Abolish the Police. Instead, Let’s Have Full Social, Economic, and Political Equality.
Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, April 9, 2015
When people ask me, “Who will protect us,” I want to say: Who protects you now?
A few weeks ago, there was a shooting at my apartment building. A total of five shots were fired resulting in, thankfully, zero injuries. I was home when it happened, but live on the third floor, away from the shooter’s target. The kids downstairs, who hang out in the hallway pretty much everyday, drinking, smoking, talking shit, and selling weed, had some of their beef meet them at home. That night, I remember hearing one of them scream, “They shot me bro!”—though it seems it was probably the shock of the gunshots plus the shattering of glass from the building’s front door that made him believe he was hit. It was frightening.
However, more frightening than that is the fact that nearly every night since the shooting there has either been a police car, parked across the street with its lights flashing, or two cops posted outside my building, right at the steps, standing guard. This is supposed to be the measure that prevents further violence, but the presence of the police scares me more than the kids selling drugs or the gunshots ever did.
One day, while walking into my building, avoiding all eye contact with the two officers, I heard one of them say to other “Wanna do a vertical?” as I put my keys in the front door. A vertical is when police enter a building and go from top to bottom, scoping the place out for any potential criminal activity. I remember that these are the circumstances under which Akai Gurley was killed.
Another night, I was walking to the bodega to buy some ice cream, and as soon as I hit the bottom of the steps, still needing to walk down the hallway to get to the front door, the officers eyes were fixed on me, and they didn’t let up until I was blocks away. I feel incredibly lucky, especially days later when video surfaced of Walter Scott being shot in the back as he ran away from Officer Michael Slager in South Carolina.