Abolition Now: We Demand a #PoliceFreePenn
Collectively authored by Police Free Penn: An Abolitionist Assembly, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We write this as an assembly affiliated and seeking affiliation with all facets of Penn (undergraduate and graduate students, tenured and nontenured faculty, service and office staff, alumni, subcontracted workers, local residents, etc) in deepening the reach and success of the initial petition to End Penn Police State Collusion. Over 12,000 people have signed up to this point and we believe that this endorsement indicates that many of us are ready for what’s next: the struggle to make a police-free Penn real.
Our aim is to abolish policing and transform community safety at the University of Pennsylvania.
For years Penn Police have been asked to do racial bias training in response to their harassment of Black students and community members, but at Penn and campuses across the country, these kinds of neoliberal reforms have not worked.
It’s critical that everyone who reads this understand that we do not see this platform as ONLY an urgent demand to defund and divest from policing, but a call to action for ALL OF US to engage and be accountable to the expansive vision of a different society, requiring we transform our relationships to create just systems where we may all live with dignity. This means, yes, FUCK PENN POLICE until they are dissolved, but our work must continue to evolve to where we commit to our shared responsibility for one another around campus, in our relationships with the occupied Lenape land now referred to as Philadelphia, and beyond. This means work will need to be done to remove the cops from our head and hearts too. What it truly means when we say that Penn Police are no longer necessary is that WE take responsibility for our future.
This mission requires us to coordinate with organizing outside of the Penn bubble, because the illusion of the “bubble” pretends that our struggles are not interconnected and that what happens at Penn doesn’t significantly impact the overall city and larger world. We are grateful to the Philly Black Radical Collective in laying out a vision for what must change in order for the Black community of Philadelphia to thrive. Their 13 demands are specific to Black life, and yes, we are not all Black, yet we know that when we overhaul systems based on Black subjugation domestically and globally, we are well on our way to a just world. This also speaks to reaching toward solidarity with those who organize under the blueprint of #PoliceFreeCampus, #PoliceFreeSchools, The Movement for Black Lives, #8toAbolition, and wider urgent transnational calls for an end to state-sanctioned terrorism against racialized populations.
This is only the beginning. Bold actions and courageous protest threatening the status quo is necessary. We must reject the light concessions being offered, along with proposed reforms that do not significantly alter our conditions. We offer these demands as an abolitionist vision that we believe may unite us in our rage and yearning for a new way.
Our demands fall under the following interconnected categories:
- Decriminalize Blackness, Protest, and Poverty
- Divest from the Prison Industrial Complex
- Defund the UPPD
- Disband the UPPD
- Reinvest in community-controlled funds, in West Philadelphia and beyond
- Redress the legacy of racism, colonialism, and slavery on campus
- Reimagine police-free strategies for community safety and well-being, especially for the Black, Indigenous, POC, and LGBTQIA communities
We expand on these demands below. We identify these as immediate and non-negotiable goals. To the University of Pennsylvania Administration and Board of Trustees who will assuredly read this, these are good faith starters for ANY peaceful dialogue. These are non-exhaustive and we look forward to continued coalition-building that will expand the call based around these principles. We forego all collective engagement, all calls to peacefully assemble for institutional forums, until the administration has thoroughly and publicly responded to the following:
Non-retaliation against campus and local activism
- We demand that a written and public declaration be immediately published in receipt of this call that any and all Penn-located persons who engage in protest to transform community safety in defense of Black lives be free of targeting, retaliation, surveillance, and further harm and suspicion perpetuated by the institution. This includes firing, non-hiring, reduction of stipends, etc. Their ability to pursue justice and their work must be protected. This must include undergraduate and graduate students, tenured and nontenured faculty, service and office staff, subcontracted workers, local residents, everyone.
End all investments in policing and prison industries
- We demand that Penn divest completely from corporations like Philadelphia-based Aramark that profit from the prison industrial complex, terminate relationships with all trustees invested in the PIC and militarism abroad, and divest completely from the Philadelphia Police Foundation and Philadelphia Police Department.
- We demand that Penn immediately cease the support and pull IRB-backing of research that supports harmful policing practices, such as the risk assessment protocol algorithms led by Richard Berk. This racialized surveillance model furthers the rampant criminalization of survival experienced disproportionately by Black and Indigenous communities and is based on faulty racial and neighborhood profiling methods. We know the tools created from this research to already be in use by numerous police districts, parole and probation boards, and the courts. Penn must take immediate action to stop its spread.
Immediate transparency on UPPD data and finances and a progressive down-payment toward UPPD dissolution
- We demand the immediate public publishing of Penn’s police and safety budget data for the last 20 years, and commitment to ongoing open publishing of this data until the Penn Police department is dissolved.
- We demand the immediate severance of any future funding and published public accounting for all historical payments and support that Penn has given to the Philadelphia Police Department and/or the Philadelphia Police Foundation.
- We demand the public disclosure of UPPD + PPD financial and law enforcement partnerships.
- Lastly, We demand an immediate 50% reduction in the UPPD budget, and the institutional commitment to convene a committee of students, faculty, staff, and local residents to develop and publish a written plan to be published by Spring 2021 that outlines the pathway to fully dissolve of the UPPD by the year 2025.
Abolition of the UPPD and the realization of a police-free Penn
- We demand the immediate termination of Maureen Rush who has a documented record of making students less safe on campus, not so that she can be replaced, but as a first step toward the disbanding of the UPPD.
