Anti-Police Power Surrey Community Discussion: Organizing Against Policing in Surrey

Jeff Shantz and Eva Ureta

On Sunday, April 7, 2019, Anti-Police Power Surrey (APPS) hosted a community discussion on community organizing against policing in Surrey and possibilities for developing alternatives to police. APPS is a group of people living and working in Surrey who oppose the domination of police, police violence and repression, and the wasteful, and wildly disproportionate, expenditure of public resources on policing in Surrey. APPS calls for social resources for communities not cops, for people not police and aims for the development of non-repressive social supports and care.

The meeting began with an overview of police dominance in Surrey by APPS. It was noted that there is a push by politicians, businesses, business associations, and the Board of Trade, for more police in the city despite Surrey already having the country’s largest RCMP detachment. It was stressed that much of “crime” that is focused on is about concerns of businesses and property owners, not matters of safety and protection. This includes the targeting of poor and homeless people and the punishing of people for survival strategies.

Those forty or so present at the meeting included people who have been harassed, abused, and arrested by police, including several who were subjected to police violence while (and for) living on “the Strip” on 135A Street in Whalley. They spoke poignantly about the violence that police have done to them. Indeed, most present at the meeting have had negative experiences with police—often extreme violence.

Policing Problems

The broader discussion started with a go around of concerns about police, with everyone speaking. There were issues of ongoing harassment raised. Cops swear at people and degrade them for being poor. One participant said she has been called “a waste of skin” by cops, being told “you should never have been born.” One person reported that an arresting officer kept driving by a homeless person they had previously arrested as a form of implied threat.

Several people reported that police regularly straight up rob them. Cops ask them to empty the contents of their pockets and then take the contents—including money (even if there are no “illicit” or criminalized objects present). These are often significant amounts of money for people who do not have much money.

There was a discussion about how the “war on drugs” gives cops carte blanche to steal from people who are cast as “constant criminals” no matter what they have done or are doing. This allows the police to contain and control people—on behalf of the interests of property owners, landlords, and businesses that want to target poor people for removal.

It was pointed out that much harassment comes from bylaw officers too. Bylaw threaten to take and destroy the belongings of homeless people.

One person noted that shelter programs are beyond the landlord and tenant act. Threats are made against residents around losing housing.

Concerns were raised about private security guards and their growing role in policing communities. They overlap multiple private contracts (malls, plazas, city venues, business districts, etc.) and police overlapping private and public spaces. And they do so with minimal regulation or oversight.

What Might Be Done?

The main part of the discussion focused on what we need to do to build an effective movement to counter police power. Many ideas were raised.

Many in our communities do not know what their rights are. They are unsure what they can and cannot do during interactions with police. We need to teach people their rights and the limits on police interactions.

Popular Education and awareness raising.

Pointing out the existing police budgets and how much of public resources they consume. Defund the police!

Networks to observe police.

Take care of each other so that people are not in positions where they feel they have to call the cops.

Develop practices of transformative justice.

Peers defending peers who are targeted by police.

These are some of the things that can be done and that are being done in other communities where people are struggling to oppose police domination in their lives. And there was, happily, some discussion by Vancouver folks of starting an Anti-Police Power Vancouver!

It was acknowledged that policing is a structure of violence. It is about maintaining relations of exploitation, oppression, and inequality. It is not about a specific force or particular officers. The discussion was an important starting point for building community strength to counter policing narratives, oppose police power in Surrey, and work toward campaigns that contribute to alternatives to policing.

Ridgelantes Put Hate on Display against “Rally for Homes Not Hate” in Maple Ridge

April 14, 2019

By Jeff Shantz

 Anita Place tent city in Maple Ridge has stood as a site of housing by and for homeless people, mutual aid, health care, and emergency response in the context of multiple crises (housing, health care, overdose, social violence). As a space of solidarity among homeless people it has been subjected to various forms of attack from economic and political leaders as well as more privileged residents of Maple Ridge.

Only this week, the mayor of Maple Ridge, Mike Morden, released a 34-minute video produced by a public relations firm in which, in a fake interview format he accused homeless people of “raping and pillaging all of our community and our businesses.” Morden has already turned Anita Place into something of a prison camp with constant surveillance and harassment, and regular acts of invasive violence by police and bylaw enforcement officers. Homeless people and advocates have long noted threats against them by anti-homeless vigilantes (Ridgelantes) in Maple Ridge.

On Sunday April 14, 2019, anti-homeless NIMBY advocates and Ridgelantes of Maple Ridge, apparently stoked by their mayor’s offensive and outrageous claims, held a rally against poor and homeless people living in Maple Ridge. Current and former residents of Anita Place tent city and their allies organized a counter rally to fight for homes now and to stand against the hate coming from politicians, property owners, and businesses.

The Homes Not Hate rally blocked the intersection at Lougheed Highway and 223 Street in downtown Maple Ridge. This elicited some honks of support but seemingly many more aggressive horn peels from angry motorists. Someone attempted to drive through a line of protesters. There were also surprising numbers of people in vehicles shouting bigoted poor bashing slurs at people and giving people the finger. Disappointingly this included some children who were clearly learning to be good neighbors from their loving parents (who no doubt view themselves as paragons of civic responsibility).

