Critical Resistance’s commitment to abolishing policing in Oakland

Over the past ten years in Oakland, Critical Resistance (CR) has been an anchor organization in projects and campaigns with our allies that work to erode the power of policing and to minimize its violence. CR defines policing as:

Policing is a social relationship made up of a set of practices, empowered and sustained by local and national institutions, to enforce social control through the use of force. Reinforcing the oppressive social and economic relationships that have been central to the US throughout its history, the roots of policing in the United States are closely linked to the capture of escaped slaves and the enforcement of Black Codes. Similarly, police forces have been used to keep new immigrants “in line” and to prevent the poor and working classes from making demands. As social conditions change, how policing is used to target poor people, people of color, immigrants, and others who do not conform on the street or in their homes also shifts. The choices policing requires—about which people to target, what to target them for, and when to arrest and book them—play a major role in who ultimately gets imprisoned.
— Critical Resistance

Our projects and campaigns therefore always simultaneously advocate building up resources to enable these communities to be strong and self-determined.

CR Oakland’s Past Anti-Policing Work

In addition to mobilizing communities across the state of California to resist the expansion of the prison system, CR Oakland has also worked diligently to reduce the use of policing in Oakland through a variety of anti-policing campaigns and efforts. This work has included:

  • Fighting “Operation IMPACT” by diverting people from DUI/ICE checkpoints and supported them reclaiming their possessions and vehicles after cops confiscated them.

  • Opposing Nuisance Eviction Ordinances (No on NEO)

  • Initiating a partnership with All Of Us Or None (an organization of formerly imprisoned people and their loved ones) to work towards REAL safety in Oakland called PLAN FOR A SAFER OAKLAND.

    • Through a three-point platform we articulated demands for more and better re-entry services that welcome people coming home from prison; we called on Oakland to invest in people instead of prisons and policing; and we stood up for the rights of Oakland’s youth.

With the  3-point Plan for a Safer Oakland , we fought against numerous curfew schemes targeting youth and people on parole/probation, as well as efforts of job discrimination targeting formerly incarcerated folks (Ban the Box)

With the 3-point Plan for a Safer Oakland, we fought against numerous curfew schemes targeting youth and people on parole/probation, as well as efforts of job discrimination targeting formerly incarcerated folks (Ban the Box)

  • Co-leading the Stop the Injunctions Coalition (STIC), achieving the most successful grassroots victory against civil gang injunctions in history.
    • We galvanized city-wide opposition to this racist policing scheme and educated the public about what it was: a racial profiling policy that criminalizes entire Black and Brown neighborhoods and subjects them to increased policing.
    • After a 6 year campaign, we forced Oakland to be the first city in the country to admit defeat on all fronts, dismiss the gang injunction cases in court, and drop injunctions from their toolbox of repressive policing schemes.
    • In this fight, CR and STIC also stopped youth curfews and anti-loitering ordinances from being implemented in Oakland.

In all of these campaigns, our demands have been consistent:

☐ Reduce the violence of policing by reducing people’s contact with cops

☐ Stop occupation of neighborhoods by cops

☐ Promote the health and well-being of communities as absolute priorities, in terms of city resources.

The Power Projects

Building off the momentum of the successful Stop the Injunctions campaign and strong city-wide organizing against policing, CR was determined to continue eroding the power of policing in Oakland. CR talked with our allies and, with their guidance, saw an opportunity to address a long-term need to shift from only responding to new policing schemes and constant police violence towards building practical abolitionist tools, guided by people in Oakland, that empower us to divest from policing.

What We Asked People:

  • How does the work our organization is doing or following right now come into contact with policing in Oakland?
  • What do you think are the most pressing issues/greatest opportunities in fighting policing right now in Oakland?

 What We Heard:

  • Anti-policing work needs to offer pragmatic and strategic opportunities that offer real strategies for safety and protection.
  • Anti-policing work needs both strategy and grassroots leadership.
  • Meeting people where they are at is a challenge and a necessity.
  • Lots of folks have their own stories to tell and we should be listening to them and having a conversation with the community in order to inform our praxis.
  • CR should look at work that is beyond fighting the institutional or city generated policing schemes
  • CR is good at creating media that reframes popular understandings of the logic of policing
  • Cops are the “first responders” which increases people’s interactions with police and means more arrests for more vulnerable people including in instances of domestic violence and migrants without legal documentation.

Guided by the “Our Oakland, Our Solutions” slogan & principles from the Stop the Injunctions campaign, we knew that Oakland was ready for options and resources that empower communities, not ones that police them.  And even though Oakland had been described by policing consultants as “policing resistant,”  we also knew that police, city authorities, and mainstream media would not voluntarily give up their power or the common sense that links policing to safety and opportunity. Their monopoly on defining what Oakland needs and wants prevented and obstructed the City from prioritizing people-oriented solutions.

With this information and a rigorous analysis of the Oakland political landscape, the group developed the Oakland Power Projects over the course of 2 years.

Check out the first Oakland Power Project, the Anti-Policing Healthworker Cohort, here.

To learn more about the start of the Oakland Power Projects, read our full report on our process and findings here.