Removal of all campus monuments to slavery and white supremacy and purging of all museum inventory unethically held:
- We demand that representatives of the Penn & Slavery Project, which has been pushed to expand by local activists, in communication with the CAFSA Coalition be empowered to make binding recommendations for the removal of all existing statues, portraits, monuments, building names, and other memorialization that portray actors who were directly involved, affiliated, and/or endorsed violence against Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx people.
- We demand the immediate return of the crania and other samples of bodily tissue housed in the Morton Collection at the Penn Museum, which local writer and organizer Abdul-Aliy Muhammad has previously called to demand the university return these belongings to descendants — if possible — or have them interred immediately.
- We demand the immediate institutional acknowledgement and public apology in writing and public video led by Amy Gutmann which takes accountability for UPenn’s involvement and support for the series of horrific medical experiments by Albert M. Kligman. The experiments were conducted on incarcerated people at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia for 20 years. They were not ended by choice or conscience, but instead were declared a violation of the Nuremberg Code of 1947 — rules meant to keep scientists from doing what the Nazis did. This act of institutional violence was made clear through the artwork of Carolyn Lazard, in a show curated by Meg Onli at the Institute of Contemporary Art. May this become a road to an even deeper restitution process.
Transfer significant financial resources into community controlled funds, in West Philadelphia and beyond
- We demand all funds indicated in recent emails, raised in the name of “Penn Projects for Progress” be immediately given, no strings attached, to The Bread & Roses Community Fund to support Black organizing. Bread & Roses is a heralded local organization that has exemplary models established to support grassroots community organizing in Philadelphia that aims to dismantle the very issues that Penn claims to support. We are not interested in NPIC-drenched “innovation” or “solutions” around vague, incrementalist calls to racial equity, nor do we give in to the false notion that our access to Penn makes us exceptionally well suited to usher in the transformation marginalized communities are already struggling to win. They are already doing the work. Fund that work.
- We demand that the University of Pennsylvania invest in the Education Equity Fund through payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs). Penn should provide 40% of their forgone property taxes into the Education Fund, which will be used to meet the essential needs of Philadelphia schools, such as removing environmental hazards from school buildings. The premature death-related consequences of such toxic conditions on educators, school staff, and the SDP majority of Black and Brown children has been established in Penn-affiliated research, and it’s beyond time our institution dedicate resources to paying our fair share and eradicating it.
- We demand that the institution set forth an open committee of West Philadelphia residents to investigate and make binding recommendations naming what reparative economic justice is owed by the University for its role in slavery and continued celebration of slavery through its memorialization practices and persistent institutional priorities which advance racial inequity.
Development of police-free strategies for community safety and well-being, especially for Black, Indigenous, POC, and LGBTQIA communities
- We lift up the demands made by the CAFSA Coalition that prioritize non-carceral models of creating safety while seeking to put an end to sexual violence on Penn’s campus. Prioritizing the experiences of Penn’s gender-oppressed communities, we believe that the recommendations, experiments, and practices that they have set forth can lead the way toward a police-free Penn. Recommendations led by graduate student women of color in 2018, never comprehensively addressed, build upon this vision.
- We lift up the leadership of GET-UP in demanding necessary investments that must be upheld by the administration to ensure that graduate student-workers’ needs are met in a manner that corresponds to the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their demands are incredibly helpful in shifting institutional culture toward prioritizing people’s health and wellness over the protection of capital interests. We additionally acknowledge their long-term aspirations, knowing that a graduate student worker union would prove immeasurable to the ability to care for the collective needs of those who sustain Penn as a top-tier educational institution.
To conclude, this is only a preface. We believe that the struggle to realize these goals is upon us, and we write this to inspire continued organizing and creative actions on behalf of all of us to make these transformations come to pass.
We don’t intend this assembly to be the central hub in which all will be organized. Many voices, on and off-campus collaborations, levels of individual and collective risk-taking, and deep abolitionist study will be crucial in this pursuit. So don’t think you need our permission to do something. Do something. Organize. Act. Petitions, social media posts, and emails ain’t enough.
My collective/organization would like to publicly endorse this vision. You do not have to be Penn-affiliated to endorse this vision.
Endorsements (updated as of 8/4)
The Center for Carceral Communities
MEChA de Penn
Penn for Immigrant Rights
Coalition Against Fraternity Sexual Assault (CAFSA)
Social Justice Scholars of Rutgers Law School- Cohort of ‘22
Abolitionist Law Center
Student Labor Action Project
Penn Association for Gender Equity
Fossil Free Penn
Building Anti-Racist White Educators
Penn for Progress
National Lawyers Guild Penn Law Chapter
Penn Lambda Alliance
Penn Justice Democrats
Penn AAPI Politics
GET-UP (Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania)
The Excelano Project
Penn Dance Company
iNtuitons Experimental Theatre
Penn Society for Psychedelic Science (PSPS) / Penn Students for Sensible Drug Policy
African American Arts Alliance
Beyond Arrests: Re-Thinking Systematic Oppression (BARS)
Quadramics Theatre Company
Penn Philippine Association
Latin American and Latino Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board
Penn Singers Light Opera Company
Penn Civic House Civic Scholars Advisory Board
Creative Resilience Collective
Penn Quiz Bowl
Penn Museum Graduate Advisory Council
United Minorities Council
UPenn Changing Lives with School Supplies
The Philadelphia Organization of Health Professions Students
Books Through Bars
Students Opposing Racism in Medicine (StORM)
Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board
Black Cultural Studies Collective
Drexel Anti Racist Action Coalition
Teacher Action Group Philly
Penn Glee Club
St. Elmo Club
First-Generation, Low-Income Dean’s Advisory Board