“You defund social services all the time. You defund schools. You defund hospitals, community health centers, programs for low-incomes communities all the time. You are experts at defunding. When we say Defund The Police we mean Fund Our Futures. Fund community wellness. Fund young futures. Fund our schools.”
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Wednesday in Burnside Park in order to show support for demands to defund, dismantle, and ultimately, abolish the police. As members of the community gathered in public, community organizers attending the Providence City Council Finance Committee hearing inside the Providence City Hall testified in support of proposals to defund and dismantle the police.
During the City Council meeting, Alexis Morales of DARE’s Behind the Walls committee spoke about his experience with police brutality. He finished by saying, “We need to defund the police and we need directly-impacted folks in charge of re-allocating that money. Defunding the police is just the start.”
Morales’ testimony was aired live to those at the rally:
Vanessa Flores-Maldonado of PrYSM reiterated, saying, “Defund the police means abolish the police. Defunding the police will happen, and we as the community want to help with this process.”
Meanwhile, at the rally, Kinverly Dicupe of the Providence Democratic Socialists of America and ReclaimRI stated, “Here in Rhode Island we are already laying off teachers. What if instead of laying off teachers, we reduced the police force and the prison population? Can we really say we need police officers more than we need teachers or healthcare, especially in a pandemic?”
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Many of those who spoke at the rally as well as those who testified in the council hearing stated the need to defund the police instead of defunding other social services. Charlotte Abotsi, a lifelong resident of Providence, noted, “You defund social services all the time. You defund schools. You defund hospitals, community health centers, programs for low-incomes communities all the time. You are experts at defunding. When we say Defund The Police we mean Fund Our Futures. Fund community wellness. Fund young futures. Fund our schools.”
She continued, “Our collective goal should be the elimination for the need for police, in totality, and the abolition of the prison system. While we work to do this, we create lasting alternatives to punishment and incarceration, which we know, by our own 13th amendment is modern-day slavery. That should be a collective goal. It should not be controversial in the slightest means. Remember, abolishing slavery was once an extremely controversial and unthinkable idea. It’s not about a few bad apples… the police are the problem. The system itself is riddled with sickness. The apples are all bad, because the system is bad.”
Abotsi’s testimony was also broadcast to the crowd outside:
Trina Powers and Douglas Rodgers, members of Black and Pink Providence, an organization advocating for LGBTQ individuals who are affected by the criminal-legal system, specified particular budget items that they would like to see cut. “Policing makes everybody in our communities less safe; people of color and LGBTQ people are disproportionately impacted, as is detailed in B&P National’s 2015 report Coming Out of Concrete Closets. We are calling for:
- An overall decrease (not just reallocation) in police budget; especially the personnel line items (103, 112, 121, 122, 125)
- Freeze hiring of new cops (line item 112) and increases to benefits (line item 104)
- Remove police from Providence public schools
- Taking action now to defund, disarm, and ultimately disband and abolish the police
- As Mario, a member of Black and Pink Providence who is incarcerated at the ACI reminds us, defunding the police is an important tool to end mass incarceration. Many people are currently incarcerated as a result of decades of the racist over-policing of predominantly black and brown neighborhoods. The conversation about defunding the police cannot leave out the people that are currently in prison from over-policing. Rhode Island must also decarcerate and defund the ACI (Adult Correctional Institutions).
- In place of the police budget: increase investment in community resources such as education, comprehensive healthcare, public and affordable housing, dictated by Providence community organizations and those most directly impacted by mass criminalization
- In particular, invest in reentry resources that are NOT administered by the Police or Department of Corrections (DOC) but are created by and for formerly incarcerated people, community outreach and harm reduction professionals.
- Again, we are calling for decreased funding for the police budget overall – we are NOT in support of funding additional body cams, training, or community policing.
- We urge the full council to follow the overwhelming public demand to protect Black lives by defunding the police and reinvesting in our communities of color.”
Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), the Formerly Incarcerated Union (FIU), the Alliance to Mobilize our Resistance (AMOR), Black and Pink Providence, and Never Again Action Rhode Island are among the organizers of today’s event.
[From a press release]
Below is all the rest of the video from the speaking program at yesterday’s event:
The event was emceed by Terri Wright:
Suzette Cook spoke about the brutal beating of her son at the hands of police:
Malchus Mills of DARE:
Haley McKee works to stop the war on drugs, what she calls a war on race and class:
Here’s the livestream from reporter Will James:
Here’s the video of the Providence City Council Finance Committee hearing taking place inside the Providence City Hall:
The fact that @pvdcitycouncil invited community members to speak for 6 minutes each and then spent the last 2.5 hours asking the police if they need more funding is how the cops get their way.— abolish police (@showandtal) June 11, 2020
The people will be heard, loud and clear: Defund, Disband, and abolish the police.
Pictures from the rally: