Our hearts and solidarity go to the family, friends, and communities affected by the murder of Trayvon Martin and other instances of legalized lynchings and state sanctioned murder. We cannot return Trayvon Martin into the arms of his family, but the practices which led to this sadness and cruelty, such as “stand your ground” and behavioral profiling, have to stop before additional lives are taken!
Both the state sanctioned murder of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman’s acquittal should not be seen exclusively within the larger context of white supremacy and racism. We also need to look at government policies that spread suspicion and fear, and actively recruit community members to act upon their suspicions. The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition has been exposing, raising awareness and organizing against policies that promote violence against those considered suspicious. The “See Something, Say Something” messages and Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) iWATCH program lead to “Do Something”, much like “Stand Your Ground” provided cover for Zimmerman’s actions. Driven by concept of behavioral profiling, iWATCH and similar Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) programs are a grave threat to our communities, which often result in harassment, intimidation, threats and physical violence. We see people like George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “defender of communities”, empowered to engage in overt racial profiling to stop “suspicious persons” engaging in “suspicious behavior.”
This is not just a moment in time but a continuation of history. Many of these policies have their origins in the policing of black bodies when legal slavery was abolished in this country, in 1865. These policies have always disproportionately targeted blacks and communities of African descent. Even the LAPD Inspector General’s report released in March 2013 highlighted racial profiling deeply embedded in these policies. The report used a 4 month sample of race data which showed the highest numbers of SARs were filed on African Americans; overall data showed 82% of SARs were filed on non-whites.
We echo the statement by coalition member organization the Youth Justice Coalition, “We have to recognize that these are not isolated incidents, but rather tragedies part of an overall destructive and dehumanizing force of unchecked, licensed power by law enforcement and the criminal in-justice system that systematically inflicts violence and pain upon people of color and destroys public safety in our communities across the United States.”
We can fight the perverse politics of repression and surveillance by rescinding LAPD Special Order 1; iWATCH; and other policies which further criminalize our communities. Will we Sleep or Will we Fight? The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition invites you to fight…We can win!
For more information on Stop LAPD Spying Coalition visit www.stoplapdspying.org and read the Peoples’ Audit of LAPD Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR).