Statement by the Labor/Community Strategy Center’ Fight for the Soul of the Cities and Community Rights Campaigns.
It has come to our attention, in information released this past week that several California school police departments, including Los Angeles Unified School Police, have received highly specialized military equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense 1033 program. Make no mistake, the equipment doled out to these school police departments are the same ‘weapons of war’ [link: http://www.thenation.com/article/181315/catalog-ferguson-police-weaponry#] we have witnessed utilized by police in response to social activism in the Black community in Ferguson, MI. The recent images from Ferguson are reminiscent of a 1968 magazine cover, Law & Disorder: The Chicago Convention and Its Aftermath. [link: http://www.amazon.com/Law-Disorder-Chicago-Convention-Aftermath/dp/B000L2IG44] Instead of a school bus and batons, which caused quite enough damage in the 60s and 70s, police are now geared up with assault rifles and armored military vehicles, ‘Mine Resistant Ambush Protected’ (MRAP) vehicles to be exact.
What Community Rights Campaign understands at this time is that the Los Angeles Unified School District and its school police department have received 61 assault rifles, 3 grenade launchers and 1 MRAP vehicle. [link: http://www.calema.ca.gov/publicsafetyandvictimservices/pages/about-the-1033-program.aspx] We are also aware that the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and school boards and police departments all over the U.S. have been receiving these weapons. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByME-GBaHL24bmJ3Y2k0VDRYREE/edit?pli=1
One of the five major programmatic proposals of the Fight for the Soul of the Cities is “Fight for the Right to Protest and Organize: Stop the Surveillance and Police State Against the Movement.” (LINK) It is widely recognized that our society is in a free fall of deterioration of social services, jobs, wages, housing, environment, and a terrifying increase in police, prisons, and surveillance. It should be expected that a movement of militancy and insurgency of social protest in urban centers is long overdue and should be welcomed as people fight for their rights. We believe the LAUSD board and staff has modeled how elected and appointed officials can understand people’s righteous anger and can work with grassroots groups who are proposing specific policy solutions to address actual problems of racial profiling, racial discrimination, punitive policies that in fact set back the educational hopes of an overwhelmingly Black, Latino, and low-wage, low-income student body and their families.
Certainly that progress cannot continue to take place if students, teachers, parents, and administrators who exercise their rights to protest fear for their lives. The use of military equipment in urban settings comes out of the reactionary traditions of “counterinsurgency” against people making demands on corporations and their government—policies that violate people’s human rights all over the world including the United States.
The Labor/Community Strategy Center and its Fight for the Soul of the Cites and Community Rights Campaigns applauds the actions of the Davis City Council (California) which adopted a resolution this week that orders the city to come up with a plan to drop the MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) war vehicle http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/08/28/davis-city-council-tells-police-to-tank-bulletproof-vehicle-militarization-mine-resistant-surplus/and Strategy Center sign-on to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Texas Appleseed letter to the Department of Defense urging it to “end the transfer of military weapons to local school districts and police departments through the Department of Defense’s (DOD) 1033 Program for use in K-12 public schools”. We are also heartened by President Obama’s statement that he wants to re-examine the policy of arming police with military weapons.
We urge the LAUSD to work with us to:
- Ask the LASPD to document all military weapons and materials received from the Department of Defense and other federal agencies since they first began receiving them—one estimate is 2001 but whatever the effective date it began.
- Agree that the LASPD should return all those weapons and write to other school boards urging them to do the same.
- Work with us to encourage the LAPD and LA Sheriff’s Department to also return their military weapons in that LASPD students are subject to jurisdictions of those departments as well.
Eric Mann, Executive Director, LCSC
Manuel Criollo, Director of Organizing, LCSC
Ashley Franklin, Lead Organizer, Community Rights Campaign
Barbara Lott-Holland, Co-Chair of Bus Riders Union