The rally then moved to a nearby empty lot where there were several speeches from homeless people and allies. These included solidarity greetings from Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and Bread and Roses and Hormones (self-organized trans defense workers).

During the speeches, a violently angry woman got out of a high end SUV to run across the street and physically confront and verbally berate several people in the rally. Not only did she spew typical poor bashing vitriol (“Get a job,” “Pay taxes,” etc.) but at a few points she struck people, including punching a woman, a VANDU member, in the face. This is a small example of the sort of poor bashing hatred and threats that Anita Place residents face in Maple Ridge by privileged residents, homeowners, and business people who are so concerned about the reputation of their city that they willingly put thuggish bigotry and violence against homeless people on display for all to see. And show that their model of self righteous, violent, proprietarian anomie is much less desirable than the community and mutual aid that Anita Place residents and supports have tried to build and sustain.

This was an important event showing the resilience and determination of homeless people in Maple Ridge in the face of Ridgelante aggression. It sent a strong message against police and bylaw violence and for housing and social care—"homes not jails,” as several speakers put it. Politicians at all levels as well as residents in Maple Ridge and beyond need to see where the real social threats are coming from and who is projecting them.

For the Peace River & the Wedzin Kwa- Its not too late to stop Site C & SNC-Lavalin

April 13, 2019

By Mike Ma

Yesterday I attended the protest against the Site C dam and SNC-Lavalin at the 745 Thurlow headquarters of the construction conglomerate. It was a great feeling to be with a group of committed and concerned people. I’m reminded that small groups of people can do real and effective actions in life. I often feel that actions are futile, but this action made me feel pretty good. It was low on the confrontation index, but high on the calm and committed index. I think it made people feel good. I certainly felt good. We also handed out many pamphlets informing readers about the importance of the Site C Dam issue.

 It was a beautiful Friday afternoon with lots of happy pedestrians walking by during the lunch hour. One of the guards of the office tower came out to ask us to leave, but finally gave up when it appeared that we were not leaving. I think he threatened to call the police, but they never showed up. For more on Site C dam:

https://www.facebook.com/STOP-SITE-C-119339814745241/

http://www.peacevalley.ca

https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/sitec

 And being at the event made me wonder why we are not asking more about this connection between the Site C dam and SNC-Lavalin? 

For more on the connection between Site C and SNC-Lavalin read:

 https://www.globalresearch.ca/snc-lavalin-site-c-bulk-water-export/5671247

 https://thenarwhal.ca/court-documents-offer-revealing-glimpse-of-secretive-site-c-dam-oversight-board/

 

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“Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership” - A Discussion

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By Jeff Shantz 

Brenna Bhandar’s newly released book Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership promise to open up important ways of thinking about property within capitalist colonialism (historically and currently). Some of that promise was on display over several hours of discussion during the book launch at Simon Fraser University University’s (SFU) Harbourfront campus (unceded Coast Salish territories) on the evening of April 9, 2019.

In addition to the author, discussants included Nick Blomley of SFU, Irina Ceric of Kwantlen Polytechnic University (and member of the Social Justice Center), and Glen Coulthard of the University of British Columbia, author of the influential Red Skin, White Masks. The event was chaired by Davina Bhandar of Athabasca University.

The book broadly examines the invention of property and the formation of property law in capitalist colonial projects (emphasizing that property is a social product, not a natural category). Brenna Bhandar first introduces the new book, why it is framed as it is and what was intended with it. She relates that she had been asked at a conference by an academic legal scholar if what she referred to as colonial violence was really appropriation (not expropriation, note). She began asking what it really means to appropriate land (and all that goes with it) that is someone else’s (home). Other assumptions (racism, for example) went along with that appropriation. Science, economy, cultural production, philosophy, law—all went along with the projects of appropriation.

All of this led her to focus on the role of property law in colonial endeavors. Bhandar notes that law shapes the formation of proletarian subjects, property, racial subjectivities. Hegemonic paradigms of ownership also contain moments of rupture, refusal, resistance, though these are perhaps underplayed in the book, as the discussion would suggest.

Today, Bhandar asks, how can property be “de-propertized”—what are the ruptures of the present. How might we “dethrone” the commodity form property, in her words? These tasks need to be taken up collectively, as Bhandar suggests.

 The Respondents

All of the respondents were in agreement that this is an important work. Nick Blomley appreciates that Bhandar argues that modern property law emerges with and through colonial appropriation (and violence). He notes that under capitalist colonialism property is justified with reference to those who supposedly have the technology to use it (in which the technologies and uses of colonialism are all that count). Blomley suggests that too many property theorists elide questions of race and colonialism. And if they do mention race, they ignore the specific work that property law does.

Blomley asks how property law affects the lived realities of coloniality? Racial subjects and modern property are produced together. Blomley turns to works on foreclosure to point out that foreclosure in the colonial United States became a means of theft of Indigenous land through Indigenous debt.

Blomley refers to Frantz Fanon, who in Wretched of the Earth notes that the colonial world is one divided into compartments in which the Native learns to stay in its place. Blomley argus that in so-called British Columbia, the watchful eye of property owners backed by the state, more than agents of the state themselves, turned Indigenous people into trespassers on their own lands. Trespass is itself culturally and historically constructed. It is connected to land in the modern period—through enclosure and through colonial encounter. 

