A recent petition has circulated the city of Madison. This petition stresses "Blue Lives Matter", the notion that the authority is always right and that it should never be questioned by those oppressed. This type of paternalistic ideology ignores silenced voices and has consistently been on the "wrong side of history." It is also noteworthy that the signatures were only 45% from Madisonians (and of this, 20% police officers, many of which lied about their place of residence).
The woman who started the petition spoke at the podium at a Common Council meeting Tuesday night, speaking of how the police and those who support them have been "oppressed." This is, of course, not possible, because the key ingredient of oppression is power - and the police and their supporters have history, government, economics, and skin color on their side. There is also a big difference between being hurt by words (the police) and being hurt by brutality, bullets, and an 11:1 arrest rate that makes us nearly 50% of the jail (Madison’s Black population).
The woman also claimed that the Blue Lives Matter movement is a "silent majority" and the Black Lives Matter movement is a "vocal minority." Not only did she provide no statistical proof that Blue Lives Matter outnumbers Black Lives Matter, but the logic of her argument was flawed. Just because a majority supports something doesn't make it right - remember that slavery was supported by a majority in the past. Even if a majority of white people have a good relationship with the police, that doesn't erase the truth that our minorities have been victimized and mistreated since the invention of the police.
Other podium speakers claimed that Koval and the Madison Police Department are some of the best in the country. Why, then, do we have an 11:1 arrest disparity, much worse than Madison's counterparts? Why does Madison - a city with great economic capacity - have a Black child poverty rate (75%) higher than that of New Orleans (42%) and Chicago (51%), cities famous for their marginalized Black communities. Why does Madison have a significantly higher Black unemployment rate (25%) than Atlanta (22%) and even Detroit (22%), despite having radically lower white unemployment rates? The answer: the city spends its money building police and jails instead of building its people and communities. The MPD and Chief Koval are not solving the real problems - poverty and mental health - in Madison's Black communities, and are instead marginalizing, mass-incarcerating, and beating Black lives. From a statistical perspective, Koval and MPD are some of the worst - not best - in the country.
Multiple pro-Blue Lives Matter speakers also spoke out against the $400,000 allocated to the investigation of the MPD, claiming that there was nothing to find. Not only has that not been confirmed yet, but in fact the MPD has already been proven guilty of violation of national law by illegally instructing landlords to filter tenants based on criminal history, which violates the FHA. Even an MPD officer herself spoke out about how she was happy to spend $400,000 to improve the police force. More transparency can only bring about positive change.
Speakers in opposition to Black Lives Matter also stressed that they are upset with so-called “divisiveness” caused by protesting and rallying. But this "divisiveness" goes both ways. In the Blue Lives Matter petition, a Madison officer called Black Lives Matter protesters "glory-holing nincompoops who are out of touch with reality." Clearly, the MPD refuses to hear the needs of those most negatively impacted by their seeming well intentions - protesters who are begging them to listen and empathize. Do these police actions really bind our community together?
But the better question is: are people not justified in their anger? Why is it that asking the police to make improvements and to better serve their communities is somehow "discrimination" or "hurtful" to a system of power? Why is trying to fix our 99:1 racial drug arrest disparity a "war on the police"? Fighting child abuse isn't a war on parents.
The Madison Police are a publicly funded force with the motto, "to serve and protect". If this is true, why is it wrong to the question authority that violates this motto? At the Common Council meeting, Freedom Inc. members and other activists disproved the faulty Blue Lives Matter talking points one by one, and ultimately asked the MPD to fix these problems by enacting Community Control Over the Police. We will continue to organize for Community Control Over the Police - so that the community can meet its needs whether or not those in power agree.