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Leader of National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression talks about mobilizing against police crimes

Interview with Frank Chapman
Interview by staff |
July 15, 2020
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Frank Chapman.
Frank Chapman.

Frank Chapman, a longtime leader in the Black liberation movement and Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, talks about the upsurge against police crimes and the need for community control of the police.

Fight Back!: What are your observations about the rebellions and upsurge in the fight against police crimes?

Frank Chapman: The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression initiated this campaign against police crimes back in 1973 - over 46 years ago. We have never seen an uprising like this, that confirms in the dirt and blood of battle that what we need is community control of the police.

The rebellion is not necessarily raising that demand, but that’s ok. They are raising issues around it, like defund the police, putting regulation on police behavior, such as outlawing choke holds, and more generally prohibiting brutality. Community control of the police is the vehicle for achieving all of this.

Once we have passed legislation that empowers our people to say who polices our communities and how our communities are policed then we can defund the police, we can demilitarize the police, and we can regulate the police. That’s what community control of the police does. And that’s what we can bring to this rebellion – it puts power into the hands of the people. A very important and very democratic demand, and this rebellion is bringing that demand forward like nothing that has happened in our history.

Fight Back!: What has the NAARPR been doing in the context of the upsurge?

Chapman: The main thing we’ve been doing is being in it, and I think that is so important. In fact, we called for a national day of protest before the rebellion really got underway. We called a national day of protest around the question of depopulating the prisons, the detention camps and the jails. Then when the rebellion got underway, we added demands for Justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others who had been murdered by the police or vigilante groups.

Shortly after we put out that call for a national day of protest these murders became the headlines throughout the country and the world. On May 30, our national day of protest, with less than a week of organizing, we were able to bring into the streets in Chicago over 20,000 people, and over 100,000 nationally in 23 cities [Washington DC; Los Angeles; Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami and Pensacola, Florida; Chicago, Louisville, Baltimore, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Saint Louis, New York, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Dallas, Austin and Houston, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Milwaukee]. It was phenomenal. In Chicago, we had 4000 cars in a caravan.

We were paid back in great advances: on May 30, over 700 people joined our national organization, and with over $30,000 in contributions, and now we have over $60,000 for the National Alliance. And in this spontaneous protest movement, we have been bringing forward the demands for community control of the police.

Fight Back!: Some are calling for “defunding the police.” Why is the fight for community control of the police so important?

Chapman: As I said earlier, once we have community control of the police, we can defund them. It’s important who controls the process here. Defunding, controlled by the powers that be - the city councils and the mayors - is going to work the way that they work it, and the way that they have been working the whole question of police accountability. We don’t trust them. We want the people to be in charge of the process, and that’s what community control of the police does – it puts the people in charge so that the people are controlling the defunding of the police.

We’re not against defunding the police, but this is a slogan without a program right now. Once we bring it into conformity with community control of the police, then it becomes a slogan with a program. In Chicago we call it CPAC – an all elected, all Civilian Police Accountability Council. In other areas it may go by another name. What it all comes down to is giving the community the power to say who polices our communities and how our communities are policed.

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