At least 2/3 of U.S. high school students attend a school with a police officer to provide safety, and that proportion is higher for students of color. Schools with police officers are more likely to refer children to law enforcement.
1,000s of instances of police brutality against civilians and journalists reported during anti-racism protests since June 2020.
There has been a 55 percent increase in white nationalist hate groups since 2017.
Police killed 1,127 people in the US in 2020. The UN Definition of a war: An active conflict that has claimed at least 1,000 lives.
2020 set the record for U.S. gun sales: Firearm purchases climbed every month since March, and more than 1.7 million background checks were conducted in October alone, a roughly 60% jump over the same period in 2019.
Grounded in the strengths and needs of local community partners, NP is building relationships with community members, leaders, and organizations in theMinneapolis-St. Paul area to identify gaps and approach safety and securityfrom a holistic perspective. Our work is informed by understanding what communities need to feel safe and secure—to feel affirmed and a sense of belonging— which includes and goes beyond physical safety.
Opportunities continue to emerge for Nonviolent Peaceforce to collaborate with community partners to open dialogue, maintain space for civic engagement and protest, as well as equip students, community members, and safety professionals alike with actionable frameworks and skills in both violence prevention and nonviolent resolution of conflict.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by then Minneapolis Police Officers. This event catalyzed country-wide (and global) protests for racial justice and anti-racist action. These events and the conversations that followed, together with the social stresses that were exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as the deep political divisions manifesting into violence, have brought the current situation and its origins to the forefront: the United States is grappling with issues of civilian protection, rethinking security, and how to move forward.
Michael Hamad's analysis offers additional insight: "The 2020 presidential election was in some ways the exposed tip of an iceberg, towering over a mostly hidden mass of political and social polarization, animosity toward our fellow citizens and a broad suspicion of government institutions — all symptoms of a distressed nation and a democracy that’s rapidly drifting away. For many Americans already angry over salary compression and their inability to get ahead, the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic is a waking nightmare. Much of the anger is race-based; some feel their privileged positions are being threatened by immigrants or citizens of color. But the root causes go back decades and even centuries, stretching from slavery to birtherism, from historical social divisions based on race and class to the extreme income inequality and partisanship of the Trump era."
Nonviolent Peaceforce can be one part of preventing mass violence in the United States and helping guide imaginative conversations and processes. In cities around the country, protesters and civilians have banded together to de-escalate force by federal agents, protect neighborhoods and local businesses, call for accountability in municipal budgeting and policing, and re-envision community safety. Yet, communities often grapple with what it means to maintain their commitments to less reliance on law enforcement response to safety concerns that can be resolved without use of force or threat of force.
Not only does there need to be a systemic and cultural uprooting of the violence that permeates so much of U.S. society, but there is also an immediate need for direct civilian protection at certain flashpoints for violence (such as demonstrations, key moments in electoral transition, trial announcements, etc.). Our approach is always about prevention of as well as responses to violence. Nonviolent Peaceforce will build on recent examples of rapid deployment of civilian protectors, people who are trained and ready to deescalate situations of potential violence in the Twin Cities.
On November 3, Nonviolent Peaceforce worked with a broad-based coalition to recruit 250 volunteers to provide protection at 30 polling sites in St. Paul and Minneapolis. On November 7, NP was invited to organize a subset of the poll protectors to provide protection at the March to Decide Our Future, which traveled from the 3rd Police Precinct to Powderhorn Park in south Minneapolis. In less than 24 hours, NP had pulled together a diverse group of nearly 25 individuals who were ready to use the skills they learned for election protection.
We are continuing to engage and train the same volunteers and using our community connections with organizations to expand our community protector base.
❉ Work with Minneapolis schools
High school students in the Minneapolis Public School District led the call to remove School Resource Officers (SROs) and cut their contract with the Minneapolis Police Department, opening conversations around who would take their place to secure the wellbeing of all students. After the Minneapolis School Board voted in early June to not renew their contract with the Minneapolis Police, the school district hired unarmed school safety specialists. Nonviolent Peaceforce continues to develop a relationship with the Minneapolis Public School District (MPS) to broaden the types of methods that could be used in the school setting to enhance student and staff safety in the absence of SROs. Nonviolent Peaceforce helped give the student organizers a seat at the table and advocated on behalf of the students to ensure that their voices were heard in all phases of the development of the new safety plan being put in place.
❉ Collaboration with local community development program
Through a collaboration with a local community development program for people who have experienced trauma associated with gang/clique violence, Nonviolent Peaceforce provides training to young men, ages 15 - 21 in North Minneapolis. Notably, they served as poll protectors on election day and also were part of an NP group that provided protection at a demonstration the following weekend. Nonviolent Peaceforce is now working with a private school in the same neighborhood who are in need of security and were advised to hire an armed guard--instead, they are working with and our team to train the young men in order to hire them as paid unarmed security in the school.
❉ Expansion of UCP for private security
We are also collaborating with a local chapter of an international union who want to be able to respond to incidents before the police are called. The union has a majority of Black and Brown members and includes many security guards. Nonviolent Peaceforce is working with the union to train 30 security specialists to do foot patrols in the most vulnerable Twin Cities neighborhoods, and are looking forward to providing a training of trainers in order to expand the reach of unarmed civilian protection.
As images of violence in cities like Portland, Kenosha, and Louisville dominated the front pages of newspapers, it became apparent that we are living in an especially volatile time. NP has tools that could increase public safety and de-escalate situations of violence, particularly in this context.
We are creating networks of people trained in unarmed civilian protection who are ready to take a stand to protect demonstrators and to develop relationships with BIPOC community organizations and local leaders interested in creating public safety systems that provide protection and uphold the dignity of all community members. And throughout 2021, we will be working to implement training programs in cities around the country, strengthening and developing community partnerships, providing mentorship and guidance to networks prepared to respond to situations of potential violence in their area, and developing a training program for union members nationally.