They tear gassed moms. And then the Mayor. Ban Tear Gas Now.

The use of tear gas is illegal in war. But in the last few weeks, it’s been used so often to disperse protests in the US that many of you can probably recognize the smell at a distance, and know exactly what it looks like in a photo or video.

In Portland, Trump’s storm troopers fire it nightly into the “wall of Moms” peacefully protecting everyone’s children out protesting (the crowds have included babies, toddlers, and lots of young adults). In one memorable incident last week, the mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, was tear gassed outside the federal courthouse right in the middle of an interview.

Nor is this just a problem with federal agents, or only in Portland. Tear gas has been used more, and in more places, in the last few months than ever before in American history. This isn’t just a danger to protesters, it’s a danger to the right to protest. And it’s past time that we banned its use on our streets. Sign our petition to state and local leaders demanding they ban tear gas NOW.

Tear gas is not safe. It has been found to cause long-term health consequences, and intense burning pain in the eyes, throat, lungs, skin and mucous membranes. In some cases, it can cause an asthma attack — potentially leading to asphyxiation or death. When a canister detonates, it can also cause serious burn injuries. When they’re fired into crowds (which is usually the case) tear gas canisters have caused severe head injuries.

This would be enough of a problem in normal times, but now, use of tear gas in the midst of a respiratory pandemic threatens to worsen the coronavirus, along with racial disparities in its spread.

Doctors, nurses and disease experts have warned that dousing crowds with these kind of chemical agents will accelerate the spread of coronavirus. And in a season of mass demonstrations against police brutality and structural racism, the frequent use of these tactics raises fears that police are trying to worsen a pandemic that has already taken a disproportionate toll on Black and brown Americans.

Sign and send the petition to your Governor: Demand a ban on the use of tear gas by the police immediately.

Your Mayor can Defund the police – and they should

For the last few weeks, we’ve been telling you about why we support the demands of the Movement for Black Lives, including and especially the demand to Defund the Police. But the truth is that most of us can’t defund the police ourselves:

Not by voting in local elections (some sheriffs are elected, but not most police chiefs or officers); not by calling and writing Congress (some police are paid or mandated by Congress, but most are locally controlled); And not by marching in the streets, protesting, singing, or taking artistic action (though you can and should do all that as you are able, as we’ve been saying)

The decision about whether to defund the police, and how to re-invest that money in actual community safety, rests with Mayors and city councils across America. And that’s why we’re asking you to sign this petition to all US Mayors telling them we must immediately defund the police at local government levels.

The murders of George Floyd, Dreasjon Reed, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, and countless other Black people at the hands of police have exposed what we’ve known for too long: Policing in the U.S. upholds a violent legacy of racialized trauma and control, diverting crucial resources from communities that most need them.

Defunding the police, like divestment from fossil fuels, is a non-violent, direct action to reduce harm, and create the solutions we need. By reducing the disproportionate budgets of the police, we can redirect those funds to critical resources like schools, affordable housing, healthcare and mental health.

This is also a movement to address the longstanding trauma and harm policing creates and to finally invest in our Black and brown communities that have carried that pain for too long.

The U.S. spends more than $100 billion on policing per year. The city of Chicago spends more than $4 million on police every day, compared to about $600,000 on public health services. And they’re not alone: Police department budgets make up a disproportionate amount of overall spending in most major U.S. cities. It is well past time to reckon with the decades of racism that divest from services that actually keep communities safe and well. We must reclaim public money from the systemic oppression and inequity upheld by policing.

Some cities have already taken action. After immense pressure from protesters, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti rejected a large increase in the LAPDs 2020 budget, reducing it from $1.89 billion to $1.86 billion. The NYPD 2021 budget was set at $6 billion. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that NYPD resources will now be shifted into social services. Dallas, Philadelphia, and Nashville are looking into similar steps to gradually reduce their police budgets.

We are calling on ALL local governments to divest from police budgets and redirect that money to essential services in Black and brown communities most harmed by these violent systems. We demand our city budgets reflect what we value as a community. This begins with supporting life-giving resources, not racist and violent police.