Blomley points out that we can see racialized regimes of property in the killing of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous youth, by white farmer Gerald Stanley in Saskatchewan. Stanley’s lawyer invoked intrusion and trespass (on settler occupied land, not of settlers on stolen Indigenous land) along with racist assumptions of Indigenous people as threats to white property.

 Irina Ceric kept a focus on specific legal tools—especially injunctions, her area of work. Bhandar points out in the book that settler colonialism requires flexibility in legal devices. Ceric notes that while injunctions are not part of property law, they are about property. She offers that BC has a long history of using injunctions against Indigenous people and social movements. Lawsuits are used as means to secure injunctions alone—they are not cases intended to go to trial. Ceric quotes the late Secwepemc activist Art Manual who has described injunctions as “legal billy clubs.” She reminds the audience that use of force is inherent in the public-private partnerships of extractives companies, police, and courts.

Ideas of use also underly injunctions and are part of colonial histories of property. Ideas of using or “improving” land are invoked that give corporations and industry a trump card in getting injunctions (their use is privileged). Ceric takes the discussion to injunctions against Wet’suwet’en land defenders 

Glen Coulthard also found much in agreement with the book. He begins by asking about exclusions in the text—especially around resistance to colonial regimes of ownership. The text, in his view, is not focused enough on real world alternatives.

Coulthard suggests the need for a focus on the forms of social relations, land tenure, etc. that needed to be erased by colonial violence (according to the colonizers) in order to construct colonial property, law (and property law). What were they?

Coulthard pushes the discussion in the direction of understanding the nature of the state. Are the issues identified in the book property issues or issues of territoriality more broadly (and of sovereignty through the state). How much of this is constitutive of the state form itself? Here Coulthard significantly brings in the works of the anarchist Peter Kropotkin in relation to primitive accumulation—as a constituent feature of the state as such. This is a crucial moment in the discussion that bears further development.

Debates on De-Propertization

Questions included issues of identity and law, the impacts of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, duties to consult, consent, etc.

Bhandar responded by acknowledging her need to think further about technicalities of law and how they are shaped through racial regimes. She notes that in the UK injunctions are used all the time on university campuses—to stop student protests.

Despite recognizing the limits of the law and the violence inherent in law (and its separations and containments) Bhandar says she is not ready to give up on the law. Ceric offered a bit of friendly pushback on this but I would have liked this discussion to be pursued a bit further (and to hear from Coulthard more on this given his reading of Kropotkin who wrote extensively on law). An audience member pointed out that injunctions are also most used in labor disputes to stop unions or to break strikes. This is about propertization for capital—not or the workers who work in a struck property.

Blomley returned to the fact that private property is a production of the state. A discussion began around the state-property relation which could not be fully be pursued in the time available.

There were also unanswered questions around what the de-propertization of property would entail and look like. Bhandar offered some on the ground examples. Occupations of urban sites offer examples. She noted that Occupy London argued for indefinite occupation of the area around St. Paul’s Cathedral—after they were taken to court over an injunction. This confronted property law’s emphasis on definite periods of occupation in her view. After the Grenfell Tower fire, people took over a property no longer used by an art gallery. They wanted to stay there indefinitely. Coulthard responded by pointing out that the character of these acts changes if they are transposed to New York or Oakland where they would be claims made on stolen Indigenous lands. 

We still need to work out a common politics that is anti-capitalist and anti-colonialist. Key in this are Indigenous resistance, resistance to enclosures of various sorts. The discussion based off of Colonial Lives of Property suggests that it makes a contribution to expanding our understandings of promises and problems.

 

Further Reading

Bhandar, Brenna. 2018. Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership. Durham: Duke University Press

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Indigenization and Decolonization at KPU: A Week of Sharing and Learning

Report by Mike Ma

I attended and participated in various events this past week during the Idigenization and Decolonization presentations at KPU. In particular, on March 20th, I was luck to have heard from speakers who are key figures in the indigenous rights movement in Canada. During the panel talk, Land Rights of the Original Nations: Since Time Immemorial, Now and Forever, Sharon Venne and Russ Diabo shared their thoughts on indigenous history and struggle. Russ Diabo gave a tour de force of how the negotiation and political struggle for recognition has unfolded over the last 200 years. Sharon Venne forcefully argued that the Canadian state is still actively at odds with the title rights and land claims of First Nations peoples.

Remember the Revolutionaries: African Heritage/Black History Month at KPU

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March 8, 2019

Report by Jeff Shantz

Every month is Black History Month—or should be. On Thursday, March 7, 2019, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Sociology faculty Charles Quist-Adade and students hosted a lively African Heritage/Black History Month event at the KPU Surrey campus. An evening of discussion, poetry, and music, this was an impactful gathering that energized participants. There was a decent turnout of forty or more people, including community members as well as KPU students.

Speakers made clear that “if we [people of African heritage] do not tell the histories, who will?” And they stressed that it was important to go beyond tolerance of cultural difference to move to acknowledgement and recognition.

