Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/12/18

Weather: Warm, bright, stiff breeze

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 3 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3

Pictures taken with permission: 2

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 2

Dogs seen: 3

Dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.03

 

Observations:

I didn’t get permission to post any conversations today, which is rare. Some things that happened: I ended up in a surprise couples counseling session, to which I was completely inadequate, and two very sweet excited women on their way to the movies stopped and took cards. “There should be more of you,” one of them said. “Are you the only one?”

Nonhuman animals: pigeons, one limping, one pinto, two having sex; sparrows, one juvenile that landed very close to me. Ladybug on park fence.

Facing east this day. No food trucks upon my arrival; one came at 11:30.

Security guy (not a park ranger) wandering about the park 11:10-ish.

There are far fewer altercations this season—much less yelling and no physical fights that I’ve seen at all. I don’t know if that’s partly the time of day (earlier, 11-2 instead of 3-6) as well as the increased policing.

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Climate Anxiety Counseling: Kennedy Plaza/Burnside Park, 6/21/17

Weather: Muggy, breezy, clouds and sun, humidity lifting as it got sunnier

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 5 walkbys

Pages of notes: 6.5

People who recognized the Peanuts reference: 2

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous years: 4

Number of dogs seen: 4

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.80

 

Observations:

While I had a few conversations today, for a few different reasons I only ended up getting permission to post one, which is below.

I responded very disproportionately to someone today. I’ll reflect on it at greater length later, but what I’m taking from it at the moment is that the more responses I have prepared, the less likely I am to be a reactive dickhead whose mental habits lead me to use my power badly.

Beginning of shift, cop car parked at the Dorrance St. end of Kennedy Plaza. 3:03, bike cop ran through the park carrying a sandwich. 3:17, three cops in uniform walked through the park. 4:34, cop SUV drove down Washington St.

I saw 20+ skateboards today, some people riding them, some people carrying them.

Speaking of overcoming mental habits: C., if you’re reading this, I think my suggestions to you were okay and I stand by them, but I forgot another thing you could do and that we can all do: start learning about efforts and methods to abolish the police.

 

A conversation:

Probably I have five years to live. And I know my life doesn’t mean that much in the span of the Earth’s existence, but I just feel bad for all the families who are having children now. I totally get it, but it’s kind of selfish to have kids. I really wanna travel, but I don’t have enough money, because I live in this capitalist society where I have to make money to sustain a dying life. … Even if I started living eco-friendly in my regular life, it wouldn’t matter because the permafrost is just gonna come and kill everyone. I’ve grown so nihilistic. Human beings are just a cancer on the Earth. I just want to smoke as many cigarettes as possible and then die slowly and horribly, I’m sure Mother Earth will really enjoy that. I just put it really dramatically because … I coud be like, Oh, we’re all gonna do just fine, but no one’s gonna do just fine. I picked five [years] because I don’t know a ton of scientific evidence so I picked a low expectational number. I set my bar low so I can try to force myself to do the things I want.

… The way I was raised was super hedonistic, just monstrously gaining things. I live with my parents, and when I’m just living in my home it’s like, Enjoy this polished exterior that life has to offer—I’m really privileged but I live with people who [couldn’t] give less of a shit about the Earth. … But I’m not gonna run into my parents’ living room screaming, “We all have to kill ourselves. Hey, mom, wanna go out and get some cigarettes and smoke until we die?”

I love my family, they’re great, I wanna protect them. …Imagine trying to love someone to your fullest ability in the shortest amount of time. You can do it by communicating, expressing your love, and you can even do it by silence, but the people I’m dealing with don’t know silence. I just don’t want to have to do it. I don’t want to have to do it all now. I can do it, but I realize how much love I was gonna have to give when I was older—and I hate it that I’m not gonna get to do that—

Alternate History: A Just Transition

This alternate history, whose task is to show our current choices as contingent rather than natural and to imagine a world that works better for more people, owes a great debt to the ongoing work and words of Mariame Kaba.

7/8/16

That day we recognized that police officers were like coal miners or offshore riggers, maintainers of imbalance, people distorted and damaged by the work some of us were asking them to do, and that they were in need of a just transition away from dirty, dangerous, dehumanizing work. They needed true and possible paths that would allow them to recognize themselves and others without damage.

