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What a year 2021 has already been and we are only halfway through. We welcome you to Issue 35 of The Abolitionist, our second issue of the year, with features on the defund policing movement and a return of each of our columns.
This issue was written, edited and printed at a time of transition and the continued fortification of grave inequity as we’ve entered the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the US reopening to “business as usual” as more people in the US have accessed COVID-19 vaccines this spring, the pandemic rages on throughout many communities, around the world, and inside and outside of cages. 43.3 percent of people in the US have been vaccinated (according to Our World in Data), supposedly slowing transmission rates, though testing sites have become more limited. UNAIDS reports that wealthy nations like the US are vaccinating one person every second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to administer a single dose, and continue to face critical shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies to combat the virus. Meanwhile, the US, UK and entire European Union are blocking poorer countries of the Global South acquiring access to the vaccine through the World Trade Organization.
According to the Marshall Project, by the beginning of June 2021, at least 398,623 imprisoned people in the US have tested positive for COVID-19, 248,099 of whom have recovered, with 2,702 reported deaths, yet the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ adopted a policy in recent months of removing COVID-19 cases and deaths from re- ports. As a result, the Marshall Project has been unable to gather accurate data on COVID-19 in federal prisons, which have had the highest spread than any other institution. The Marshall Project has been able to report that 31,000 federal US prisoners requested compassionate release during the COVID-19 pandemic so far, while the Bureau of Prisons has only approved 36 cases. Based on the data the Marshall Project does have access to, California prisons continue to have the highest COVID-19 rates, followed by federal prisons and then Texas.
This time has been marked by the passing of so many people, particularly many movement elders. We are grieving the passings of Linda M. Thurston and former Black Panther and political prisoner Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, and include efforts to honor them both in “Until All Are Free” Political Prisoner Updates, and The Abby Throwback. May 2021 was the one- year anniversary of George Floyd’s death and the rebellions that spread across the world in his name. We reflect on this past year of collective grief as organizing to defund police and dismantle policing programs burst into the mainstream in a three-angle interview for this issue’s featured reflective piece “One Year Later”, with Miski Noor from Black Visions in Minneapolis, Aima, a UK-based youth activist who founded All Black Lives UK last year, and Lara Kiswani from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) in the Bay Area. Additionally, Andrea J. Ritchie contributed this issue’s featured analysis piece breaking down the origins of the defund policing movement and how its connected to the movement to abolish the entire prison industrial complex (PIC).
These two central pieces are accompanied by a set of action-oriented articles and interviews with organizers across the US that explore in detail some of the robust anti-policing organizing our communities have been advancing this past year. These pieces cover a range of topics from getting cops off campuses in K-12 schools and post-secondary education in a joint interview with Black Organizing Project in Oakland, CA and Police Free Penn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to data-driven policing and surveillance-technologies, like the work of Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, or the organizing by Stop the Sweeps PDX and others against Business Improvement Districts and Enhanced Service Districts. We also include organizing examples to decriminalizing weed through the fight for cannabis legalization, and challenging and replacing the ’94 Crime Bill with legislation created through a People’s Process with the People’s Coalition for Safety and Freedom. Together these grassroots examples demonstrate a range of creative and diverse strategies used and angles leveraged to resist policing and further the abolitionist movement. Non-coincidentally, many of these example campaigns touch on similar points and lessons for sharpening our organizing in our present moment and beyond. We offer these articles as resources for understanding and strengthening defund strategies for abolition, and to enhance our collective resistance across cages and walls.
As demonstrated in the Movement Highlights of this issue, and several of the features particularly “One Year Later,” we see the global character of the PIC and its role in protecting racial capitalism, and we understand defunding as one of many abolitionist strategies. For Critical Resistance, PIC abolition is an internationalist politic rooted in anti-imperialism and an anti-colonial vision. Whether the struggle is defunding police departments and dismantling policing programs in the US, or resisting the ongoing occupation in Palestine, or against neoliberal austerity policies in Colombia, or standing up for each other when cops or guards brutalize one of us, CR will continue to fight alongside those working to eradicate the apparatuses of state violence on our journey toward abolition.
Our final issue of 2021, Issue 36 to be printed by December, will feature “Pathways toward Freedom,” where we will explore different strategies for getting people out of cages inside and outside the US. We invite all our readers to help shape the content of our newspaper, by reviewing our submissions guidelines in our Call for Content on page 22 and submitting content for this issue or other issues to follow (Note: Our mailing address has changed!).
As always, we hope Issue 35 fuels your spirit and sharpens your tools for resistance, collective liberation and self-determination.
Critical Resistance and The Abolitionist Editorial Collective ♦