Philly voted overwhelmingly in November to create a "Citizens Police Oversight Commission". CM Jones has a bill in committee which would define the CPOC, but unfortunately it falls short of true community control in a number of ways.
Socialist Alternative Philadelphia stands in solidarity with Philly Socialists in demanding that the DA’s office drop all charges against ReeAnna Segin. At Philadelphia’s Pride parade on Sunday June 10th, a trans woman and Philly Socialists member named ReeAnna Segin was arrested at 12th and Locust for allegedly attempting to light a Blue Lives Matter flag on fire.
She was held overnight in a men’s prison before being released on bail. Felony charges against Segin have since been dropped by the DA’s office, but misdemeanor charges remain.
Despite US courts establishing in 1989 that flag burning is legally protected free speech, there is a longstanding pattern of law enforcement using criminal and civil ordinances to arrest, detain, and otherwise intimidate and harass people exercising this right. DA Larry Krasner ran on a platform of not only ending mass incarceration but also declining to prosecute cases that are “insignificant” or that lack sufficient evidence. This week, Krasner used the events at Pride to pull himself some good press when he dropped felony charges against ReeAnna. The real truth of the matter is that they still face time in court, fees, and possible jail time – all of which demonstrates that Krasner is absolutely not living up to his campaign promises. We demand that Krasner drop ALL charges against ReeAnna.
We support ReeAnna and are sympathetic to her cause. Her brutal treatment by Philly police is unacceptable, as is the fact that her message has, only days after the event, become essentially invisible in mainstream news outlets. In light of these issues and others, we continue to call for tactical and strategic discussions about organizing well-defended protests and non-violent direct actions. These are essential to communicating our messages widely and winning real concessions from the establishment. Socialist Alternative has consistently argued for well-organized, disciplined non-violent mass action that disrupts the status quo – with democratic accountable planning that can put forward clear messaging and demands to get the broadest support possible.
Do Cops Make Pride ‘Safe’?
The establishment is attempting to win their case in the court of public opinion by arguing that that ReeAnna’s actions ‘were endangering others’. The PPD has plenty of resources at hand for de-escalating and diffusing situations on the street, but instead responded by brutally tackling, detaining, and arresting a woman attempting to exercise her right to free speech. The ‘official’ role of the cops at Pride – and other similar events – is to provide public safety, street closures, and ‘crowd control.’ It is obvious that the PPD is far from filling their stated mission to ‘protect and serve’ the people of Philadelphia. Like the recent incident at Starbucks it is clear that the first response of the PPD is still too often lethal violence, arrests and hard felony charges to ‘solve the problem.’
The organized violence used against ReeAnna needs to be seen in the larger context of the Philly PD’s long history of corruption scandals, including outright theft of drugs & money, wrongful arrest, murder, prostitution, and lying on the witness stand to help convict and imprison innocent working class people. People of color and other marginalized and oppressed communities bear the brunt of this ‘police protection.’ All this is in addition to the large annual number of ‘officer-involved shootings’, many of which result in the deaths of young black men. We understand that our community’s relationship with the police is complicated: theft, violent crime, and public safety are real issues in working class neighborhoods across the city. DA Krasner pledged in his election campaign to prosecute ‘bad cops,’ but we need to make this concrete. We need a democratically accountable civilian police review board with full authority to discipline and fire racist, sexist, transphobic, corrupt and violent police officers.
What kind of Pride do we want?
This incident begs the question of what the relationship of the organizers of Philly Pride is to the political establishment, and what kind of Pride we want. The roots of the Pride movement are not in sterilized celebrations, or miles of corporate floats distributing t-shirts. The Pride movement began with trans women of color literally putting their bodies on the line when police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City. To this day, trans women and people of color are among the most vulnerable when it comes to treatment by cops and the criminal “justice” system. The organizers’ reliance on the police to provide security and crowd control for Pride celebrations in Philadelphia means that those same people who inspired the Pride movement 40 years ago now cannot safely attend the very event that is supposed to raise them up and celebrate them. The fact that a young woman’s journey to Pride ended up with her being incarcerated for 24 hours in a men’s prison shows how much work we have left to do.
Forward Not Backwards!
In the face of Trump’s reactionary administration, attacks on LGBTQ and other marginalized communities are escalating both in terms of direct physical violence and in terms of access to basic human rights such as healthcare and housing. The Philly LGBTQ community has certainly earned the right to celebrate out and proud in the streets, but while the establishment and organizers seem to want Pride to be apolitical, the LGBTQ community still desperately needs space and opportunity to organize and resist.
The organizers of Philly Pride need to find ways to keep the community safe that do not involve fleets of cops. We do not want a police presence at Pride, but we recognize that developing a structure in which the community is able to provide its own marshalls and other safety staff is no small task. The organizers of Pride would do well by convening an open meeting in which all interested community members are welcome to discuss the way forward. These decisions should be made with the democratic participation of working people in the LGBTQ community, paying special attention to those whose lives and livelihoods are most at risk in the presence of the police.
We have no desire to “take Pride back to Stonewall,” we have all come too far, but the radical roots of Pride show the way forward. We need an approach to LGBTQ liberation based not in scattered individual actions, but in struggle and mass movements that are prepared to harness our collective power by using rallies, marches, strikes, and non-violent civil disobedience.
- DA Krasner Immediately Drop All Charges Against ReeAnna Segin!
- Philly Pride organizers should rapidly convene an open community meeting to democratically discuss the issues raised by this incident
- The Mayor’s Office and DA’s office transparently develop clear procedures and protocols that direct the PPD on how to treat LGBTQ people in the criminal ‘justice’ system with respect and dignity
- Retrain all Philly police officers in non-violent de-escalation tactics
- For a democratically accountable civilian police review board with full authority to discipline and fire racist, sexist, transphobic, corrupt and violent police officers.