We are at a crucial point in history for racial justice. There are no neutral actors here: Silence itself is a dangerous act.
That’s why we at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network are raising our voices for a world where Black Lives Matter. Not just because Black and Latinx Americans care most on average about climate change. Not just because the climate fight would be nothing without a diverse movement. Not just because we need every community to join us in our fight for climate solutions for it to succeed. Not just because we need to be able to protest without entire populations fearing for their lives.
But because the fight for a safe climate future is a fight to save lives. And millions of Americans are fighting for their lives right now.
At this critical moment, we are following the lead of Black-led organizations at the forefront of this struggle. We are signing on in support of the broad movement to reduce funding for police and reinvest in communities under the banner of “Defund the Police.”
On Tuesday night, CCAN Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to support this movement. Click HERE to see the resolution.
In practical terms, here’s what that means for us at CCAN:
- We will support efforts spearheaded by Black-led organizations to pressure our legislators to meaningfully divest from police programs that directly or indirectly give rise to brutality, and invest in public services and other public safety measures that don’t involve police force or incarceration. This means weighing in on state and local budget hearings, and encouraging our supporters to do the same. More on that below.
- We pledge to not pay for police services at CCAN events — like protests and conferences — unless absolutely necessary. Often, police departments require activists to pay for police presence at public marches and rallies. Our refusal to pay such fees will force us to make sure we’re asking the right questions up front and will help us to choose venues and vendors that share our values. We expect to formalize this new policy in the coming weeks.
- We will connect our supporters with anti-racism trainings and resources and maximize trainings for staff to ensure that racial justice is a centerpiece of our climate campaigns.
- We will invest in voter education campaigns to help protect vulnerable communities from voter suppression efforts — and encourage all voters to support leaders who advocate for meaningfully divesting from police to better fund social programs instead.
You may be wondering, what do we mean by “Defund the Police?” It doesn’t mean getting rid of all police overnight — or necessarily ever — and it won’t mean the same thing in every city, town, or locality. It means redistributing the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend on policing back into essential public services that have been gutted over the last few decades as police budgets ballooned. It means mental health professionals answering calls about mental health crises, and addiction experts answering calls about opioid abuse, instead of armed officers. It means tackling our social problems with tools that could help solve them rather than resorting to violence and criminalization, a system that was borne out of racism and has intentionally disrupted and devastated Black, Brown, Indigenous and poor communities since its inception centuries ago.
This effort draws parallels to the fossil fuel divestment campaign as well. We’re not proposing eliminating all forms of energy, just the dirty ones; we still need to keep the lights on and the internet flowing, now more than ever in the era of coronavirus. Similarly, we still need systems to keep our communities safe. We’re just opening our minds to what those systems look like. And we’re taking our cues from the groups, communities, and thought-leaders most impacted by the current broken system.
If you’re still skeptical, click HERE to watch a video with CCAN Board Members Terence Ellen and Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. discussing what “Defund the Police” means for CCAN and why it’s important for climate activists to support it.
Here at CCAN, we know that the fight for climate justice and racial justice are one in the same. People of color disproportionately bear the impacts of climate change, from extreme storms to flooding from sea level rise to heat waves to air pollution. It’s also no coincidence that fossil-fueled power plants and refineries are disproportionately located in black neighborhoods, leading to poor air quality and putting people at higher risk for coronavirus. The forces behind the climate crisis are the same forces behind racial inequality. As Eric Holthaus put it, climate change is “what happens when the lives of marginalised people and non-human species are viewed as expendable.” We have to work together for permanent and durable solutions that protect every single person of every single race — particularly the most vulnerable — now and in the future.
That’s why we will continue to shine light on police brutality and work for solutions everywhere to this ongoing tragedy. And we ask you to do the same. Please do what you can to use your voice to demand justice.
Here’s where to start:
- The Movement for Black Lives is organizing nationwide action on this year’s Juneteenth weekend, June 19-21, and invites everyone to get involved. Click here to check out the SixNineteen site and learn more about plans for Juneteenth, the demands to elevate, and how to get involved wherever you are.
- Contact your local government officials and council members asking them to reallocate egregious police budgets towards education, social services, and dismantling racial injustice via this crowd-sourced tool. (If your city isn’t listed in this resource, you can request it be added.)
- Sign the petition to support the demands laid out by the Movement for Black Lives.
The fight for justice becomes more crucial every day. We’re glad to be fighting with you.
The entire team at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund