An open letter to the Waterloo Region Police – April 1, 2011

In co-ordination with the April 1st Coalition of KW(SPOT Collective, AWAL, PMUS, AAP)

Friday, April 1st, 2011

An open letter to all Waterloo Regional Police

For some time now it has been clear that marginalized peoples are intentionally targeted by our Police. This is certainly true in Downtown Kitchener and Uptown Waterloo. We, concerned community members, regularly witness Police harassing those who are forced to beg for change on the streets. We, as members of marginalized communities, have been harassed ourselves. Since it is not a crime for a human being to ask another to share their resources, we can’t help but be suspicious of the motives for your dehumanized behaviour. It is clear to us that the capitalist class has co-opted your good work for their anti-social gain. They seek to perpetuate negative stigmas against us, our sisters and our brothers. Please allow this letter to serve as a gentle reminder that you, our Police force, work for the People. You don’t work for the Kitchener Downtown Business Association (KDBA) or any other local business interests. We ask that you stop the criminalization of poverty.

There are far fewer folks pan-handling today, in downtown Kitchener, than at this time last year. It would be misguided to suggest that this is the result of a positive turn of events and we don’t expect that you believe it is, either. This is not the result of an improved local economy allowing for upward mobility. Rather, the truth is that you, our Police, have displaced human beings who once called Downtown their home. By doing so, you have robbed them of their access to sustenance. We have regularly witnessed threats of violence and arrest. We have seen forced mental health hospitalizations. As gentrification continues at a staggering pace, we’re left wondering where our friends who were forcefully evicted, en masse, from the old Mayfair Hotel/apartments now live. Do they live in a community of their peers in proximity to free food programs, as they did when they were welcome to live in Downtown Kitchener? It is important that you understand the role you’ve played in destroying communities. We don’t believe that you, our police, are ignorant to the larger issues at play. We are confident that you are able to observe and critique societal trends. For instance; as the Waterloo Regional Police force gets over a million dollars in additional funding (PAVIS), we see cuts to social services. As more folks lose their jobs we see prison proliferation and mandatory minimum sentences. Will the police force simply play into the erosion of freedom? PAVIS and the reshuffling of police work to allow for more patrolling will not make our streets safer. The houseless, street involved youth, Indigenous Peoples, people with mental health struggles, Immigrants, people of colour, LGBTQ2 folk, women and other social justice advocates know that, due to your current practices, our streets become increasingly dangerous in proportion to your increased presence. We do see some areas where this additional policing ability can be useful: please allocate a large portion of your bloated resources to enforcing the rule of law on the brutal security force employed by Partytown.

We want to believe that our Police force seeks to serve the dignity of all people. We are concerned that you are being robbed of your own dignity by the KDBA, Local/Provincial/Federal government and a cultural shift towards elitist hegemony. We want to see you free of manipulation as much as we want our own freedom. We are here to demand your freedom to act as human beings. We want a police force that is free to explore nuance and think critically on behalf of the people. You have been lied to and coerced into fearing poor people and other activists. We have been oppressed by you. Our trust in you has been damaged. Let’s fix this mess, shall we? We wait, with eyes opened, hoping to observe a true and meaningful change in your outlook and conduct.

We have encountered too many cops without badges or ID to feel obligated to sign this letter.

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