES

Elect independent community councils for needs assessment, municipal decision making and oversight, prioritizing representation by marginalized groups. Invest in community-based public safety measures, including intervention, violence prevention and skills-based education programs. Mandate state-level monitoring for proper checks and balances.

7. END STRATEGIC COUNTER-PROTEST VIOLENCE

Repeal all anti-protest laws. Terminate all officers guilty of arresting or applying unnecessary and excessive force against protesters, for violation of their Civil Rights as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Ban the use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and all other crowd-dispersal methods. Strip police authority to issue dispersal orders. Expunge all protest-related convictions, and free all protesters in jail or prison.

8. APOLOGIZE AND PROVIDE REPARATIONS

Apologize publicly to and provide reparations for victims of police violence and racial discrimination in policing, prosecution and sentencing. Pass Reparation Act H.R.40. Invest in equitable opportunities for First Nations within Indian Country and provide reparations to all descendants of Indigenous Peoples in America.

9. END THE WAR ON DRUGS

End the criminalization of drug use and drug addiction. Pass the CARE Act of 2019. Expunge all nonviolent drug-related convictions, and in lieu of arrest provide mental health, behavioral health and addiction recovery services nationwide; on Indigenous lands, provide resources for those services to be overseen by First Nations and implemented at the discretion of each Sovereign Indigenous Nation. Legalize marijuana at the federal and state levels, and respect the Sovereignty of First Nations that jurisdictionally protects all 573 recognized Nations from any federal or state penalty for the cultivation of marijuana. Pass the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015, and invest state and federal revenue from legal marijuana into communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.

10. END CARCERAL PUNISHMENT

Free everyone in jails, prisons, youth facilities and detention centers, beginning immediately with the elderly, disabled and immunocompromised, nonviolent “offenders,” undocumented immigrants, criminalized survivors, and those held on bail or for parole violations. Free all political prisoners, including Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Ban solitary confinement. Decriminalize misdemeanor offenses and probation/parole violations. Repeal all three-strikes laws. Ban the box. End the school-to-prison pipeline, repealing truancy laws, removing police, surveillance technologies and metal detectors from schools, and eliminating school zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, suspensions and expulsions. Close all local jails. Eliminate the prison industrial complex, closing all privately owned prisons, terminating all contracts with private companies that profit off prisons and banning all police foundations. End all new prison construction. End pre-trial detention. Cut funding to prosecutor’s offices. Abolish ICE, end immigration detention and mandate legal immigration status priority to ICE detainees and their families. Eliminate civil commitment. Eliminate all carceral ‘alternatives to incarceration,’ and implement measures for intervention, prevention and education. Abolish the death penalty. Implement a reparative justice model in place of the current system.

I’m personally aware of Ten for Justice due to the involvement of Awkword, but there are 11 co-founders in total. Aside from Awkword, the only other founder who I’d been following was Nick, the Progressive Martial Artist. I actually didn’t even know he was involved until recently, but he made a really great and informative video about these demands late last month.

Aside from those two, Ten for Justice was also founded by Anh, Cait, Cheyanne Aguilar, Jen, Karishma, Lauren, Pepper Oceanna Lewis, Petrona E. Clesca, and Zoya. If this entire post didn’t make it obvious enough, I fully endorse the Ten Demands for Justice. Police violence is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to injustices in the United States, but we’re in dire need for action, so I’m proud to see people standing up and demanding change. I’ll be supporting in as many ways as I possibly can. One way you can help right now is to sign THIS PETITION, and share with as many people as you can.  You can also donate to THIS FUNDRAISER. Every single one of these demands is imperative, but I have to say that number 8 is probably my favorite. Obviously it’s hard to choose favorites with something like this, but I’m glad that indigenous people are acknowledged here. All too often they’re written out of history, and it genuinely seems like most people don’t care about them at all. Even at the protests I went too, people mentioned discrimination against immigrants, the Chinese, the trans community and LGBTQ community as a whole, and of course black people, but I was disappointed when not a single word was uttered to acknowledge the struggles of natives or just their existence in the first place. Anyway, I can go on and on about different aspects of these demands. I wanna end this by giving a shout to Awkword himself though. He recently did an interview with one of my favorite Hip Hop journalists, Justin L. Hunte, in which he discusses current events, and I feel like it’ll give you a good impression of what kind of person he is.

Also, shoutout to whoever designed the actual website for these ten demands. That shit looks super nice. Everything about this whole movement is super organized and well done, and it’s a delight to see. This movement is fueled by the people, so please do whatever you can to inform yourself, show support, and spread the message.

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