There were images and references that emphasized anti-slavery rebellions and the Haitian Revolution through the resistances and uprisings of today. Slides throughout focused on revolutionaries and activists from Harriet Tubman and Viola Desmond to Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara and beyond. Acknowledgement was given to the unknown grassroots activists who are the revolution. Along the way reference was made to Franz Fanon and the anarchist-inspired Ashley Montagu.

Charles Quist-Adade stressed the importance of remembering and highlighting “the trailblazers of the African Revolution.” He emphasized the importance of praxis—theory to inform practice and practice to inform theory—and it should be said that this has been a hallmark of Dr. Quist-Adade’s work at KPU. Charles argued that the so-called African Slave Trade should be called the European Trade in Africans (or the European Slave Trade).

With specific attention to education at a campus-based event, the importance of education in various realms was emphasized—social media, music, art, as well as more traditional academics. It was pointed out that racialized students have additional tasks in school—of confronting the limitations and obstructions, including outright racism—of traditional educational settings and materials.

A question across the evening was, “What are you doing to change things—to make society better?” And there was a real expression of the need to imagine the radical possibility of changing the world.

 

 

Algiers, Third World Capital: Black Panthers, History, Revolutionary Times, and Today’s Struggles

By Jeff Shantz

 On March 2, 2019, the Simon Fraser University (SFU) History Department held its annual #sfuhistreads 2019 discussion on the recently released political memoir Algeria, Third World Capital (Verso, 2018)by Elaine Mokhtefi who worked with the Black Panther Party in Algeria. The panel undertook a discussion of the meaning of history, radical spaces, and revolutionary times. In doing so, they pursue questions of how the earlier uprisings of the 1960s and 1970s relate to today’s movements (especially Black Lives Matter and Idle No More and Indigenous resistance) and popular uprisings like the Arab Spring. They ask what the militant struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, from the Algerian struggle to the internationalism of the Black Panther Party, have to tell us about resistance and revolution today. 

The panel consisted of: Muriam Haleh Davis (University of California-Santa Cruz); Karen Ferguson (SFU); Amal Ghazal (SFU); and Adam Rudder (Hogan’s Alley Society). What follows are themes and issues condensed from the broader conversations of the panellists and moderator.

What is History?

This being a History Department event, first question addressed by the panel was “What is History?” How can we think of Elaine Mokhtefi as a historian? First, the book I an intimate history—a memoir. It is a first person account from a participant. And its author is not a professional historian, she is a journalist. She compares, as we can, her memories to those of Black Panther Party members Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver and other revolutionary figures who appear in the book.

In terms of Algerian nationalism, for example, Mokhtefi’s view is very particular. What she emphasizes is not what historians might emphasize. The book is more about the Black Panther Party than about Algeria.

The book does clear up some questions about how history has assessed the period and its actions. The panelists agree that the book could connect differently at various points with academics or non-academics.

Mokhtefi too occupies multiple positionalities. She was a student, a translator, a painter, a jewelry maker, and a militant. She is Jewish. A white American. She is an outsider to both Algeria and to the Black Panther Party. Her perspective connects gender, colonialism, and power in unique ways framed by her multiple positionalities. She struggles with questions of being a white Jewish woman and the need to assert her solidarity with the struggles of people of color. She did seem conscious of moments for using white privilege in places where it could open access.

It is suggested that Mokhtefi comes from a pre-Cold War generation of social democratic internationalists. She saw herself as a citizen of the world in solidarity with the global working class. And she is positioned within a specific moment of post-colonial revolutionism. This is much different than the present period. We cannot replicate it.

Being Jewish in the Algerian context meant something different than being Jewish in the United States. She stresses that she did not experience anti-Semitism among Algerians. Notably, Mokhtefi only emphasizes her Jewish identity in the Postscript, not throughout the text.

This is a personal politics. The account details relationships and affairs. She is clear to assert as well that there was no sexual dynamic between her and Eldridge Cleaver. There are moral non-judgements throughout the text. For Mokhtefi, state violence supercedes the failings of individual Black Panther Party members. It is viewed as more significant, in scale, impact, and causality than misogyny or interpersonal violence.

Radical Spaces

The radical spaces Mokhtefi experienced and explores in reflection are many, from the United States to Africa to Europe: Oakland; the Black Panther Party headquarters; Black Panther Party sites in Algiers; the Black Panther News Service in Algiers; the Afro-American Center in Algiers. They range from the local and intimate to transnational spaces and movements. And there are misunderstandings on all three sides about what revolution means.

An important and overlooked aspects of struggles is the logistics of global resistance—what I have termed infrastructures of resistance. The book highlights communications and travel networks. Chinese and Cuban doctors in Algiers, Safe countries and routes for Panthers to travel. Panelists were struck to reflect on how much militants were very connected well before the internet. There was, in fact, lots of movement and extensive travel. This is a fact that is often forgotten or obscured by contemporary assumptions about “unwired” politics in the present period of social media.

Revolutionary Times

A key question becomes “What does it mean to read this history now?” What is the inspiration for contemporary movements and struggles? Today so many groups and struggles are connecting and learning from each other across space and setting. It is important to point out that there were mass uprisings in Algeria even as the SFU discussion was happening. The Arab Spring uprisings show the need to read things with caution.

