Hard Crackers: “Preserving Our Capacity to Act:” An Interview with Kristian Williams

June 16, 2020

Hard Crackers:  If I understand correctly the argument you’ve made about the efficacy of riots, it’s that they impose, far more effectively than legal limits, that communities can place new limits on police brutality. That seems quite evident in what’s happening now at the official political/media level.  They can’t seem to move fast enough to tear down Confederate statues; and even Frank Rizzo’s statue in Philadelphia is being sent to its eternal resting place.

So, how should we understand the simultaneous expansion of and support for systematic police violence in dealing with militant, or even not so militant, protests? 

Kristian Williams:  The thing that sets this moment apart from any other I have seen is actually how little the police can count on public, or even institutional, support.  Immediately after George Floyd’s death politicians were racing to be seen saying the right things about opposing racial inequality and police violence.  A number of schools and universities have cancelled their contracts with police.  Private companies have stopped selling them equipment.  And even police organizations like the IACP and FOP came forward to advocate police accountability and police reform, in what was surely a bid to exercise some control over the reform agenda.  The truth is, they are almost the only people really pushing reform per se, because the movement has jumped straight to talk about abolition.  And what is interesting there is that abolition is being discussed in specific strategic terms related to de-funding police departments, disarming the police, decriminalizing certain offenses, and finding other means for ensuring public safety.  It’s not just a utopian “after the revolution” kind of thing.  In fact, it looks like in Minneapolis it is going to become official policy.

The support that continues to exist for police, and in particular the Trumpian sort of calls for more and greater violence against demonstrators — that’s shocking to the conscience, but not to the intellect.  There are a great many people on the right who believe, in effect, that men in uniform can do no wrong because everything they do is necessary to save us from Mad Max savagery.  That attitude generally accompanies a racist paranoia about black people asserting their rights in any manner at all.  If you recall, they were thrown into absolute hysterics over football players failing to rise for the Star-Spangled Banner.

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