A woman holds a sign during a demonstration in Union Square, New York City. May 2015.
A woman holds a sign during a demonstration in Union Square, New York City. May 2015.

The BLM movement was born out of violence. The list of Black and Brown people that have been murdered by police is longer than many of us would like to acknowledge: in 2015, the police murdered 1,146 people nationally, and 2016 is shaping up to be just as deadly with 611 killed by the month of July.

Out of all the victims of police terror, only a handful make headlines or become active martyrs in our struggle. Slogans such as “I can’t breathe” or “Hands up, don’t shoot” serve as reminders of the violence we endure. And the violence continues when we stand up and fight back: millions watched as protesters from Baltimore to Baton Rouge were brutalized by the police.

Police are granted an immense array of weapons that many of us have experienced first hand. The Ferguson rebellion offered a perfect example: in Ferguson, police showed out in force with armored vehicles, LRAD systems, stun grenades, short barreled assault rifles, camouflage and military grade body armor. As if this weren’t enough, police still carried standard weapons such as handguns, tasers, batons, handcuffs and pepper spray, and they were trained in hand to hand combat to “subdue” civilians.

Protester holds a disarm HPD sign at a Baltimore solidarity rally in Houston, TX. May 2015.

Surveillance and cyber technology are also major weapons in the hands of law enforcement agencies. An assortment of equipment such as stingray devices, license plate scanners, facial recognition and behavioral analytics software assist police in monitoring our actions and anticipating our next moves. They monitor social media and arrest people for daring to express anti-police sentiment. There have already been documented cases of the Department of Homeland Security surveilling BLM activists.

Police armaments are used every day to injure and kill poor people and people of color, and are further employed to repress protests and resistance. The only way to end police brutality and murder is to disarm the police entirely.

Disarming the police involves more than taking away officers’ deadly weapons. It also includes removing the “less than lethal” weapons, and cyber and surveillance tools, that police departments use to repress us. Ultimately it requires a revolutionary transformation of society as a whole, since removing their ability to inflict violence prevents police from maintaining capitalist exploitation and oppression. However, every effort to disarm the police provides our movement breathing room to survive, grow, and work toward this ultimate goal.

Here are some ways to begin disarming the police:

  • Close the pipeline between the military and the police, by shutting down programs that sell military equipment to police departments, provide military training to officers, or find veterans jobs in the police force.  
  • Expose and denounce political repression, including the use of paid informants, undercover officers, and social media monitoring of activists by police departments.
  • Study and share security techniques for activists, including practical methods of preventing internet surveillance and decreasing the likelihood and effectiveness of infiltration.
  • Launch campaigns to remove police weapons in specific settings, such as schools, hospital, and ultimately on street patrol.
  • Protest local, city and state budget appropriations for police forces and work to defund the police. This will disrupt departments’ ability to buy weapons, hire more officers, and make the job desirable by providing pay incentives.

Disarming the police will vary from place to place depending on conditions. Do you have ideas for campaigns in your community, or are you already involved in one? See our Campaign News page to connect your efforts with the fight for a police-free world.