People are really interested in the 1960s and 1970s. But there feel like disconnections with today. There is a nostalgia and melancholy in the book and in other account of the period.

The panelists suggest that we seem to have learned, in fact, very little from the time depicted in Mokhtefi’s book. How have the conversations progressed? The panelists suggest that identity politics cover over some meaningful complexities within communities today. When is solidarity not possible? Why not? The book offers a warning about how the movements then did not “get” each other.

When she gets back to the US, Mokhtefi realizes that the moment for the Black Panther Party is over.

Today the political imagination seems to be dominated by pragmatism—an effect of decades of neoliberal “no alternative-ism.” There is a limited sense of the possible in political discourse. But there is a real desire today for utopias, for a utopian imagination at least.

Algiers, Third World Capital offers some compelling insights into all of these concerns. And does indeed stoke the radical imagination.

Challenging Police Power in Surrey: An APP Surrey Event

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By Eva Ureta

Close to 60 people gathered at Surrey’s Progressive Cultural Centre on January 26, 2019, to take part in Anti-Police Power (APP) Surrey’s discussion on “Challenging Police Power in Surrey”. APP Surrey is a community based grass roots initiative to build collective resistance against police power in Surrey. Members live and work in Surrey are dedicated to challenging the current narrative of the state of policing. APP Surrey is an anti-capitalist and anti-colonial collective that support working class community struggles for survival and power. 

APP Surrey presented on a range of topics: Mayor McCallum’s safety policies; policing in postsecondary schools; moral panic and gang violence; Surrey Board of Trade and gentrification, and; layered and integrated policing. Once APP speakers wrapped up their presentations, everyone was given the opportunity to speak out about policing issues they have experienced. Not surprising the presentations struck a chord with nearly everyone. 

Discussions between community members quickly broke out and specifically around the coercive tactics used by the Surrey RCMP. Police were exposed for their strategies when it came to recruiting students (elementary to postsecondary) to act as snitches and agents of the state. Parents in attendance were concerned and felt the safety and security of their children who are under constant surveillance. 

On a positive note, all in attendance want to see change. Everyone seemed encouraged to see APP openly challenging and confronting the state of policing in Surrey. Some shared the need to get involved in some issues that directly affect them or members of their community. APP Surrey came prepared and announced that at the Civic Plaza on January 29th the Surrey Board of Trade is hosting a “RCMP or Municipal Police Dialogue” from 7:30–9:30am. 

APP Surrey will be present at 7:00am to handout leaflets to attendees. It was pointed out that this event is free and if anyone is interested they can reserve a ticket on Eventbrite. The dialogue is aimed at the transition to a municipal police force from the current RCMP and what would have better outcomes regarding public safety: the costs and benefits of a municipal police force; the costs and benefits of keeping the RCMP, and; business impacts on such a change. 

A major initiative of APP Surrey is to highlight how resources are constantly being funneled into policing initiatives (integrating police-led programming at schools or expanding the police force) which is a misappropriation of public dollars especially in light of there being a housing, homeless and opioid crisis. The consensus from the “Challenging Police Power in Surrey” was unanimous: divest from police and invest in communities.

People Who Use Drugs - Conference and AGM - Nov. 11-12, 2018

BC/YUKON ASSOCIATION OF DRUG WAR SURVIVORS PROVINCIAL CONFERENCE & AGM

SUN,NOV 11TH & MON, NOV 12TH, 9:30 AM - 6:30 PM

Inn on the Quay, New Westminster, 900 Quayside Dr.(@SkyTrain’s New Westminster Station)

This 2 day conference, funded by the Overdose Prevention Education Network, brought together PWUD across BC to activate: democratic drug user groups; ending criminalization of PWUD; experiential worker rights.

Green Jobs Respect and Heal the Land, Fracking & Mega Dams Don’t

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By Rita Wong


Climate change is an urgent issue. 15,000 scientists have issued a warning letter telling us that we need to take it seriously. As Eileen Crist, one of the co-authors of this letter says, “Taking care of the planet is akin to taking care of one's family. We take care of our families: our children and our spouses and our parents. When you take care of your family, you don't do it because you're optimistic or pessimistic … it's because that's what you do. Our mandate is that we take care of Earth and earthlings and human beings because we're all family."

I teach environmental ethics at Emily Carr University, and something I say to my students is that when we feel like we’’re on the Titanic, it’s important not to panic. What we can do is take time to learn who’s here with us and how we can work together to build life boats.

We are lucky that BC is home to many lifeboats. We need massive reforestation, and we need to protect the land that’s already healthy and natural. These lifeboats include the Burrard Inlet (where I was arrested for opposing pipeline expansion), the Peace Valley, the Unist’ot’en Camp up north, and many other key places, sacred places. We need to protect these life boats and honour them because it’s the right thing to do. And they also happen to be crucial for our shared future.

I ask the BC Federation of Labour’s climate change working group to be careful not to accept greenwashing, to look hard at what kinds of green jobs actually help improve the health of the land.  I caution everyone to avoid the trap of greenwashing. Two examples come to mind:

(1) LNG is fracked gas; it’s not clean; it’s poisoning the watershed and contributing to earthquakes and tremors. The recent injunction threat against the Unist’ot’en Camp endangers all of us. We need to honour the healing and the assertion of Indigenous ways of living that the Unist’ot’en embody. These are crucial for humanity to respect and learn from. 

