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Colin Kaepernick Calls for Abolishing Police and Prisons

In an essay published on Medium this week, Colin Kaepernick said that he wanted to abolish prisons and police. The free agent NFL quarterback also reflected on his 2016 decision to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality and racial injustice.

Standing Up to the System That Has Failed

Kaepernick proposed a complete overhaul of the justice system, which he referred to as “interlocking systems that are rotten to the core.” The piece was written as a part of his new publishing series, “Abolition For The People,” set to appear on the online platform.

He stated, “Despite the steady cascade of anti-Black violence across the country, I am hopeful we can build a future that imagines justice differently. A future without the terror of policing and prisons. A future that prioritizes harm reduction, redemption, and public well-being in order to create a more just and humane world.”

Why Abolishing the Police?

Kaepernick took a stand against a system that has failed so many Black people.  He labeled the police actions that led to deaths of Kathryn Johnston, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner as “acts of terror.” He continued writing that policing in the U.S. is rooted in “anti-Blackness” and “white supremacy,” and he believes the only way to change the police’s anti-Blackness is by abolishing the police altogether.

He wrote, “The ever-present threat of premature death at the hands, knees, chokeholds, tasers, and guns of law enforcement has only further engrained its anti-Black foundation into the institutes of policing…to eradicate anti-Blackness, we must also abolish the police. The abolition of one without the other is impossible.” 

In a section titled “F*ck reform,” Kaepernick recalls being asked why he did not stand for the national anthem in 2016 and cited police brutality as the main reason. He argued that it was not right that “cops are getting paid leave for killing people.” While he believes individual cops should be held accountable, Kaepernick argues, “it will never alter the outcome of a system rooted in Black death.”

Kaepernick then denounced reforms implemented after the deaths of several Black victims because issues still remain unsolved.

He writes, “Yet, the reforms often proposed – use-of-force policies, body cameras, more training, and police accountability – were the same recycled police reforms consistently proposed in the past. And in both the past and the present, these reforms have done nothing to stop the actions that force us to #SayTheirNames.”

He went on to argue that prison reforms (like new jails) do not address dehumanizing living conditions or crowding, while technological monitoring won’t “eliminate the harm of the carceral state.” He argues that they are connected to “increased investment of capital into the carceral state.”

Kaepernick also hopes to dismantle prisons and use revenue for investments that will provide necessary services to those in need.

“By abolishing policing and prisons, not only can we eliminate white supremacist establishments, but we can create space for budgets to be reinvested directly into communities to address mental health needs, homelessness, and houselessness, access to education, and job creation as well as community-based methods of accountability. This is a future that centers the needs of the people, a future that will make us safer, healthier, and truly free.”

Kaepernick, a former 49ers quarterback, who remains unsigned, has called for abolishing the police after the grand jury in the Breonna Taylor case did not indict any of the officers involved in her murder. Additionally, he called the NFL’s social justice initiatives “propaganda.”

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