Sign the petition: Cities must divest from law enforcement and finally invest in Black and brown communities.

Rise up with us for black lives Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, Black communities in Texas finally received the news that they were free. 

Juneteenth (June 19th) is a day that honors Black freedom and Black resistance, and centers Black people’s unique contribution to the struggle for justice in the U.S. This Juneteenth is a rare moment for our communities to proclaim in one voice that Black Lives Matter, and that we won’t tolerate anything less than justice for all our people. 

Join us on the #SixNineteen mobilization on Juneteenth weekend, June 19–21, 2020. Take action in front of the White House, in your community, or at home. 

We’ve been proud to endorse the demands of the Movement for Black Lives and work in solidarity with black leadership in communities all over the US where we live. Now, we are called into action again as part of the Juneteenth mobilization to support these three demands:

  1. Defunding of police;
  2. Investment in Black communities; &
  3. The resignation of Donald Trump. 

You can support these demands by joining us in DC, in your home community, or from your home. We want everyone to be safe, and we want you to engage in action that matches your level of experience and ability in this moment. But we are asking everyone, including you, to show up this weekend in solidarity.

Click here to see if there’s a local event in your area, and if not, sign up to host one in accordance with the principles laid down by the Movement for Black lives.* 

Right now, uprisings are taking place in all 50 states, and more than two-thirds of Americans agree that police violence is systemic. We haven’t experienced mass mobilizations like this since the uprisings led by courageous Black folks in Ferguson and St. Louis. These actions include small towns, as well as major cities in both red and blue states.The energy is sustained and escalating. The Movement for Black Lives is alive and vibrant – and we are a part of it.

Juneteenth is our next opportunity to rise together. Will you join us in action this weekend?

* If you want to show up, in person, online, or in DC you must do so in accordance with these rules: 1. We Keep Us Safe. 2. Respect Black Leadership. 3. Find Your Lane. 4. Make All Black Lives Matter. 5. Change the System. Learn more about the principles and the plan at the six nineteen website

Defund Police, invest in communities

All over the Country and around the world, people continue to surge into the streets and speak out online in response to the police murder of George Floyd Breonna Taylor, and so many more. In response to peaceful protest against racist police violence, militarized police forces have responded with batons, tanks, tear gas and worse; all to protect capitalism and property instead of actual human, black, lives.

As many of us speak out in or communities at home, Congressional leaders are coming together to form a national response as well – and we need your help to push them to include bold, abolitionist demands when they do.

Will you join Congresswomen (and squad leaders) Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, us, and many others to demand divestment from police and investment in our communities?

Since the 1960s, America’s racist system of over-policing and mass incarceration has grown out of control. The U.S. now spends close to $200 billion per year on police and prisons. At the same time Black communities are over-policed and over-incarcerated, they’ve been shut out of wealth and property ownership, which is why the racial gaps in wealth and health are so terrible. After centuries of economic injustice and environmental racism, Black people are now six times more likely to die from the coronavirus than white people.

We’ve partnered many times with Poor People’s Campaign in the last few years, and when we do, Rev. Barber always reminds us: To truly achieve justice, we must focus both on “who” and “what” oppresses and kills Black people in this country.

Trump’s racist, fascist rhetoric is dangerous and hurtful. But violent anti-Black racism has been built into our country since its founding, and simply removing Trump will not stop it or make us safe. Initially formed as slave patrols, police have always existed to maintain control rather than safety or justice.

We’re seeing that all too clearly right now, as militarized police forces use expensive equipment and weapons to terrorize protesters. Meanwhile, cities are setting curfews to instill fear and criminalize our constitutional right to protest. All to maintain the unjust status quo and delay justice. Could there be a clearer demonstration that this system is rotten at its core?

Sign now to tell leaders at all levels of government: We must divest from police and invest in our communities!