(1) There is plenty of evidence to show that mega dams like Site C, Keeyask Falls, Muskrat Falls, are NOT CLEAN AND NOT GREEN. They are methane and mercury releasing disasters that destroy the very forests we need to be increasing now. We need massive reforestation in a serious way.  We need intact carbon sinks. We need to respect the land. We cannot afford to be clearcutting huge areas of forests and flooding them, not right now. Other forms of energy and green jobs are necessary and possible.

What links both examples is water. Our future depends on protecting the health of the water, the health of the land, the health of the people. That needs to be the lens by which we build green jobs. 

As research from UBC’s Program on Water Governance shows, BC Hydro's alternative portfolio to Site C would create more long-term jobs and have better environmental outcomes. A diverse combination of wind, solar site remediation, geothermal construction and energy conservation would be better for the land, better for reconciliation, and ultimately better for people. We need the big contribution to food security that the Peace Valley can offer BC, and we need to honour Treaty 8. Now is the time to walk the talk; when Hydro has apologized for the WAC Bennett Dam’s harm to Indigenous peoples, how can it violate Treaty 8 and force the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations into an expensive battle to protect treaty rights?

Divest from Police, Invest in People: Anti-Police Power Surrey Calls for “Community Not Cops”

By Jeff Shantz

 On Saturday, November 24, 2018, Anti-Police Power Surrey (APPS) held a rally against the dominance of police in our communities in Surrey and the fear politics being pushed by politicians, businesses, and police to ratchet up police budgets and the further expansion of policing in our communities, even as crime rates drop. It was also a moment to call for more support for community resources and funding of socially necessary services that are, in fact, primary reasons that crime rates drop—not police as some assume.

Almost 60 people marched from City Hall to the RCMP office in Whalley, a center of police violence against poor and homeless people. The rally heard from numerous speakers who told of experiences of police violence and the negative impacts of policing, especially on oppressed and marginalized people and communities. One young man, Gurpreet, attending his first protest, described the social forces that led him into gang activity and to being criminalized and of the need for community solutions not more policing.

The theme of the day was “Community Not Cops.” This expressed APPS’ emphasis on social resources and spending to address causes of social harms and conflict and to care and support for communities in ways that improve social conditions and relations. Police do not and cannot do this. Instead, they increase social tensions and violence (fear and alienation) while targeting specific groups and individuals for punishment (often on the basis of class, poverty, and racism).

The main call of the rally was “Divest from Police, Invest in People.” This spoke to the disproportionate amount of public resources and funding that go to police budgets rather than necessary social services (community centers, child care, elder care, harm reduction, etc.). In Surrey, at least 20 percent of the City budget goes solely to formal policing (in the RCMP). More goes to other policing functions (bylaw, etc.).

Instead APPS suggests that funding would be better spent on community initiatives that reduce social harms and build the connections that protect communities and provide real security and safety. 

Community Not Cops

Police only respond reactively to activities that are defined legally as crimes (whether the laws are just or not) and have much discretion in how they pursue their work, who they impact and how. Police do not protect communities, as some would believe, by stopping the criminal act as it occurs.

In response to the APPS rally the Surrey Now-Leader asked, “Who will protect you when the burglar comes through your window?” But that is not what police do. If the burglar is through your window it is already too late. Calling the cops after the fact will not keep you safe. We need to reduce socially harmful activities before they occur. And we need to address why certain acts occur in the first place.

Only building community solidarity and support will do that. Only resources for community care will do that.

Yet proponents of policing want to spend even more public resources and funds on reactive punishment-based approaches. At the same time they expect already overworked, under-resourced, under-supported, under-serviced communities to do essential community safety and care work with little or no support. That is wrongheaded and ideological. It is classic neoliberal practice—defunding communities to justify massive spending on forces of state repression.      

Much criminological research shows that strengthening community cohesion and solidarity, through expanded and shared resources and services reduce social conflict and harmful activities. This is where we need to go. This is a point that Anti-Police Power Surrey is trying to bring to public discussion, a discussion so far dominated by authoritarian and repressive approaches. 

On Fear and  Politics

To point out that politicians, businesses, and police use fear politics and moral panics to promote increased police spending, activities, equipment, and officers is not to say that there are not reasons for concern in our communities. Rather, it is to recognize that police will not reduce social harm or remove the sources of social harm in our societies. Structures of poverty, exploitation, racism, oppression are reinforced by and maintained by policing practices (that largely protect systems of inequality and property over and against human need).

Rather it is too show the disconnect between reality and perception and to ask why politicians are using misrepresentations rather that reality as the basis for decision-making. If crime rates are dropping, as they are in Surrey, why the loud and persistent calls for increased policing? Why the claims by proponents of increased policing that crime in Surrey is growing, even spiraling out of control?

