Disarm The NYPD (Disarm) was established in March 2015 to foment public anger against police officers—starting with those in the New York Police Department, but extending ultimately to the members of every police force in the United States. Charging that “racism and violence have been mainstays of the police since their inception,” the organization’s long-range objective is to promote public policies that will “disarm the police of their guns” and “disarm them as a viable political/military entity in the neighborhoods they occupy.”
“In recent years awareness of the abhorrent behavior of the police—punctuated by the callous murders of unarmed black people—has incited rebellions all over the United States,” Disarm avers. Prominent among these so-called “murders” were the deaths of Eric Garner (New York City), Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri), Tamir Rice (Cleveland), Timothy Russell (Cleveland), Malissa Williams (Cleveland), and Freddie Gray (Baltimore), all of whom lost their lives in altercations with police between 2013 and 2015. “The role of the police in poor communities cannot be obscured any longer,” says Disarm. “The police are a political/military entity bestowed with the authority to kill undesirable people with impunity.”
Most prominent among these “undesirables,” Disarm explains, are African Americans, whose experience in the U.S. has been “one of constant humiliation and dehumanization.” In an effort to “secure [for blacks] some form of basic humanity that has been stripped away since American slavery,” Disarm seeks to lead a “struggle against the status quo” and its most visible representatives, the police.
To buttress its claim that police racism is ubiquitous, Disarm cites a 2015 report in which the Obama administration’s Justice Department—under the leadership of then-Attorney General Eric Holder—lamented that because African Americans in Ferguson, Missouri “experience disparate impact in nearly every aspect of [the] law enforcement system,” there exists “deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.”
In a similar vein, Disarm asserts that the New York Police Department—like its counterpart in Ferguson—“has no legitimacy in poor communities” and thus “has no claim to arms.” “Since the gun makes it so easy for the police to take life, the first step in renewing the humanity for black life must be the immediate disarming of the police departments,” the organization reasons. Rather than attempt to “return legitimacy to an illegitimate police department,” Disarm seeks instead to “begin the process of establishing a new political reality and social reality that is not based on humiliation, but on a dignified life.” The realization of that goal, says the group, requires the pursuit of “a new political vision for … the country as a whole”—i.e., the cultivation of a classless, non-hierarchical, socialist utopia where “government representation” is discarded in favor of a “political life … where people can collectively make decisions.”
As a first step toward “dismantling” police forces and rendering them permanently “obsolete,” Disarm has proposed the designation of “no-cop zones”—an idea it derived from the New York-based group Take Back The Bronx, whose members commonly: (a) display anti-police signs on heavily-patrolled blocks throughout their borough; (b) roam and loiter on their local streets as a means of demonstrating that they do not fear the police; (c) teach locals how to effectively resolve interpersonal conflicts without involving law-enforcement; and (d) hold open-microphone forums where people can vent their grievances against the police.
In the days preceding the July Fourth holiday in 2015, Disarm utilized its Facebook page to announce a “Burn the American Flags” event which it was organizing at Fort Greene Park, New York, to set fire to this “symbol of oppression and genocide.” The organizers cited Dylann Roof—a young white man who had recently shot and killed nine innocent blacks in a South Carolina church group—not as an “isolated actor,” but as a “product of a consistent pattern of state-sponsored terrorism and radicalized dehumanization in America.” “There will be no peace until we tear down this system of oppression,” Disarm wrote on Facebook. “It isn’t enough to take the flag down; we must put an end to white supremacy once and for all. We do not believe the ideals of America are anything to be revered. We are building something that will be much better than America.” “Real freedom,” the organization elaborated, means liberation from the “systemic racism” that undergirds the “mass surveillance” of black people by police “paramilitaries occupying our communities, beating and killing our sons and daughters.”