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WHO WE ARE

The Houston Abolitionist Collective is a group of organizers committed to building power and a movement around abolition in Houston and Harris County through political education, mutual aid, transformative justice, and community organizing to end policing, punitive justice, and harm. HAC formed in response to the murder of George Floyd and the Uprising of June 2020. 

Abolitionist Community Organizing & Education

Houston Abolition Collective Newsletter

Sunday, December 12, 2021

 

Happy New Year everyone!

 

Welcome to our first 2022 issue (and second) of the Houston Abolition Collective Newsletter! Thank you for reading. Today on Monday (1/10) we are having a January General Meeting at 6pm! If you'd like to join please email us at liberatehtx@protonmail.com or DM us on twitter / IG @LiberateHTX for the virtual meeting link. In addition to our ongoing working groups and campaign updates, we'll be discussing what's next on #StopShotSpotter with Neighborhoods Against Spying Campaign, Stop LaSalle Transport Campaign, and more. We hope you can join us this evening!

Contents

 
  • What is Abolition? RECAP
  • Topic of the Month: Surveillance continues
  • Calls to Action
  • Local News
  • Where to Plug-In
  • Local Art Spotlight
  • Book Features
  • Closing

What is Abolition?


Organizer, educator, and curator Mariame Kaba defines prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition as a “political vision, a structural analysis of oppression, and a practical organizing tool.” (So You’re Thinking about Becoming an Abolitionist", LEVEL) According to Critical Resistance, a grassroots Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) abolition organization that formed in 1997, the term prison industrial complex describes “the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.” PIC abolitionists believe in that the PIC was not built to keep us safe, and work towards “eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance” and collectively creating a restructured society where we have what we need - food, shelter, education, clean air, etc - to have true personal and community safety (drawn from the work of Critical Resistance & Mariame Kaba). As Mariame Kaba states, PIC abolition invites us to reflect and act on the question, “What can we imagine for ourselves and the world?”

Below are ways to learn more about PIC abolition as an organizing tool and long term vision:

Surveillance role in the Abolition Movement 

Surveillance is an integral component of the prison industrial complex (PIC). We must confront surveillance in order to create a society in which people are free of constant tracking and cataloging as a means of driving them into cages or turning their homes and neighborhoods into virtual prisons. This issue continues to share not only how terrifying sophistication of surveillance systems, while offering examples and dialogue how to abolish them. 

As technology rapidly develops, police departments, governmental agencies and private companies are further relying on surveillance technologies to control and punish communities, targeting communities of color and low income communities. At times presented as positive “reforms” to the current system, replacing human police with technological surveillance, such as drones, facial recognition, predictive analytics, data extraction, electronic monitoring, and other forms of surveillance technology expand the carceral state beyond prison walls, increase the reach of policing and put more funding and resources into the PIC. Critical Resistance proposes a helpful framework for evaluating reforms: Will they continue to expand the reach of policing (reformist reforms) or are they consistent with abolition in that they work to chip away and reduce the impact of the current system of policing and surveillance?

Resources and examples of other cities within the U.S how surveillance affects them :


Current local issue on Surveillance in Houston: ShotSpotter

ShotSpotter is a gunshot detection system placed in communities by police departments to mount deployments into neighborhoods. The City of Houston held to vote to sign on a 5 year contract worth $3.5 million to adopt the ShotSpotter program throughout the city,  after an earlier pilot program. HAC organized participation in public comment at the City Council Meeting on Jan. 5th. Community members spoke of the program’s ineffectiveness, wastefulness, and endangerment of Black and brown communities.

The City of Chicago’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that “ShotSpotter alerts rarely produce documented evidence of a gun-related crime, investigatory stop, or recovery of a firearm.” (City of Chicago August 24, 2021; see also: MacArthur Justice Center - End Police Surveillance)

ShotSpotter analysts and the police have been accused of manually altering data provided by the technology to create the evidence that supports their narratives that we need more police. (Colorlines, July 27, 2021)

Harris County pays $260,000 a year to cover four square miles, smaller than the Houston pilot area. Community members requested that funds go toward community programs that prevent gun violence from happening in the first place, instead of increasing the number of unnecessary interactions between residents and officers who are on high alert, expecting gun violence. Unfortunately City Council voted to approve the $3.5 million, 5 year ShotSpotter contract despite callers of constituents begging to vote NO, to look into gun violence prevention programs, and reshape public safety for all vulnerable communities.

We do not need more policing. We need solutions to help people who are struggling financially through direct financial and housing aid and mental health support. Community members asked the City of Houston to say no to Shotspotter, stop HPD’s use of surveillance technology, and invest in safer communities by providing aid and services like
Mobile Crisis Outreach Team., the Gun Violence Interruption Program, and HART.
 


Credit goes to Laura Chow Reeve of Radical Roadmaps
Local News:

"I'm gonna hold my nose & vote for this & hopefully in the next 5 years HPD can provide some actual data." - Council Member Mike Knox, At-Large 1. After he has tagged the last city council meeting (Dec. 15) how there's a lack of evidence for ShotSpotter in preventing gun violence and "not satisfied with the cost-analysis" for the technology after HPD showed a presentation of ShotSpotter AFTER a year of the pilot program.

"It won't resolve the gun violence, but it will make you feel safer." - Tarsha Jackson, District B

Abbie Kamin, District C and public safety chair, attempted to use the shooting of George Floyd's niece to justify the purchase, even though ShotSpotter alerted HPD and they showed up 4 hours later.

These are comments made by Houston City Council members before they voted to approve a $3.5 million, five-year ShotSpotter contract on January 5th 2022. CM Leticia Plummer, At-Large 4 was the only no vote. Learn more about ShotSpotter in the video above.

Above is Council Member Leticia Plummer's publication of her stance behind voting NO for ShotSpotter. We thank CM Plummer for 
lone, brave voice in opposition to this purchase. Displaying real leadership in active listening to not only an overwhelming amount of community members advocating to vote no for the technology in City Council meeting but to the implications of how surveillance affects black and brown communities. While also recognizing Adam Toledo, who was fatally shot by police officers that responded to a ShotSpotter alert. To read more on Adam Toledo check out here. (tw video/mentions: death/murder, racism, police brutality)
Further reads on the Toledo case: 

Call To Action:

Shotspotter "Neighbors Against Spying" Campaign - We want to thank everyone who signed up to speak at public comments on the City Council meeting on Jan. 5th to vote NO on ShotSpotter, we applaud your passion and urgency in creating better public safety for everyone

To discuss what's next after the City Council vote, join DSA's Neighbors Against Spying campaign. DSA's monthly Abolition WG meeting is specifically set aside for the Neighbors Against Spying campaign on the third Thursday of every month; the next meeting is on January 20 at 7 PM. You can register here for the Zoom link.


 

Campaign to Stop the La Salle Transfers & Depopulate Harris County Jail -  Phenomenal job to all the speakers on Jan 4th County Commissioner Court meeting! Our next meeting will be at the same time next week, 1/13 at 4pm. (Please email liberatehtx@protonmail.com to get connected to the lead organizer)

Check out the Digital Media Tool Kit on upcoming actions to sign onto, register to speak - with talking points, social media content, and send letters to your local representatives to cancel the La Salle contract to outsource pretrial jail defendants to Louisiana and address the overpopulation crisis in Harris County jails by Kim Ogg DA. 

On Jan. 4th Harris County Commissioner Court Meeting of public speakers from community members, client advocates, physicians, and family members of incarcerated folks speaking for a cancellation on the contract to transport approximately 500 people incarcerated in Harris County jail to LaSalle Corrections facilities in Louisiana. La Salle is a notoriously abusive and deadly private prison company where advocates demand a decarceral, dignified, and safety approach instead that addresses the overpopulation crisis in Harris County Jails.
 

Plug In to Our Local Partnerships:

Tune into current local organizing below! Be sure to check out Texas Mutual Aid Directory under Houston to find more.
  1. Houston Coalition for Equitable Development without Displacement (HCEDD)
  2. DSA Neighbors Against Spying
  3. HarmReduxHTX
  4. HTX Community Fridge
  5. Houseless Organizing Coalition 
  6. Texas Jail Project
  7. Stop Texas Department of Transportation i-45 (Stop TXDOTi45)
  8. West Street Recovery
  9. Air Alliance Houston
  10. Medicare for All Resolution by Harris County Health Justice Group

Local Art Spotlight:

The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (free until Feb 6)

The Dirty South makes visible the roots of Southern hip hop culture and reveals how the aesthetic traditions of the African American South have shaped visual art and musical expression over the last 100 years. To learn more visit CAHM's event website.

Book Features:

Join James Kilgore and Ruth Wilson Gilmore for an urgent discussion of punitive carceral technologies and Kilgore's new book. January 18, 2022, 12:30pm - 2pm CT sign up for this event here.
As the new year begins here is a book to start off to continue learning about abolition organizing. We highly encourage to visit Kindred Stories, as they are a black owned bookstore committed to amplifying Black voices and bringing diverse stories from throughout the African diaspora to our local community in Houston, TX. Located in the Third Ward neighborhood, they have books showing up each day and curated creations by Black artisans for you to discover. Their openings are Wed-Sat, 11AM - 6PM. We hope you can support their business and check out an abolition read of Mariame Kaba's latest release: "We Do This 'Til We Free Us". By purchasing here. 
Photo by Quia Brown
Signing Off

Thank you for reading this issue of the Houston Abolition Collective newsletter! Let's create a world with community care without prisons, policing, and surveillance.

In solidarity,

Houston Abolition Collective
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December 2021 Newsletter

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