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Race, Policing and the City

Venue: Online

In this webinar, Megan McElhone (Birkbeck) and Jaime Alves (UC Santa Barbara) discussed the racialised policing practices as well as the racialised resistance strategies of urban communities. Part of the Urban Intersections series hosted by Birkbeck, University of London, each speaker offered an initial set of reflections drawing on their discliplinary expertise (abstracts below), followed by a discussion with one another as well as webinar attendees. The event was chaired by Mara Nogueira.

>>>Video available here<<<

Saturation, surveillance, squads and search powers: reflections on the ‘territorial’ policing of racialised communities in London and Sydney 

Megan McElhone (Birkbeck)
In this talk, I will explore some of the ways that police in London and Sydney engage in ‘territorial’ strategies and practices to regulate how members of racialised communities move throughout those cities and use public space. I will focus on the police’s deployment of ‘specialist’ squads and stop and search powers to advance three interrelated observations about police ‘territoriality’: firstly, that historical (and ongoing) antagonisms with racialised communities inform the allocation of police resources; secondly, that resistance to ‘territorial’ practices creates opportunities for the police to criminalise ‘uncooperative’ behaviour by members of racialised communities; and thirdly, that acts of resistance against ‘territorial’ policing are often racialised as being indicative of disorder and disrespect for authority within racialised communities, thereby providing an apparent justification for further police intervention, surveillance and authority imposition in areas where sizable populations of racialised people tend to reside. While situating these observations in the recognition that police institutions in both London and Sydney have always been mandated to ensure colonial and capitalist expansion and repress the resistance of colonised peoples and the working classes, I will identify continuities and discontinuities in the nature of ‘territorial’ policing in London and Sydney, and in the waysthat the resistance of racialised communities has shaped ‘territorial’ policing in the two cities. 

Blue Lives, Black Death:  Divine Violence and Black Sovereignty in the Afropolis

Jaime Alves (UC Santa Barbara)

Blue Lives Matter, says the mantra of police fragility. In this presentation, I look at the myth of police victimization and the unapologetic responses of Black youth engaged in outlawed forms of resistance against police terror in a Latin American city. I ask: If the grammar of rights - the right to the city/human rights/citizenship framework -  is unable to make black suffering legible and to redress racial injury, how should black resistance look like in these spatialities of antiblackness? What is the place of violence - the violence of the colonized - against state delinquency in general and police terror in particular? If Black lives are always-already inscribed in the racial calculus of humanity as ungrievable life, what should be done to defend the dead and to reclaim the city as an Afropolis? I engage with the afropessimist/optimist theoretical and political project to analyze some forms of Black rebellion seeking to reclaim Black sovereignty and to decolonize the antiblack city.

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