George Floyd. Tony McDade. Breonna Taylor. David McAtee. These are only the latest victims of police violence in the United States, where police kill over a thousand people a year and injure tens of thousands more. After decades of austerity and racism, these latest killings have touched off an uprising across the country. People are standing up against state violence in record numbers.
Mario Woods. Jessica Williams. Alex Nieto. Sean Monterrosa. These San Franciscans, along with many other mostly Black and Brown members of our community, have been murdered by the police. San Francisco, like Minneapolis, considers itself a progressive city, with progressive leadership. But whether our leaders are Republicans or Democrats, “progressives” or “moderates,” their response to police violence and systemic racism has been the same: to mouth platitudes, to offer policy tweaks, to take a knee, and then to vote to increase the law enforcement budget.
While UCSF nurses have had to resort to organizing drives for protective medical equipment, including masks, SFPD officers are marching through our streets in full riot gear, including plastic face shields. While San Francisco schools struggle through endless budget cuts, losing teachers to low pay and eliminated positions, SFPD continues to expand their police academies and hire more officers, with starting pay double that of a public school teacher. With the city facing budget shortfalls, we have to pay out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits resulting from the SFPD hurting and killing people, fabricating evidence, and violating civil rights.
Our rich neighborhoods already live in a world of de facto police abolition. They don’t rely on constant police harassment to stay safe, they have comfortable homes, well-resourced schools, clean streets, doctors, dentists, therapists and good jobs providing good salaries, healthcare,and retirement. These rich neighborhoods possess tremendous wealth, while the poor neighborhoods suffer police violence meant to protect the property of the rich and entrench class and racial divides. Our current discretionary spending general fund dollars total $3.5 billion. Of that, law enforcement eats up nearly a billion dollars. What sort of communities could we build if we put that money toward meeting people’s actual public safety needs instead of shoring up a capitalist system?
The San Francisco chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America demands that we move beyond the numerous attempts to reform the police. Our mayor and supervisors rightly decry systemic racism, but proposals for more training or better policies are doomed to fail. To eliminate systemic racism, we have to eliminate this system and start over.
It is possible for us to live in a world where we are no longer terrorized by the San Francisco Police Department. We demand that the supervisors listen to Black Lives Matter. We demand the supervisors follow the example being set by city council members in Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles and other cities and begin the process of defunding and disbanding the department. In the words of Minneapolis City Council Member Steve Fletcher, we need to “start fresh with a community-oriented, non-violent public safety and outreach capacity.” We know this is just the start of the campaign, we will be working in the coming days to democratically decide on a set of specific demands, and we look forward to working with the entire San Francisco community to reenvision public safety, equality and justice. But our core demands must be: Defund, Disarm, Disband and reinvest in the community. A better world is possible.
— DSA SF Justice Committee