The Durham, NC police department has killed 2 Black people in the past 4 months (Kenny Bailey and Frank Clark) and the city has rewarded the police department $71 million to build themselves a new station at the heart of where gentrification is spilling into East Durham. In a city of 250,000 people, that $71 million is enough to give each resident in Durham around $300. That is what many people who live and work here make in a week. Every year the Durham police department is given two thirds of our public safety budget, which translates to nearly $60 million annually just for policing. When people are arrested in Durham (the majority of them working-class and Black), they arrive at the Durham County Jail where they face physical, emotional, and financial abuse. On March 23, 17 year old Niecey Fennell was found dead while locked up at the Durham Jail. She is not the only member of our community to die at the Durham Jail, and to have a mug shot circulated only hours afterwards. As if interaction with police makes our lives less valuable.
These deaths are happening at the same time as ICE hunts immigrants in our neighborhoods while the sheriff’s department lies and says there is no local ICE collaboration. Recently, Durham’s chief of police claimed that there would be an end to police checkpoints in Durham. However, we know that this is intentionally misleading and a half-truth at best. Not only will the sheriff’s department continue with checkpoints, the police department will also continue to participate in “Click-it-or-Ticket” and other jurisdictional checkpoint stops that disproportionately target and endanger Black and Brown drivers. The Durham police chief made it a point to distance the department from the horrific ICE raids that have been happening all over the country. However, local police in Durham have always collaborated with ICE. Just a few months ago high school student Wildin Acosta was kidnapped by ICE on his way to school and spent 6 months in a detention center. Acosta would not have been released had it not been for the organizing of teachers and groups like Alerta Migratoria who campaigned for his release.
We cannot continue to allow this daily rampant violence to continue unchecked. We cannot be silent in the face of Black and Brown death. We are saying NO! We do not want millions of dollars to be spent on police, who harm our families and throw people in cages. This is not how we want our resources allocated. Our safety does not lie in the number of cops in our neighborhoods. Our safety means adequate health care, jobs that pay a living wage, a roof over our heads, enough food in our stomachs, and space for our children to play.
What we want to point out is bigger than a stationary police checkpoint. Durham is a city that treats police as inevitable, as unaccountable, as a sacred institution of public safety at the direct expense of working class Black and Brown people who are every day terrorized by the police. Everywhere in Durham, at school, while driving, even in your own home, is a potential checkpoint for Black and Brown people.
We have been told over and over again that there are “good cops”. Everyday Black people in Durham are targeted by police. Nearly 80% of people held at the Durham County Jail are Black while Durham is only 40% Black. Is that the role of “good cops”? To fill our jails with Black people? Is the role of a “good cop” to disproportionately stop and search Black drivers in Durham? Is the role of a “good cop” to detain and deport family members? Is the role of a “good cop” to murder Black people in Durham without any consequences? Kenny Bailey, Levante Biggs, Frank Clark, these people are not disposable. None of us are disposable.
We envision a Durham where our safety does not depend on arresting and murdering Black people. We envision a Durham where our safety does not depend on the hunting of immigrant community members. We refuse to operate within a framework of justice that says some Black and Brown people are well behaved enough to deserve life. All of us deserve life.
We envision a Durham where WE keep each other safe through love, healing, and restorative justice (like SpiritHouse’s Harm Free Zones) not cops!
In order to realize this vision WE DEMAND:
- An immediate end to all license checkpoints in Durham
- The discontinued use of all unmarked police vehicles
- A moratorium on police stops for minor traffic violations
- A guarantee that the police budget will not be expanded this year
For more info on Durham Beyond Policing, see:
[the image above is from Durham Beyond Policing]