There is less than a mile from the freeway offramp to my home, but in that short distance I see the late stages of capitalism and white supremacy unravelling all around me. New transformer-looking Sac Sheriff’s SUVs speed past unhoused folx dehydrating on the center divider—public servants too busy detaining and searching Black neighbors to pass a water bottle to a community member in need. Sac PD rolls through being bolstered by the 30 additional officers assigned to Oak Park after an increase in community violence, but I just see them spend their time hassling and raiding encampments of neighbors solely trying to survive. Meanwhile, a woman with tears running down her checks stumbles into traffic and no one seems to give a fuck because her melanin and gender have already been ascribed guilt. …and who are Paladin Security, really, and why are they everywhere?
Underserved areas of Sacramento are being over-policed. Take a minute with that. People who have the least societal support and economic power are the most likely to be trafficked into the anti-Black criminal injustice system, then have the least means to defend themselves against it, and have even less resources when they get out, if they ever get out. This isn’t new, it is how the system fuels itself off the energy, the dreams, and the pain of Black and Brown communities. With the sole goal of extreme profit, capitalism necessitates an underclass. Slavery was profitable, colonization was profitable, genocide was profitable—and they still are. Sac PD gets to hire more officers with various bonuses and incentives BECAUSE of the community violence that left Black folx dead and grieving in Oak Park, while the circumstances that created the unrest are critically ignored.
If law enforcement serves as modern day slave catchers, then our judicial system is the auction block. Once entrapped into the blank beige halls of our downtown Sacramento courts and jails, people in crisis are coerced into sacrificing their constitutional rights through plea deals that high-five DA Schubert’s conviction rate while decimating communities through lost loved ones, exorbitant fines, trauma induced mental illness, and even death.
James Nelson had his bail reduction hearing Monday (9/11/17) morning at the Sac County jailhouse he is currently caged in. Siting in a wheelchair with severe open burns over most of his body, James asked to be released on his own recognizance. Medically, the filthy jail is unable to provide the necessary therapies and treatment that he requires to heal, and James needs constant care to prevent infection and manage extreme pain. His request was denied and he was given another court date this coming Friday (9/15/17). You couldn’t make up a horror story more traumatizing than James’s lived experience. Two months ago, on one of the 100 degree-plus afternoons in June, James was in a car accident. He was left stranded at the site for hours in the sun without assistance. James had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was having a mental health and medical crisis. He walked into a nearby fast-food chain and tried to get help. No one could help him and he began—without force—grabbing at a man in arm’s reach. Video from the scene in clearly shows he was in crisis and not making conscious actions, but they still called the police on him. Citrus Heights police officers arrived and arrested him for “robbery” rather than provide mental or medical help. During the arrest, James was thrown to the 170-degree asphalt, pressed into the searing ground, and dragged across the parking lot. They literally burned much of his skin off. James needed help for hours that day, but no community services were available to him. He was instead tortured, left in a coma for days, and charged with both felony robbery and resisting arrest. He is being incarcerated because the system needs a reason to justify its violence, and the DA, lawyers, judge, and officers will get a paycheck signed in his blood.
We can do better—because we simply can’t do worse.
I used to think that law enforcement officers should be trained to really protect and serve, to be community helpers, and support people in crisis like James. I wanted them to do what they say they are going to do. I didn’t understand that they are doing what they have always done. Regardless of individual intentions or behaviors, the system has made police the hammer of an anti-Black state born of indigenous genocide and African slavery. Their job is to protect capitalism and white supremacy. KFC’s fast food business matters more than James’s life, and their bottom line will be protected before his needs are considered. Even the “good cops” couldn’t have helped him navigate mental illness in a racist society that profits from his pain.
We need alternatives to police. We need alternatives to an anti-Black state. We need collective care, collective self-care, and transformative justice. We need folx to show up in our own communities and love and support one another. We need to build.
MOST OF ALL WE NEED YOU.
BLM Sacramento has been holding monthly meetings to strategize the creation of teams of people ready, willing, and trained to meet the actual needs of the communities we live in. Sac Alternatives to Police’s goals are humble but revolutionary.
If people are hungry and thirsty, let’s make some food and collect water to share. If shelter and weather survival gear is needed, then let’s create safe spaces and gather needed supplies. #emergencynetwork
If families need education, support, respite, or love, let’s meet those needs before the state gets involved and takes children from a struggling home. Let’s foster healing and growth, not increase the likelihood of abuse, punishment, and removal. #familysupport
If police are over-represented in our neighborhoods, don’t understand our needs, and brutalize/criminalize us, then let’s make sure we hold them accountable to us. #copwatch
If people are hurting, confused, or have mental/medical health issues, then let’s create teams to help each other get through challenging moments safely and access community programs that meet our needs. #disabilityjustice
As an organized community that shares its resources and is committed to collective wellbeing, Black liberation, and joy, we could have given James a different outcome. We could have prevented so much suffering with a few bottles of water, a cell phone to call his mom, and a few folx ready to value his life over property for a couple of hours. This is what real community safety looks like. Let’s get to work Sacramento!
Upcoming BLM Sacramento events:
9/14 Lorenzo Cruz: Police Report? More Questions than Answers:
9/15 Get Together for Armani Lee:
9/16 Emergency Open Meeting for Black Sacramento:
9/23 BLM Sacramento's Bake Sale:
9/29 Justice for Armani Lee, Court Support:
11/18 Reparations Workshop – M4BL: