Below is a collection of photos assembled by our comrade @Soit_goes upon the final dismantling of the Freedom Square camp, after 51 days of occupation in the Lawndale neighborhood of West Chicago.
We are also sharing a callout written by a couple of comrades on August 10, 2016 (i.e. roughly halfway through the occupation) which—for a variety of reasons—was never finally circulated. It is not a reflection of the vision of Freedom Square per se, but rather of the aspirations and ambitions of one or two folks who participated in it and who felt it was urgent to encourage others to pursue similar experiments in police-free-zones in ways responsive to their own particular situations. It should (at a minimum) be read alongside the LetUsBreathe Collective’s statement after day 41, which adds to it a number of sobering considerations.
Callout From Freedom Square: Spread the Abolitionist Spaces!
We know that the cops are evidently unable to stop themselves from killing black people. We know there’s been decades of economic disinvestment and institutional abandonment of black people in this country. We know that if there was anything to hope for from professional politicians and NGOs, we wouldn’t find ourselves where we’re at today. We know the police in this country cannot be reformed, that they’ve always functioned as a tool of racial domination, and that no amount of body-cams or ‘accountability’ can change this.
The only way out of this nightmare has got to come from us.
That’s why for years now we’ve been part of a wave of massive protests. We’ve marched alongside our friends and neighbors, we’ve blocked roads, malls, police precincts, freeways. While marches and freeway shutdowns can be powerful tools for expressing outrage and anger, they haven’t answered our need to be done with the police for good.
As the awareness of this truth continues to spread and deepen, we’ve started to see powerful and exciting new calls for police abolition. But what does abolition concretely look like? How can we begin to imagine a world without police?
Before such a world will be possible, we must learn how to collectively self-organize to face our problems together, not just to satisfy our day-to-day needs, but to take care of each other, to imagine, dream, and experiment with new forms of common life. We have to provide ourselves with the means to meet necessities like food, shelter, healing, education, and self-defense. We need permanent spaces in which to find each other, get organized, and begin to develop capacities for realizing our autonomy.
Three weeks ago, folks seized a piece of one Chicago neighborhood (across the street from the CPD’s organized torture unit) and began the experiment. Here hundreds of meals are served daily. There is a library, a medic tent, free clothing and art supplies, space to sleep, to talk. A garden was just planted. No money changes hands here, everything is free. And because folks care about each other, cops aren’t welcome, nor is racist, ableist, trans-phobic, or classist behavior. By removing the police and money from our calculations, we’re able to start learning–slowly–how to work things out ourselves, how to love ourselves and each other.
The tremendous outpouring of local support received has proven that this little experiment in world-building resonates with a lot of people right now. This doesn’t surprise us, as we’re all doing bad, we’re all searching for a way out of the wreckage.
On one hand, it’s true to say that every meal, every conversation, every workshop in this square is an immediate victory that no one can take away from us. On the other hand, if this experiment is going to succeed long-term, it needs to spread and multiply, to take on new shapes and forms. If abolition is to become more than a dream or an isolated island, living experiments need to grow and mutate.
That’s why we call on folks everywhere to begin seizing spaces of your own, to spread the experiment from where you already are, and build power locally, with your friends and neighbors. Take over an empty lot, block off a street, invite your neighbors, organize discussions, bring music, films, food, plants, soil, tents, and get going. It doesn’t matter how small it is at first, because what we’re doing makes sense, it is necessary. Everything begins with small realities.
There’s no time to wait!
Aug 10, 2016