I know calls to DefundPolice can sound extreme. Many of you have emailed me back in response to our earlier messages expressing unease with the policy, or fear of how it will be enacted. It’s our policy to remove anyone expressing racist sentiments – including replying with versions of the racist talking point “all lives matter” – from our list and community.

So if you’re still here, you may not be comfortable with these demands, but you’re not overtly opposed to black life or black liberation. We encourage you to sit with your un-ease, especially if you are not black, so we can listen to and uplift the voices of black people.

Because in addition to being the right, anti-racist thing to do, following black leadership is effective. Since the Movement For Black Lives released their demands (which we’ve endorsed), leaders in our cities, states, and federal government have jumped to adopt them:

  • In response to the demand to divest from the police and investment in Black communities: 
  • In response to the demand that local schools, colleges, universities, and all public institutions cut ties with the police.
  • In response to the demand that the rights of protestors be respected.
    • Cities like Portland Oregon and Seattle have banned the use of tear gas (enforcement is an ongoing challenge);
    • Cities around the country including Philadelphia, NYC, and Oakland have rescinded their curfews, which were used to harm protesters and take away our constitutional rights
    • Federal troops have been pushed out of D.C.
  • In response to our demand for an end to the war against Black people.
    • All 4 officers involved in the murder of George Floyd have now been charged, and Derek Chauvin’s murder charge went up to 2nd degree (not 3rd degree). Though Breonna Taylor’s killers have still not been charged.
    • And the U.S. Supreme Court is re-examining the “qualified immunity” doctrine, which makes it near-impossible to hold police officers accountable for misconduct.
    • Reforms on policing are moving in state legislatures like Michigan and Colorado, in cities like Louisville and Minneapolis, and in Congress.

All of these actions in just the last few days and weeks show what our movement is capable of. Now, we’re asking you to sign on along with leading progressives in Congress to support the demand divestment from police and investment in our communities. Join us, and together, I believe that we will win.

Join Actions in Defense of Black Lives – NOW.

I’ll keep this short, because I know a lot of you, like me, are already caught up in local efforts to defend black lives in this extraordinary moment.

The murders of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officers, as well as Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many more, have touched off a nationwide conversation, protest and moment of revolution. All over the country, and all over the world, people are taking to the streets, flooding social media, calling politicians and demanding justice for those who have been killed by the police. We unequivocally endorse the demands of the Movement for Black lives, and now is the time to join them.

From their call to action:

With all actions, there are a variety of risks and roles. All roles are important, and this moment is no different. In the last three months, 100,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19, and Black people are dying disproportionately. As we move into collective and community action, we have to learn the risks involved, and how to keep ourselves and our communities safe. There is no one right way to take action. Do what you can from where you can. Power building takes many shapes. Thanks for joining us.

The Movement For Black Lives, and organizers mobilizing across the country, invite you to take part in a week of action June 1st to 7th in defense of Black lives. This is an opportunity to uplift and fight alongside those turning up in the streets and online

If you’re struggling to find the right way to take action in this moment, here are some resources:

  1. Check out the Movement for Black Lives’ site and call to action. It has actions you can take from home, and actions you can take in the streets; actions you can take alone, and actions you can take with friends. Most important, these are demands from black leaders, and they’re asking us to show up, right now, to support them.
  2. Chip in to support local bail funds, mutual aid funds, and use your money to support local protest, action and organizing. Here’s a great page that will let you split a donation in (almost) any amount between up to 70 local groups.
  3. Recognize that showing up for black lives IS showing up for climate action. M4BL has has a position supporting divestment from fossil fuels and investment in communities for years. And if you’ve ever showed up to protest polluted water in Flint MI, Denmark SC, or dozens of other cities you should have already been following black leadership. And while it’s not as important as saving literal human black lives, a policy shift that defunds police and incarceration at the local, state, and federal level has always been part of the plan for how to pay for a Green New Deal. If you want to learn more about how to support and show up respectfully in this moment, check out this webinar with the Sunrise movement.

So whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your race or ethnicity: This is the moment to take action and show up in defense of Black Lives. Check out the call to action, find an activity that works for you, and get to it or back to it.