911 Cannot Fix the Lack of Quality Food, Employment, Schools, Healthcare, and Air: Derecka Purnell on Disrupting Violence and Abolishing Police

In an essay for The Atlantic, Derecka Purnell (‘17), human rights lawyer and US columnist for The Guardian, discussed her path to police abolition activism, recounting the St. Louis neighborhood of her childhood, where 911 interventions were as ubiquitous as they were unsuccessful in addressing the root of the problems they were called to fix. Derecka asks us to address the underlying causes of violence and to create community mechanisms for preventing and responding to harm (“How I Became a Police Abolitionist,” July 6). “I often wonder, What if Derek Chauvin had kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds instead of eight? Maybe Floyd would have lived to be arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill. Is that justice? This, for me, is why we need police abolition. Police manage inequality by keeping the dispossessed from the owners, the Black from the white, the homeless from the housed, the beggars from the employed. Reforms make police polite managers of inequality. Abolition makes police and inequality obsolete.”