NPC Statement on the Killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the Dallas Police Officers

The Need for A Democratic Transformation of the Criminal Justice and Police System

Issued by the National Political Committee of DSA, June 12, 2016

Democratic Socialists of America condemns the recent police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. These are the latest in the endless taking of black lives by the excessive and precipitous use of deadly police force. Despite the increased attention to these arbitrary killings by the militant protest of #BlackLivesMatter, the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and scores of others go unpunished.

This devaluing of the lives of African Americans derives from a racist criminal justice system that serves to repress and contain low-income communities rather than promote peace and well-being. The close working relationship between prosecutors and police precludes the impartial investigation and prosecution of police violence. Thus, in addition to greater community control of policing and the demilitarization of police, DSA calls for independent investigation of all uses of lethal police force.

As an organization committed to nonviolent political action to achieve social justice, DSA also condemns the murder of police in Dallas this past week. This senseless loss of life occurred during a peaceful protest against police brutality and in a city where a relatively integrated police force has taken some useful steps towards community and accountable policing.

The right wing, however, has used the tragic deaths in Dallas to attack #BlackLivesMatter, a movement committed to militant, but peaceful organizing. DSA is committed to working as allies of #BlackLivesMatter and others fighting for racial equality, in part because a divided working class is an already defeated working class. We believe that people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds must understand their role in a white supremacist, capitalist system and build solidarity across their differences, but that white progressives have a particular responsibility to combat nativist and racist political movements that justify current police practices as necessary to protect “blue lives.”

A truly democratically controlled criminal justice system should promote peace and justice, not arbitrary violence. Many matters now handled by police, such as drug use and community disputes, are best handled by mental health professionals and community-based mediation. When necessary to protect human life, police intervention must be as restrained as possible, with the use of firearms as an absolute last resort. In many societies that have more practical and effective gun policies than our own, most police do not carry firearms. Stronger gun control policies, as well as severe restrictions on police use of firearms, must be part of any restructuring of the role of police in our society.

The United States can only achieve democratic forms of peacekeeping and dispute resolution if we comprehend the historic role of the police in reinforcing forms of racial and class domination. Armed and professional police forces arose in the United States to capture fugitive slaves and to repress striking workers. Thus, the struggle for a democratic judicial and criminal justice system is integrally tied to the fight for racial, gender, and class equality. Mass incarceration and repressive policing cannot redress the absence of economic and educational opportunities that beset inner cities and increasingly inner suburbs and deindustrialized small towns. Nothing short of radical democratic change can alter a criminal justice system that works to perpetuate American apartheid.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 44 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 9 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 3 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But check out their short the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 2 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.