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Why Young Black Activists Locked Down Two Police Union Headquarters

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Ten people were arrested in New York City today as activists locked down two major police unions in New York City and Washington, D.C. The demonstrators were intending to push back on what they say is a shift in the national discussion about police brutality, focusing on the safety of police officers instead of the safety of black lives.

Black Youth Project 100 and Million Hoodies Movement for Justice NYC chained themselves together at the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's NYC headquarters, while at the same time activists locked down the legislative headquarters for the Washington, D.C. Fraternal Order of Police. BYP100 live-streamed the New York action on its website, depicting activists chanting and calling for the firing of NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs, who was placed on modified duty after killing Delrawn Small while off-duty on July 4.

"[The protesters] want to dismantle the associations in recognition of the role that they played in preventing police accountability," BYP100 communications manager L’lerret Jazelle Ailith tells The Advocate via phone. "Most often, when you see instances of police mutilating the bodies of black people, they are not held to the fullest extent of the law, and the ways they are held accountable are totally different than the ways black people and black bodies are criminalized in this system."

Video from the action shows NYPD and security officers attempting to relocate the demonstrators by pulling on the chains protestors used to lock themselves to each other. Mic reported that the 10 arrests made stemmed from conflicts between police and protesters. BYP100 is currently raising money to post bail for their members taken into custody during the action. 

A statement on the BYP100 website says that the action was meant to “call attention to the multiple institutions that hamper police accountability in the city.”

BYP100 is a grassroots nationwide organization that “engages in local and national campaign work through a Black feminist and queer lens on issues such as dismantling the prison industrial complex, LGTBQ and gender justice, expanding women’s rights and voting rights," according to the group's website.

"We understand that in order to achieve black liberation we must center the most marginalized of our people, the people that are living on the margins of the margins," says Ailith. "[We are] making sure that we are trying to envision a world that does not oppress them or create systems that oppress them."

Tensions are running high across the country after a pair of videos went viral depicting the recent deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police, shortly followed by incidents where police officers were allegedly targeted by trained gunmen in Dallas and Baton Rouge.  

BYP100’s slogan, "Stop the cops and fund black futures," calls for the large-scale divestment from police departments and investment in issues that have a positive impact on black lives.

"Our main model is that racial justice is economic justice, making sure that we confront the ways in which this hetero white patriarchal capitalism has left our communities," says Ailith. Like many other activists, Ailith ties the future success of communities of color to "the ways in which we can… destroy that [injustice], and envision a new society that is totally invested in our community, and 100 percent invested in getting rid of these systems that do not work.”

“Police do not work,” Ailith tells The Advocate. “Prisons do not work.”

Black Youth Project 100 has created the Agenda to Build Black Futures to address racial disparities and suggest solutions to improve the lives of black Americans. Acitvists want to take the money currently dedicated to policing and incarceration and reinvest it toward housing, employment, health, education and other systems that could improve black lives.

"A lot of people say we don't know what we want,” concludes Ailith. “[But] we do."

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