Good Kids and Bad Police in New Jersey*
By Esteban Guevara
Last month the New Jersey Assembly passed bill A1114 76 to 0. This legislation, which was proposed by Democratic New Jersey Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, makes it mandatory for public schools to teach children in their social studies classes, from kindergarten through grade 12, “how to interact with law enforcement officers.”
This bill will have detrimental effects on our communities which are already under siege by the police and are confronting poverty and gentrification. The bill scapegoats children and youth for deeply-seeded systemic issues. All progressive people should reject bill A1114 and continue to fight against it alongside the communities who the police harass, humiliate and murder on a daily basis across the country.
The police murder people
Let’s cut to the chase. Wanton police terror is a reality in poor urban communities of colour. Recently, we have seen too many cases where the police have shot and killed unarmed Black and Brown people.
The proposers of this legislature claims that this bill will improve community and police interaction. However, since the shooting and death of Michael Brown, 14 teenagers have been killed by the police. Invoking the names of Tamir Rice 12, Cameron Tillman 12, Vonderrit Myers Jr. 18, Laquan McDonald 17, Carey Smith-Viramontes 18 , Jeffrey Holden 18, Qusean Whitten 18, Miguel Benton 19, Dillon McGee 18, Levi Weaver 18, Karen Cifuentes 19, Sergio Ramos 18, Roshad McIntosh 19 and Diana Showman 19 is heartbreaking. Their murders unequivocally prove that our children are not the ones who should be taught how to interact with the “authorities;” the police are the ones who should be taught how to peacefully interact with us.
The police as an institution cannot be reformed. Racism and corruption permeate all levels of the U.S.’s largest gang.
In spite of all this, the Democratic controlled New Jersey Assembly sponsored this legislation that will only shift onus on how the police interact with our communities from the police department onto our children.
Bill A1114 will bolster victim-blaming which is already utilized by the media when they report cases of civilians dying at the hand of the police. This bill can be implemented as soon as 2018 if it passes the state Senate.
We need to fight for laws that protect and empower vulnerable communities. The Amistad bill— which requires New Jersey schools to incorporate African-American history into their social studies curriculum—would be one important step forward.
The people are standing up to Bill A1114. A campaign called Good Kids, Bad Cities initiated by community organizers and the National Independent Black Parent Association has created a petition against the bill which will be presented to the New Jersey Assembly.
On Friday June 30th, a large group of community members and activists from Black Lives Matter NJ, Students of Color NJ, Anakbayan NJ, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation gathered against the racist bill in Trenton and marched from the train station to the New Jersey State House.
At the State House, we held a rally where the community announced six demands that need to be addressed immediately. Throughout the protest, the police sought to intimidate and threaten organizers. They did not allow us to enter the State House even though it is a public building. There was media coverage as the crowd swelled and many community members and bystanders joined the call for action proving that there’s power in unity.
The Democrats: not our friends
Bill A1114 demonstrates that it does not matter if it’s on the federal, state, or local level, the Democratic Party and its representatives do not represent workers. They only seek policies and laws that maintain the status quo, benefit the most powerful and protect repressive state institutions. The true resistance remains in grassroots organizations that fight fearlessly and remain independent of the Democratic Party.
In memory of the youth and all the victims slain by the police, we vow to stand strong against Bil A1114 and every measure that harms our people. We remain in solidarity with all the families mourning their fallen children. To paraphrase Caribbean revolutionary Maurice Bishop: “The greatest way to honor our fallen warriors is by picking up the weapons they left behind.”