Wednesday, June 10, 2020

I shouldn't have to follow reactionaries, contrarians and pedants to find people who understand what anti-political idealism looks like. I shouldn't have to read cynics to find anti-utopians. In this country, anyone who claims to be interested in politics as an idea is a moralist. Left, right and center, varieties of the same commitment. Calls for "abolition" of jails and police, from Alex Vitale to Ruth Wilson Gilmore, are fantasies and lies. It's been called a  motte and bailey strategy. Cui bono? We need a serious left, stripped of utopianism and vanguardism; stripped of faith.

CAMEROTA: But to be clear, you're not talking about reform. The word, dismantle, is intentionally different than reform. This is more than reform. This is dismantling. I mean, activists who support this are calling this a police-free future.

BENDER: Yes. And, you know, a lot of us were asked if we could imagine a future without police back in 2017, when we were running for office. And I answered yes to that question. To me, that future is a long way away and it would take an enormous amount of investment in things that we know work to keep people safe. I mean, for a lot of folks in our community, stable housing is a safety issue. Having access to healthcare is a safety issue. And so, having -- you know, I think one thing folks are asking is to stop investing so much money in this militarized police force and instead invest in the things that our community really needs. So, you know, I know the statement was bold and I stand by that bold statement, but the work ahead of us will be long, it will include every member of our community. It has to. And, you know, I think we have very immediate things, we have a state action against our police department, which gives us legal mechanisms in the very short-term. You know, there are lessons from all over the country, all over the world that we're looking to take immediate steps while we work toward building the systems that we would need to imagine that future.

CAMEROTA: Do you understand that the word, dismantle, or police-free also makes some people nervous, for instance? What if in the middle of night, my home is broken into? Who do I call?

BENDER: Yes, I mean, hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors. And I know -- and myself, too, and I know that that comes from a place of privilege. Because for those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality where calling the police may mean more harm is done. And so in the very immediate, we have to lean in to whatever changes we can make in our existing police department. You know, I think we look to cities like Camden, New Jersey, that completely restructured their department, as we build up systems. And we've already done that. We are not starting from scratch. We have invested in community-based safety strategies. We have knowledge in our community across the city. We've done an analysis of all the reasons people call 911 and have looked up ways we can shift the response away from our armed police officers into a more appropriate response for mental health calls, for some domestic violence calls, for health-related issues. And so the groundwork is laid already in Minneapolis for us to build on that, to learn from folks around the world, but really also to listen to our community and put those community voices front and center, as we build up those systems even further.

CAMEROTA: On a political point, as a Democrat, are you worried that you have just handed President Trump a great talking point or slogan or battle cry for his re-election to be able to say, see, Democrats want to get rid of your police? First, they come to take away your guns, as he says. Now, they're taking away your police officers. Does that concern you?

BENDER: You know, that's why I said at the beginning that it starts with telling the truth. And I think we've been afraid of a lot of things, of those political dynamics of what would happen in our city, you know, to have our police force hearing these kinds of words. And that fear is what we have to really work through, because, again, that's the fear that so many in our community are facing. That's the fear that we see, you know, from George Floyd's family, or the family of Jamar Clark or Justine Damon, who were also killed by Minneapolis Police, who have told us, we never want to see this happen again. And so the efforts we have taken so far to stop this, to make sure no one is killed in this way have not worked. So our statement is to try something new.

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