What would “defunding” the police look like in Oak Park and beyond, and what forms can defunding the police take? 

All are invited to explore these questions in an Oak Park Public Library virtual program on Thursday, May 6, 7-8 p.m., “Defunding the Police: A Discussion With Elected Women of Color.”

While “defund the police” is an open-ended slogan, one of the guiding principles of the various defund movements (from abolitionists to reformists) is the notion that a “safe” world cannot be one in which Black and Brown people are kept in check through the threat of state violence. 

To this end, “defund” can be understood as the work of the community to re-evaluate police interactions with civilians by reallocating public resources and services toward a community safety model that minimizes the social function of armed police.

Defunding the police is a call for communities to critically engage with the limitations of previous police reform efforts. It is a call to think about the history of contemporary policing, which includes enforcing chattel slavery laws and squashing labor uprisings. And it is a political call to engage with our municipalities, to increase democratic participation in the budget process and allocation of resources. 

“Defunding the police” means rethinking our society, so that it’s built on cooperation, mutual aid, and care — and not through the threat of state violence, incarceration, or punishment.

The May 6 program is a chance to look at what “defund” could mean for Oak Park and Evanston. Oak Park Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla and Evanston alderwoman Cicely Flemming, two elected women of color, will discuss their understandings of “defund,” what it might look like for their municipalities, and the challenges and success they have faced in their elected work. 

They will also discuss the various roles of young people, street protest and social movements, and community organizing in the defund/budget processes. And lastly, they will discuss the community and social changes that have occurred in the year since “defund” has gained traction in our society. 

All are welcome to join this panel conversation on Zoom. To join, please register at oppl.org/calendar.

This program is part of Oak Park’s Anti-Racism Resource Challenge, in which we’re sharing intentional learning opportunities and curated resources. The theme for May and June is “Policing, Mass Incarceration, Protests, Black Lives Matter.” We affirm that state-sanctioned violence against Black communities must end and that racial disparities and biases heavily impact our criminal justice system. 

In this self-guided challenge, some of us are reading and discussing works like “Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect,” a collection of essays that explore police violence against Black, Brown, Indigenous and other marginalized communities, as well as failures of reform measures. 

To get involved in the challenge and learn more about the library’s anti-racism journey, please visit oppl.org/anti-racism.

Adam Paradis, a library assistant at Oak Park Public Library, is involved with Freedom to Thrive Oak Park.

Join the discussion on social media!