Anti-Police Power Surrey has some answers. And they are working toward community-based alternatives. The Community Not Cops rally initiated some of that conversation

News coverage: https://www.surreynowleader.com/news/people-march-in-north-surrey-to-protest-policing-costs/

“Centering Black Lives”: An Evening with Desmond Cole

Desmond Cole was in Vancouver to deliver a talk at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. (CBC)

Desmond Cole was in Vancouver to deliver a talk at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. (CBC)

By Jeff Shantz  - November 19, 2018

Journalist Desmond Cole has been one of the most prominent voices against police violence and racial profiling in Canada. On November 16, 2018, Cole shred his experiences and insights with a standing room only gathering at the Alice McKay Room in the Vancouver Public Library in downtown Vancouver. Cole engaged in wide ranging conversation at an event hosted by Black Lives Matter Vancouver and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The evening started with conversations among attendees at tables around one or more questions related to issues of racial profiling, white supremacy, carding, identity, etc. There were prepared questions about the responsibilities of white people in overcoming white supremacy. There were questions about racial identity and social engagements with identity.

Before Cole spoke, singer-songwriter Desiree Dawson sang several of her original songs including CBC Searchlight winner from 2016,”Hide.” Dawson proved popular with the audience who responded enthusiastically.

In an honestly emotional start, Desmond Cole began by relating his disturbing experiences of being carded by Vancouver police within 24 hours of his arrival in the city. Cole did say that the Vancouver Police Department denied they do racial profiling or even have racism on the force. Yet their own data show that while one percent of Vancouver’s population is Black, they are five percent of those carded. While Indigenous people are two percent of Vancouver’s population, they are 16 percent of those carded. And police had denied for years that this data even existed. Cops lie.

Cole asked people to think about the challenges that brought us together as communities on the evening. These were perhaps questions about what it means to be Black in Vancouver or Canada today. Maybe simple curiosity. Cole asked why people where there and what it is about communities in struggle that makes them want to attend events like this—which do not happen all the time.

The first response was from a woman who said she was working through white supremacy, as a Black woman, and having to overcome the valuation of white culture taught from an early age. Throughout the evening there were several discussions of healing and the need for healing. People spoke of the dominant social pressures to be other than they are. One person who spoke said, “Belonging is the opposite of ‘fitting in’.”

There were many thoughts conveyed on the immense strength it takes for people to get up and into the world—given all that is going on today. Self-care and care of those around us was recognized to be essential. Desmond Cole stressed that this is work that is often not looked at as The Work (capitalized) of movements. But Cole said finding time to laugh, and laughing, is The Work too.

Cole spoke of his upbringing in Red Deer (which surprised many) and Oshawa and his increasing appreciation for nature. Anyone who follows Cole on social media knows that his journalistic and political posts are often joined by lovely photos of flowers. Sadly, this is what he was simply trying to enjoy when he set out for Stanley Park and was stopped by the Vancouver Police Department officer.  

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White Supremacist Improv

One highlight of the discussion was Cole’s discussion of what he calls “White Supremacist Improv.” This involves white people making up rules that Black people have supposedly violated , as a means to keep them in their place. So white people online made up or looked for absurd bylaws that Cole must have violated for the cops to have stopped him. It could not have been, according to the white supremacist improvisers, that the police are a racist institution or practice racial profiling.

A key point stressed by Cole is the need to stop incrementalism and middling approaches to social change (that do not really change anything)—and go directly for what is needed. Cole emphasizes that Black people have the right to demand what they need on their terms. It is not impractical or unrealistic to demand what is necessary for justice. Indeed, as Cole puts it, there is nothing more impractical than believing that white supremacist systems will recognize their inequity and decide to do what is right for Black people.

Relatedly, the law, is fine not protecting Black and Indigenous people. Cole noted that police street checks are violations of multiple Charter rights. The Charter is not for Black people. It was made despite their needs. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained. Everyone has the right to be free from reasonable search or seizure.

White supremacy tells people that police acting other than they do would be unsafe. Black and Indigenous people are viewed as criminals in the making or as potential criminals. Legal systems allow many, predominantly white people, to make money building, staffing, filling the prisons and prison structures. It is a system of accumulation.

In response to a question from an attendee, Cole noted that police discretion could be exacerbated under the new cannabis regime. Stops could bee based on smell, red eyes, etc. Impairment is supposed to cover being tired, using legal substances, etc. How is and will it be applied. Historically, along lines of racial profiling. 

A Road Map to Abolition?

Cole is clear that he is a police and prison abolitionist. He suggests that we need a road map to get to abolition and has three initial steps as related to carding.

First, cops should tell people their rights up front. Cops could articulate the law to people-not make people guess what their rights are and certainly not deceive people about their rights. If any police officer cannot do that they do not get to perform that role (either as a cop or as whatever role might replace cops).

Second, police should not keep records on innocent people. Where cops are replaced with something better there might be reasons to document caregiver or safety patrol interactions with someone. But they should be given receipts with details of where they can complain and on what grounds. For Cole, current cops should give you a receipt with badge number any time police interact with you. It should say why they interacted with you.

Carding is for non-criminal behavior. It involves information on people who have not been convicted of acts involved in the stop. Does the RCMP have the information also? Does CSIS? CSEC (the secretive intelligence service in Canada)? Who do the VPD share it with? We know that information from police encounters in shared with police forces in other countries. Any of us travelling to the United States knows this.

