On Campaign Zero.


A few days ago, folks seemingly anointed by state-run media as leaders of #BlackLivesMatter released a set of policy recommendations that are ostensibly aimed at addressing police violence. The stated goals of this campaign are to “live in a world where the police don’t kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions and ensuring accountability.” To me, Campaign Zero actually seems to be a non-radical political formation built on a mixture of liberal compromise, neoliberal opportunism and conservative bullshit.

First and foremost, these folks are not actually leaders in the organization that is #BlackLivesMatter, and while they are being marketed by people in power as radicals, the three goals listed above are based quite clearly on liberal assumptions that the police need to be trained, tweaked and reformed instead of abolished entirely. The particularly discouraging aspects aren’t even the milquetoast set of reforms, but instead are the actual methods outlined to get there. The only slightly redeemable policy recommendation is their call to establish community oversight. But even then, there is no mention of the fact that police still murder even in cities with review boards. There is no mention of the fact that police have serious political influence over many local governments, governments which would fear retribution if they deemed officers incompetent. And most importantly, there is no mention of democratic control over the police. That’s probably because democratic, community control over the police would effectively eliminate police altogether. But that is clearly not the goal of Campaign Zero.

From there, things just get mind-numbing. Body cameras are named as one of their top demands, even though we know body cameras are pointed away from the people we call on to be monitored. We also know police tamper with videos, turn off videos, or just say fuck it and murder people in cold blood while being filmed.

Community representation is named as one of their top demands, even though cities like Los Angeles and New York do this shit already with little to no change in police violence. Non-white folks are actually represented at nearly every level of government in this country. Yet in places like D.C., members of the Black Congressional corporate class sit high and mighty while young people are shot and killed without a peep from those in power. Even our first Black President, along with our second Black Attorney General, can’t seem to muster up a wee bit of political courage or ethical conviction to hold even one police officer accountable. Clearly Black faces in high places can not address these problems.

Ending for-profit policing is one of their top demands, even though there is not one mention of for-profit prisons. Not one. Critiques of companies like the GEO Group and the CCA, both of which base their long term profiteering on keeping prisons full, are nowhere to be found in these policy changes. These for-profit companies, whose increase in market share is literally based on the philosophy of “lockin’ niggas up and creating new slaves“, are essentially let off the hook and tacitly encouraged to continue doing their work.

The most reactionary demand made by Campaign Zero is their call to establish fair police union contracts. Contracts with the same police unions that just last year marshalled opposition to and ultimately defeated a weak federal attempt to hold them somewhat more accountable. Police unions should not be reformed; they too should be abolished. They are anti-democratic in nature and militantly reactionary in practice.

If attempting to find middle ground with obviously fascist police unions seems bizarre to you, take some comfort in the fact that  the more radical elements of the movement are organizing for actual change. The hashtag and movement calling on the world to recognize that #BlackTransLivesMatter has elevated and centered the most marginalized stories and voices during a time in which the life expectancy of a Black Trans women is 35 years. BYP100 led a nationwide resistance demanding accountability for Black women and girls whose lives have been cut short. And in Chicago, radical Black organizing over many years led to landmark reparations for survivors of police torture. Campaign Zero aims to achieve nothing close to any of this. That’s because the actual goal is to just simply soften the contradictions of capitalism and pacify folks in destitute economic positions. But hey, what could one reasonably expect from liberal activists if not semi-consistent rhetorical lip service to equality and freedom while actually continuing to prop up and support the war on working class communities, whose support they also so desperately need come election time?

If Campaign Zero truly wants to establish a world where police don’t kill people, it would call explicitly for the abolition of police. It does not. And I am wholly unconvinced that this campaign is a serious attempt to end Black lynchings at the hands of the Mass Incarceration Complex. Campaign Zero aims to change just that: zero.

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