Presentation sparks talk about role of police and society

By Erica Meline
On April 23, 2018

Courtesy of Carptrash, Wikipedia

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a union for all workers to join together in solidarity for democracy and to fight repressive and failing systems in the world, according to the organizations’ website.

Ramapo’s on-campus organization, Young Lefitists and Progressives, brought in two members of the IWW last Thursday to discuss what a world without cops would look like.

The two members of the IWW, who wished to be referred to by aliases Sam and Steve to ensure their safety, opened the discussion by expanding on what the IWW stands for. Sam stated that the IWW is an “anti-capitalist, anti-bureaucrat” establishment that organizes industrially and has a history of dissatisfaction with how police operate in United States.

“I’d like to say we have a complicated relationship with cops but it’s really pretty simple,” Sam said, “They don’t like us and we don’t like them.”

Sam then went on to discuss the history of cops and the role they play, and how they have evolved from a decentralized workforce to a centralized one. He first began by looking at time periods before the 1800s, where people like sheriffs or knights were in charge of policing their land, but were mostly concerned with collecting taxes and the profits they made.

Sam then moved on to the 1800s to 1900s, which he described as the political era or charity era for cops. He stated that in this time, the cops were puppeted by the dominant political party and utilized to push political agendas.

“They weren’t public servants, they were political servants,” said Sam.

He also stated that the cops would use community service as a way to benefit their public image and that their primary job was to suppress opposing political ideology.

Sam then delve into the police's history in the Industrial Revolution and how people became more aware with the increased communication. Sam noted that this caused the reform period up until the 60s or 70s, where groups like the Black Panthers began to oppose the political influence in police.

Since the reform era, Sam explained that the political era has resurged.

“The ruling class is much smarter than us, we’re always reacting to them,” he said. “They had a public image crisis. They knew their history was terrible, rooted in slavery, rooted in capitalist interests, and knew they had to something or else they’re have to forfeit their entire essense of control.”

Sam said that once again, cops are using public relations and community service to distract people from any injustice within the system.

Sam and Steve expressed that stated that over times, people have become reliant on the government to direct morality.

“Morality and legality aren’t the same thing, though,” said Steve. Sam and Steve expressed that things like feeding the hungry, nudity, panhandling and homelessness are all illegal in some way, all of which are not immoral. They both believed that with the centralization of police, there has been a centralization of morals, resulting in citizens relying on the law to dictate morality.

Sam and Steve, both cop abolitionists, proposed ways to get rid of cops in society. They both relented that they could not get rid of cops overnight due to society’s conditioned dependence on them. They therefore suggested gradual reforms to ultimately lead up to revolution.

“Ultimately we want to disempower, disarm, and disband,” said Sam. To do this, Sam and Steve explained that people need to build dual power and mimic the structure of the police. For example, they stated that people should not call the cops when they do not have to, and instead try to rely on civilians and community organizations to help as an alternative.

They pointed out that “our dual power is very small right now,” so there are still situations where calling the cops is necessary. Ultimately, though, they want to build this dual power over time so that the power is redistributed and citizens are no longer reliant on police.

They also said that disarming entails defunding police and getting rid of all the military weapons. Sam and Steve believed that through disempowering and disarming cops, they could eventually disband them.

Throughout the presentation, Sam and Steve emphasized that they were opened to disagreement and believed everyone was entitled to their own opinions. Steve stated, though, that people need to be open to criticism of cops, because they are not “infallible beings,” and are subject to human error.

“I don’t hate cops,” said Steve, “I just hate the government.”

There was both agreement and disagreement among attendees. Some were hesitant to buy into Sam and Steve’s presentation, while others were completely on board. Senior Zoey Best stated that she believed the police were not doing an adequate job at protecting us in America.

“They are enforcing systematic racism and fear,” said Best. “We need to take the power back.”

Other students shared concern about ensuring people’s safety without police and felt that it is not in civilian’s human nature to automatically help in times of crises.

Opinions may have differed, but Sam and Steve encouraged all students to voice their opinions, because they live in a society that permits freedom of speech. This freedom allows clubs like the Young Leftists and Progressive club to hold these types of events. Senior Kira Abrams stated that the club is for anyone “left of democrat or just feels democratic and wants to make change on campus.”

She also stated that they will continue to host events similar to this in the upcoming semester, and that those who found the presentation interesting should consider joining the campus club.

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