Third. Police should have no control of those contact records.  

Cole noted that the officer who stopped him was alone driving a car with expensive equipment and weaponry. To do what? To enforce a non-existent smoking bylaw? That is a massive waste of public resources. And all of the funding for those resources could be better spent caring for people and communities. That is a point that abolitionists make. Policing drains public resources mightily while impeding efforts at social care and solidarity. Budgets are wrecked so cops can drive around harassing poor, working class people for doing little of consequence, and routinely inflicting brutal force against us and our communities.

Conclusion

On the whole, Desmond Cole took a very conversational approach. He wanted to hear personal experiences and reflections—about anything—from people in the room. There was no formal question and answer session.

In closing, he emphasized that the Mayor of Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart, and others in power have an obligation, not to him, as they have tried to apologize, but to the Black communities in Vancouver—the people who live in Vancouver and will be here after he has returned to Toronto.

Cole announced that he has a book coming out in 2019, The Skin We’re In.” The focus of the book is on policy practices that disproportionately target Black people in Canada. It will be essential reading for anyone concerned with issues of justice in the Canadian state context.

Against Policing and the Politics of Fear: A Discussion About Moral Panic Over Crime in Surrey

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Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey. November 8, 2018

 By Jeff Shantz

 Public discussion and debate on social services and public safety are overwhelmingly framed by fear politics and policing. On Thursday, November 8, 2018, I hosted and spoke at the panel, “Against Policing and the Politics of Fear: A Discussion About Moral Panic Over Crime in Surrey,” organized by Anti-Police Power Surrey (APPS), a newly formed coalition mobilizing to challenge police dominance in Surrey and develop community-based alternatives to police.

I opened the event with a discussion of layered policing and the extension of police functions throughout the fabric of everyday life in Surrey. And noted that the crime panic in Surrey is ramping up even as crime rates, including for violent crime, are falling. Harleen Gill, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University criminology student spoke about her work in a campaign @EndSurreyGangs to offer community based alternatives to police in response to concerns about gangs in Surrey. Isabel Krupp of APPS followed this discussion up by addressing moral panic, racist anxieties, and the Surrey Gang Task Force. Dave Diewert of APPS focused on the Surrey Outreach Team and the criminalization of poverty with particular attention to policing of the 135A Strip in Surrey. Lenee Son offered insights into an issue of repression given little attention in Surrey, the new immigration detention center. Son discussed migrant justice in Surrey as a crucial part of social justice. Finally Eva Ureta of APPS provided a significant reflection on community-based alternatives to policing. This is the work that needs to be done—developing real world alternatives and resources for social solidarity.

The event was extremely well attended as the Birch 250 meeting room was completely filled. Even more, participants were actively engaged with the issue as there were many relevant questions and discussions about ways to oppose police dominance and, significantly, about organizing a community alternative to police in Surrey.

As a first public meeting of APPS, following an earlier protest against a Coffee with Cops copaganda event, this was a very encouraging start. Challenging police and their multifaceted presence in Surrey is pressing and necessary work. It is good to see so many who live and work in Surrey engage with how that work can be effectively done.

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Anti-Police Power Surrey Confronts “Coffee with Cops”

By Jeff Shantz 

Coffee with the Cops is a pure copaganda (police propaganda) exercise undertaken by police and the City of Surrey to put a friendly face on the RCMP and to provide cover for the violence that police inflict on our communities on an everyday basis. The aim is the further intrusion and infiltration by police into communities that are already heavily policed and criminalized, from poor bashing of homeless people to fear mongering over youth. The program involves host businesses treating police to snacks and coffee while they chat up and try to win over customers.

On October 19, 2018, Anti-Police Power Surrey (APPS) organized an open opposition to Coffee with the Cops at Cafe Nelly in the Gateway SkyTrain station in Whalley, an area already subjected to high levels of policing. Anti-Police Power Surrey is a new coalition of people who live and work in Surrey organizing to oppose the domination of our communities by police, to support real social, rather than repressive, resources in Surrey, and to develop alternative forms of public safety. APPS opposes the policing of our communities, neighborhoods, schools, and the fear politics that businesses, politicians, and police use to expand policing in Surrey—in the interests of profit, property, and development rather than human need.

During the action against Coffee with the Cops at Cafe Nelly many conversations were held with people also concerned about the gross overfunding of police in Surrey and more than 100 leaflets were handed out. This was the first such action organized by APPS but will by no means be the last.

The message of APPS is that funding and resources need to be put into real community resources and services (housing, health, community spaces, education, child and elder care, etc.) not into police repression and violence and publicly paid for stunts like Coffee with the Cops. Notably, City of Surrey staff (also on work hours) were present throughout the event, enjoying treats from the business and chats with the cops. Public money not well spent.

There is a reason police, businesses, and governments need to rely on nonsense like Coffee with the Cops. People do not trust the police or view them as helpful community services for a reason. Coffee with the Cops needs to be called out for what it is and openly opposed. Along with the policing that dominates discussion of public safety in Surrey and which only contributes to further alienation, fear, and punishment—factors in social harm in the first place—without in fact keeping our communities safe.