The following is a statement by the Prison Books Collective sent out to local media as a press release, in regards to a meeting of the Police Advisory Committee reviewing the Yates Building eviction.
CHAPEL HILL, NC: The Internationalist Prison Books Collective condemns the attempts of the Town of Chapel Hill to justify state repression through the farce of a “Community Policing Advisory Committee.”
As the violent response to the Yates building occupation clearly showed, the police are here to protect property, not people. As the cowardly responses of the mayor and most of the Town Council showed in the aftermath, we cannot expect any justice from whatever mouthpieces they appoint to an advisory board. The photos of assault rifle-wielding officers screaming at people in front of banners opposing solitary confinement in North Carolina prisons shows how clearly the lines are drawn. For materially challenging economic injustice and connecting it to policing and prisons, Chapel Hill residents had their lives threatened. What “accountability” can we demand from a system like this?
From our work with prisoners throughout North Carolina and elsewhere in the South, we know that being poor is far more of a risk factor for ending up in prison than breaking the law. We know that most prisoners are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes. We know that rates of incarceration are not a response to rising crime rates, but a means of generating economic growth for the state and corporations at the expense of oppressed communities. We know that modern police forces in the US evolved from deputized slave catchers, and that the institution today continues to target the same populations of people trying to escape the brutality and hopelessness of our economic system. Here in Chapel Hill, selective patrolling and harassment is used to push out the black population and promote gentrification, unfortunately with great success.
As the economic crisis intensifies, resistance to it intensifies accordingly, and everywhere the police stand to defend the status quo against those who challenge it. When the bailed out banks foreclose homes and evict their residents, the police are be there to force them out the door. When occupiers attempt to transform the dead spaces abandoned by capitalism into resources for the community, the police are there to tear apart that emerging community at gun point.
The problem with the Yates building repression was not just “overreaction”, however extreme the level of force. The problem runs deeper: that when the interests of the poor, the homeless, and social movements go against those of wealthy landlords and banks, the police will take the side of money and property every time. We can’t reform this by “advising” the police on how to repress us more gently and responsibly.
We do not want nicer evictions. We are not asking for another alienating, bureaucratic process controlled by politicians to distract us from the real role of the police. Instead, we will continue to support creative resistance to capitalism and the prison industrial complex. Until the police cease to protect property at the expense of justice- that is, until they cease to be police- they will not be our allies. Mayor Kleinschmidt and the Town Council are anxious to preserve political credibility in the face of widespread criticism of this eviction, and the police advisory committee is the perfect vehicle with which to do so. Our collective aims to expose such an effort for what it is – a farce.