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Queers, Community, Safety: Lets take care of ourselves and each other

Katey Pants

Another essay from the astute Katey Pants:

The past month there has been a crisis of safety in the queer community. Gay bashings, rampant rumors of Nazi gangs patrolling our community, and the Westboro Baptist Churches arrogance in claiming space in our communities. The response to this violence from police and politicians in Portland has offered us- at best- bureaucratic solutions to fundamental structural problems. However, I want to posit a different view of safety, care, and community outside of state and police solutions. I hope to provide some philosophical reasoning behind this and also present concrete things that are happening in Portland and throughout the country where people everyday are creating alternatives to police to keep themselves and their communities safe.

A Moral and Practical Argument Against Calling The Police:

While the police claim to serve and protect; they rarely provide care, safety, and justice. In particular- communities of color, low-income communities, queer communities, and those suffering mental illness experience disproportionate use of deadly force, abuse, harassment, and profiling. Police reinforce the oppression that communities already face based on ability, age, race, class, gender and other factors. In the past 4 months the police in Portland have murdered 3 people most of whom were both people of color and people in mental health crises. Many people call the police because they have no other option. Just as often, many communities do not involve police in their daily concerns around safety and security because they know police just present a greater risk.

I have been keeping up on the dialog in response to the gay bashing’s in Portland. So far, the response has been to have a more streamlined system to report hate crimes. If we look at this a little differently- we have to ask ourselves: what will come of this reporting? Will reporting more hate crimes stop the ills of homophobia and violence in our communities? Further, will more police patrolling where we live, love, and work make us safer? Some of us live outside of the system. Some of us are sex workers. Some of us use drugs. Some of us are not gender conforming. Some of us are undocumented people. I think it is very reasonable to assume if the police were patrolling our work places, our dance clubs, our neighborhoods that we would be more subject to arrest and not protection. Unfortunately, the circular argument from the state and the police is to file reports that fund police- which help police target communities that thus send those respective communities to jail quicker. What I am looking for are more community based alternatives to the police that are liberatory and that will actually provide us with safety.

Community Power: Locally and Nationally

Examples of community power and safety have always existed. And there are many local, national and international models that can easily provide us learning and inspiration. I have been particularly inspired by the work of groups such as INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence; Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) in Seattle; and Safe Outside the System (SOS) in New York City. These are feminist, queer, groupings of color that look towards liberatory visions of a world with out police. Here are some other very other important and effective ways which we can keep our friends and communities safer:

– Call a Friend Not the Cops
There are a lot of situations that we are not equipped to face alone. We need someone’s help but that person does not have to be the police. Looking for friends that can arrive quickly, help de-escalate situations, and figure out comfortable endings can often be the most quick and safe solution to potentially dangerous situations. Building support networks can be as simple as checking in with people we know to see who we can call, letting people know they can call us, or building phone trees with peoples specific skill sets.

– De-escalation Training
Sunday, June 13th 2010 from 4PM-6PM at In Other Words Bookstore there will be a De-Escalation Technique workshop. This training is hands on and goes over the basics of non-violent communication, interrupting and safety. There is child care and ASL interpretation available

– Self-Defense
Tuesday June 15th from 6-9PM there is an LGBTQI Self Defense Class held at the Q-Center. The class is sliding scale of $10-50 (no one turned away for lack of funds) and is hosted by competent people involved in the queer community.

– Queer Patrols
Thursday June 17th from 7-9PM there is a Queer Patrol which will be this will be an open discussion for the queer community and allies. The main topics in this discussion are safer streets, patrolling, and self defense.

— Your Rights and The Police Trainings
One way we can take better care of ourselves around the police is to know our rights and how to exercise them. Please visit http://rosecitycopwatch.wordpress.com/your-rights-and-the-police/ for more information. Rose City Copwatch- a queer and feminist police abolition group in Portland can host Your Rights and The Police Trainings that are 2-hour in-depth sessions.

Lets take care of ourselves and each other.

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