#BLM B-town’s State of the City Rebuttal
The state of the city from a black lives matter perspective
To Whom it Concerns,
Over a year ago, BLM B-town and other local activists as well as concerned residents interested in protecting black and brown lives, right to protest, harm reduction, confronting white supremacy, and de-militarizing the police, came together to disrupt Mayor John Hamilton’s State of the City address to insist he stop the purchase of the Lenco BearCat militarized assault vehicle. This was a catalyzing moment for BLM B-town, as well as a chance to speak out forcefully about larger issues related to policing, city funding, and the failure of our current mayor to seek out feedback from marginalized communities here in Bloomington about how this purchase would affect them.
We spent the months following seeking direct dialogue and action from the mayor and city council. We asked for the decision of the purchase to be reviewed and taken to the people of Bloomington, we offered alternatives, and we provided detailed information in our People’s Report (link here) about how the BearCat military added to the militarization of the police and contributed to disproportionate arrests, imprisonment, and even deaths of people of color, especially black people around the country and locally.
During several private meetings and a number of public protests, we consistently asked for public oversight of the purchasing process and future public oversight of the police and mayoral spending. Many of our concerns, questions, and demands were dismissed, publicly challenged by the mayor’s office, or met with tone deaf rhetoric from the city council.
As a result, we spent the rest of the year focusing on the political landscape of Bloomington by talking with, evaluating, and questioning those politicians who were seeking office in 2018. Our “A Seat at the Table” round-table discussion with Midterm candidates made a significant difference in opening a dialogue about race relations as they impact Bloomington politics. That event, along with our Midterm Voter’s guide, exposed the vast amount of work that local, regional, and state politicians still need to do in order to address the needs and concerns of black people and people of color (POC) in the Bloomington community and across Indiana.
As part of our 2019 reboot and efforts to align ourselves with BLM’s national guiding principles, BLM B-town will continue to shine a light on the lack of diversity and inclusion that permeates the political actions and policies of our current mayoral administration, city council, and 2019 primary candidates. Using the data collected by the NAACP and the Racial Justice Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington’s longitudinal study of Race and Criminal Justice in Monroe County, we will continue to provide empirical evidence of the militarization of the police and bring to light the Bloomington Police Department’s abysmal arrest record and history of racial bias against Black people in Bloomington.
We will continue to question the need for a quarter-million dollar purchase of the Lenco BearCat by Mayor John Hamilton when many other programs that promote the public interest could use that funding. We will seek oversight in the use of the BearCat military assault vehicle, and any future spending related to it or the further militarization of the police. We will continue to call out, protest and use direct action when issues arise that threaten the freedom of Black people, POC and other marginalized communities. We will continue to dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and other oppressive structures within the community.
In short, one year out from a major protest, we acknowledge that at once nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed.
We still see institutionalized racism in the decisions of the current mayoral administration, city council, and the state and federal governments. We still see no need for acquiring the BearCat military assault vehicle, particularly in light of the fact that the deployment of the vehicle thus far has not even remotely justified its purchase. Additionally, we charge that all of the “public comment” sessions held by the city last year served as a platform for propagandistic responses by a mayor who never intended to seek public comment, and a city council who refused to check the power and authority of the mayor. Their actions lead us to conclude that our town needs to create a pipeline for new, progressive candidates of color to who will shape our local government by re-populating it with persons who have marginalized voices.
Our efforts to draw attention to these issues have truly resonated with many in our community, resulting in engagement from more people of color in local politics as well as in activism and social justice. We have shown that change is needed in our local government, and through our efforts to educate and inform the Bloomington community, we’ve had a powerful impact on the cultural landscape. Our participation in community outreach, donation drives, and establishing partnerships and information exchanges with other local organizations has also furthered this work. We see that when we use our many voices to represent different perspectives and speak up for Bloomington, we prove that the Black community is not monolithic, and that many of us wish to change the status quo in order to improve the quality of life for all Black folks. Moreover, our issues are intersectional, and our pursuit of freedom benefits other POC and marginalized folks as well. We have demonstrated that we can change our beliefs and culture locally, and in the coming year, we will continue to put pressure on our local government to promote progress and dismantle hierarchical systems of control.
We invite members of the community to email us to learn more about upcoming projects for 2019 and for more details about how to get involved.www.blm.btown-in.org, www.facebook.com/blacklivesmatterbtown or email firstname.lastname@example.org for direct contact with BLM B-town
Black Lives Matter Bloomington Core Council