Murder on My Street: The Abolitionist Dilemma (Retrograde Mars in Gemini trine Saturn in Aquarius)

Two and possibly three. This year, MNPD killed two men whose history of mental illness was known, and which was the direct cause of their encounter with police.

Landon Eastep was killed in January of this year. We have pretty much forgotten the horrific way he was executed by officers as he was minding his business walking along I-65. Not bothering anyone, he was caught in a no-win situation.

This past weekend, MNPD killed two people in one day. The second one, "Chief" Dandon Brown had been a beloved resident of the encampment at Brookmeade Park. His friends, family, and dog are mourning his death. He never had a chance in the face of the hostile and aggressive attitude of the MNPD officers who were dispatched to the scene. They made no attempt to even try to help him. 

But the death that really has been sitting heavy on my mind is the death of Senquarius Demonta Williams who was only 26 years old. It's not just because I heard the gunshots in the middle of the night. But it's also because of the ease with which we dismiss his murder.

I've seen the body camera footage. But it is so hard to believe that anyone, especially a Black man, who is sane and rational would just roll up on a group of police officers, gun drawn. Think about it. How could he have expected that to end any other way than the way it did? And that makes me wonder: Who was he and what was he going through? Is it possible that he was having some manner of mental health issue? I think it was. 

We'll never know though because he's dead. And because of how it went down, his case is closed. The shooting is justified.

Given how things have been going on my street the past couple of years, I guess it was inevitable. It's not unusual for me to hear my neighbors outside arguing in the middle of night. Sometimes I even hear gunfire. Many of my new neighbors are sex workers and a whole bunch of them engage in the drug trade. I haven't felt safe walking up to the store by myself in a long time. 

As an abolitionist, I hesitated to call police and when my next-door neighbor did call police when our new neighbors were building their nightly campfires too close to our wooden fences, nothing changed. They showed up. My new neighbors disappeared for a minute but came right back. That was no surprise to me. But when my next-door neighbor called the fire department, not only did they come and put the fire out, but their visit resulted in the encampment being abandoned. There hasn't been another fire out there since.

Police don't solve the problems represented by my new neighbors. However, I know that if I reported them or said anything, the only solution I would be offered would be more police. Arrests, courts. All of which doesn't solve the problem. Because the environment that me and my new neighbors live in isn't only unsafe for me, it's unsafe for them. I don't want to feel safe at their expense. I want us all to be safe.

So I wonder about Senquarius. Why was he out there? What motivated him to run up on officers like that? His death won't inspire protests. As an organizer, I know that the public feels no sympathy for him. I am well aware that no one gives a good goddamn. As far as we are concerned, he deserves to be dead. He brought it on himself. Case closed.

But I'm angry. Because his family and everyone who loves him deserves better than that. I hate that we have gotten to the point where we are okay with saying "Fuck you" to them. 

And to the police department which resists any form of community oversight, which continues its stranglehold on public financing, I would ask you to please stop acting as if you give a damn. Since y'all want to continue to use violence with impunity and staunchly maintain that your methods are the only way to maintain order, stop pretending that y'all are "partners in care". You can't have it both ways. Because violence and healing are antithetical to each other. They cannot coexist. If you want to continue to use unchecked violence, then please remove yourself from providing mental health services. Because that shit ain't working.

I wish so much more for us. That's why I'm an abolitionist. Because someone has to be stupid enough to dream of something different. To believe in spite of all the available evidence that we can do better. I'm only asking that people be willing to join me in imagining new possibilities. But maybe I'm asking too much.


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