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DCAARPR hosts first local conference, Frank Chapman keynote speaker

By Kristin Bonner

NAARPR Executive Director Frank Chapman, guest keynote speaker,  gives opening remarks to begin the local DC Alliance Conference.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Washington, D.C. – On May 4, the DC Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (DCAARPR), hosted its first local conference. A first of its kind for a branch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR), the conference brought about 50 organizers, activists and community members together for a discussion on police accountability and community control. Many of the attendees were Black, Latino, Arab, Asian, and Pacific Islanders.

Organizations in attendance included Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) DC, DMV Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), Anakbayan DC, Claudia Jones School for Political Education, Pan-African Community Action (PACA), Communist Party USA DC (CPUSA), and the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS).

The conference opened with remarks by keynote speaker Frank Chapman, a founding member and current executive director of the NAARPR and field organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression (CAARPR or the Chicago Alliance). Chapman, a political prisoner who was freed by the efforts of the NAARPR in 1973, spoke of the origins of the Alliance and the importance of the historic demand for community control.

“The Alliance grew out of the demand to free Angela Davis, who faced trumped-up murder charges orchestrated by a racist police frame-up,” and “together with Charlene Mitchell and a talented group of organizers, I was freed from prison and dedicated myself to the struggle of Black liberation.”

“The demand for community control arose out of Black Reconstruction when for the first time Black people had political power to determine their futures. Black folks formed community militias to protect themselves from racist attacks from the likes of [what would form the KKK] and their bitter former masters. This demand was revived by the Black Panther Party during the Black Power movement of the 1970s.”

“Today, the Alliance takes up the demand for community control of the police, not only for the basic democratic demand that Black people have the say on who polices our communities and how, but also to allow for the organizing space and breathing room necessary to wage a struggle for freedom from exploitation. We cannot do that with the boot of the police on our necks.”

After Chapman’s keynote address, the organizing co-chair for DCAARPR reported on the activities of the DC Alliance from the past year. Those activities included electing a provisional executive to carry out the tasks; adopting bylaws; beginning a community outreach campaign and starting up tabling and fliering in targeted neighborhoods; regularly holding general body meetings; participating in national solidarity protests to free the Tampa 5; hosting Laura Rodriguez of the Tampa 5; hosting a fundraiser, the proceeds of which helping to send members to the 2023 National Conference and providing monetary support to the Tampa 5; attending the National Conference; participating in many solidarity actions for Palestine, including the Palestine National Week of Action; conducting political education around community control and political repression; and providing material support and political education at the Palestine solidarity student encampment at George Washington University.

The executive report was followed by a community discussion on police accountability, public safety and how to hold the police accountable. Groups identified the need to be united in action, and fighting toward community control as a primary campaign that could address many of the different issues discussed around police accountability and public safety.

The conference featured speeches from affiliates including DMV PYM, Anakbayan DC, Claudia Jones School for Political Education, PACA, CPUSA (DC), ILPS, and FRSO DC. Each affiliate spoke of the work they are doing and the importance of forming a united front for community control in DC.

“We in the Freedom Road Socialist Organization understand that oppressed people have the right to determine their own destinies, free of outside influence and repression,” the speaker for FRSO said, “We see community control of the police as a crucial step on this pathway; the people should have the say on police accountability; who polices them and how they are policed. We take on this righteous struggle through the power of the united front. In the words of CAARPR Field Organizer and NAARPR Executive Director Frank Chapman, “We must be headlights, not taillights. We must lead people out of their frustration, not into it.”

Additionally, the DC Alliance elected new leadership as follows: Kristen Bonner and Logan Cropper as organizing co-chairs, Jonathan Abraham and Tino Venable as outreach co-chairs, and Iain McNeely as secretary. The new executive committee will serve for the next two years and carry out the task of continuing to develop the DC Alliance and the demand for community control of the police. Also discussed and adopted were resolutions surrounding campaigns to hold accountable a local killer cop, Jason Bagshaw, and to provide critical support to homeless communities, among others.

The conference concluded by attendees following Assata's chant, but not before a call was made to continue the work of the Alliance and building the movement for community control. “The conference is only the beginning;” the conference emcee stated, “we want to host more forums like this where the community can come together to share their experiences and organize around the demand of justice and community control. We have come a long way from where we were last year, but we still have much more to struggle for, and much more to win. With the power of the people there is no obstacle that we cannot overcome! All power to the people!”

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