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A new Black-led organization in Cleveland has begun a campaign calling for the dismantling of the RTA police department and an end to police presence at Cleveland public schools.
Material from the #AbolishtheOverlap campaign circulated Sunday on social media. It noted the abundance of police jurisdictions in Cleveland and the atmosphere of "hyperpolicing" that ensues.
"In order to establish police accountability, reduce unnecessary jurisdiction overlap and better allocate tax dollars toward programs that ensure the safety of all riders, a simplification of the police bureaucracy is a necessary first step," read the statement calling for an end to the transit police.
The campaign has been endorsed by Clevelanders for Public Transit, the grassroots coalition of RTA riders, which has long advocated for civilian fare enforcement in response to the Groves decision of 2018
. Both the RTA and CMSD plans include specific demands, but they are rooted in a philosophy of abolition.
"Our children attend school to learn and to become their best, most realized versions of themselves," the CMSD statement reads. "However for our Black students in [CMSD], attending school means daily exposure to the very real fear, threat and promise of state-sanctioned violence."
Black Spring CLE founder Jasmine Golphin told Scene Thursday that the organization is in the process of forming an advisory board made up of CMSD parents, teachers and students to improve and implement the CMSD #AbolishtheOverlap campaign. The statements guaranteed that Black Spring CLE would be in the streets to publicize and agitate for their demands, but Golphin stressed that dismantling the RTA police and getting rid of officers at schools should be understood as baby steps in a larger abolition agenda.
Golphin said she started Black Spring CLE "in the middle of a panic attack" on June 3, shortly after the George Floyd protests in Cleveland.
"I knew that there were a lot of organizations who were already doing this work and who were exhausted from doing this work even before the protests," she said. "My intent is to focus on next steps. We're working on campaigns to defund or dismantle the police, but when you do that work, people always want to know: What happens after the police are gone? Well, the Black community is surviving on patchwork solutions already. When black kids go missing, we make our own flyers because we know we're not getting an Amber alert. We want to work on community alternatives now."
Golphin said that in addition to #AbolishtheOverlap, Black Spring CLE has held three pop-events that provided hot meals at various locations across Cleveland, including an event Thursday in Central. In the future, she said, she'd like the organization to function as a "hub" to provide resources and volunteers for small-scale community solutions.
But the #AbolishtheOverlap campaign gets to the core of the organization's mission: "to spread awareness of the tenets of police defunding and abolition through accessible education and community action." Golphin said that close to 75 people have contributed in one way or another over the summer in developing their current plans.
For now, Black Spring CLE has received no official response from RTA or CMSD.
"I'm not expecting one," Golphin said. "We know how the game is played. We'd love for them to join us in this work, but they need to know that the work is getting done regardless."
Golphin is 34 with a background in film production and visual arts. She said she is a low-income individual and a regular RTA rider. She was asked about Cleveland City Council's comments this week as they authorized funding for Operation Legend in Cleveland, the national program that will pair Federal agents with local law enforcement to "surgically" combat violent crime. Multiple councilpeople suggested that city residents wanted more
police officers, not less.
"What people want is to feel safe," Golphin said. "There's no arguing with that. But the way that safety has been defined is all about cops. They think more cops means more safety. It's very easy to conflate wanting to be safe with how
you want to be safe. And by saying that we don't want cops — we want community solutions — that somehow makes us radicals."
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