When did your organization, American Friends Service Committee – Chicago, decide to join the No Cop Academy campaign? Why?
Together with Assata’s Daughters, For The People Artist Collective and several other organizations, AFSC Chicago helped launch #NoCopAcademy back in September of 2017 after learning about Rahm’s plans to spend (at least) $95 million on a new cop academy under the guise of ‘police reform.’ For years we have been working to challenging police militarization and police spending, and the ways that both erode possibilities for meaningful community safety.
We were encouraged by the original commitment to building & supporting Black youth leadership that was named early in the campaign. From the onset, teen leaders from Assata’s Daughters – and now nearly a dozen youth orgs around the city along with young people brand new to community organizing – have been at the heart of why #NoCopAcademy is a rallying cry that we are committed to amplifying.
How has your organization contributed to the campaign?
We’ve hosted dozens of meetings at our office, printed piles of flyers, and bought more pizza for youth meetings than we ever thought possible. Our staff and interns have supported with campaign research, helped coordinate visits with City Council members, coordinated with press, written articles, created resources & flyers, and generally thrown down in whatever ways we’ve been able to since the launch of the campaign. We’ve been fortunate to be able to dedicate staff time to support the internal coordination & communication of the more than 80 endorsing organizations now involved in the campaign.
What has been your organization’s highlight of the campaign?
Over the summer of 2018, we were thrilled to have 6 young people intern with us with a focus on #NoCopACademy, all Black teens and/or youth of color who had encountered #NoCopAcademy at some point through actions or events earlier in the year and were eager to deepen their participation in the campaign and organizing skills. Some topics covered during the stipended internship included learning about core issues around policing spending and budgets in the city, how to approach messaging for campaigns & deal with the media, and how to facilitate workshops with other youth. They also participated in joint trainings weekly with other youth organizers from across the city.
A major highlight of the internship was that our small team planned a 5 hour training & art party on #NoCopAcademy for over 100 youth and educators from AAAN, BPNC, STOP, CTU, Enlace, and Assata’s Daughters. For several of our interns, it was their first time facilitating a workshop. All the participants were able to create and take home screen-printed t-shirts. Everyone present learned #NoCopAcademy chants, the history of the campaign, and engaged in meaningful discussion around how to build safety in our communities beyond policing and the need to invest in schools not cops.
What strategies/tactics/frameworks does your organization bring to the campaign?
Our Chicago Peacebuilding program has spent that past several years researching and organizing against the City of Chicago’s massive investment in policing. While working with We Charge Genocide, we helped to uncover & make popular the reality that the City spends $4 million per day on the Chicago Police Department, and nearly 40% of the operating budget. We’ve researched police militarization and the ways that federal grants are expanding SWAT trainings & deployments in Chicago, to even respond to mental health emergencies while mental health resources have seen dramatic cuts. In the summer of 2016 our youth interns created a toolkit and videos on the costs of policing in Chicago, called “Coins, Cops & Communities.”
When #NoCopAcademy emerged as a campaign, we were eager and ready to continue to build off of the invest/divest framework that we have been committed to for decades. All of our work challenging police spending builds on our decades of organizing against military spending. We are committed to challenging policymakers, and creating tools & resources that empower communities to demand transformed budget priorities
Anything else to add?
If you’re in Chicago, join us on November 15th for our annual benefit, this year a “Celebration of Solidarity & Resistance!”