We did all the usual things, to start. We made cordons with our bodies around entire neighborhoods, three and four people deep. Similar cordons formed around the Public Safety Complex, around the parking garage, around at least some cops’ houses. The moments when one threw their gun or taser on the ground, out of reach, and came to stand beside us were precious to us; this didn’t happen very often. More often, we said to armed men and a few armed women: this line can open to you. There’s a place for you beyond this line. But you can’t force it open. You have to tell us what you’re going to do. And it can’t be anything like what you did before. We said: you can’t stay on that side of the line alone, forever.

They didn’t hit us, didn’t shoot or gas us. They knew, we think now–and some of them have even said, since then–that the time for that was over. That was the beginning of their part in the change, but not the end.

It’s a struggle every moment to unschool yourself as a bully, but it was part of their reparations to the rest of us: when they asked us what we wanted, what would satisfy us, after the days of blocking their paths everywhere they went, we said that we couldn’t undo the past but that we needed to undo a future of violence, starting now. We said, you have to be the ones to do it; our job will be to make a place for you as you get better at it.

A person who doesn’t know that they are desperate is dangerous, and a person who doesn’t know that what they’re doing is a decision is equally dangerous. We stood in front of them. We said, we’re desperate; this is what desperation looks like. We said, this is our choice; this is what a choice looks like. Do you want to see who you could be on the other side of the line? What you could have? What you could leave behind?

People who weren’t cops stopped calling the cops. More and more cops quit. Like everyone now, they were guaranteed a living whether they worked or not, but they told the rest of us that that wouldn’t be enough. They needed something else to attach their ideas of themselves to, like the mussels that cling to the rocks; they needed to do work, and they needed to learn how to feel fear without doing harm. Well, so did we.

The world we were making was full of necessary daily work, both grim and joyful; the need for extreme heroics, sea rescues, fire control, resuscitations and transfusions; plenty of dead bodies to tend, despite everything we could do. There was a lot of that kind of work for them, in addition to the slow, grinding, stammering labor of breaking survival away from entitlement, identity away from blame. Most of them were very bad at this at first, no matter how willing they were: it always had to be someone else’s fault. But there was no one else’s fault for it to be.

The men’s houses were helpful for some of the ones who were men. (Free access to hormones, and confidence of their welcome as women–though not necessarily as former cops–in all places, was helpful for some of the ones who were in fact women.) The anger shrines on street corners, with their punching surfaces and screaming chambers, saw a lot of use, too. Some of the ex-cops spent time tending horses, as veterans also did, forming a new understanding of risk, fragility, care and trust. We were using horses more for certain tasks by then, even in the city–hauling things that weren’t in a hurry to get there, supplying manure for our farms–and occasionally for fast city-to-city transportation, since the solar shuttles were still in prototype.

More people were living more of their lives in public, too, by this point–houses were fuller, streets and waterways more active, privacy more a matter of courtesy than of soundproof walls and locked doors. It was harder to hide cruelty, and there was less to steal. The night watch made it harder for people who wished to stab and twist and violate to do so under cover of darkness. We used Build the Block and Creative Interventions as models for emergency response. We mostly didn’t allow the ex-cops to do these things with the rest of us: it was too close to the wound of what they had been for us to be safe with them, and sometimes, in spite of all that work, they were the people we needed to stop.

We sunk the guns in the last of the concrete–it was the easiest, most permanent thing to do with them.

 

A Good Time to Support the Providence Community Safety Act

Today is an excellent day to write to your city council urging community oversight of police conduct, and to research and support any initiatives in your city whose goal is to reduce police violence.

In Providence, we have such an initiative: the Providence Community Safety Act. Below the asterisk is the letter I wrote to my councilperson today urging him to support it; please feel free to borrow this text and adapt it as needed to write to yours.

If you aren’t in Providence, but are in the U.S., you can still use this letter to support a local initiative or act; if your city doesn’t have one, consider urging your councilperson to sponsor one.

For Providence residents, here is a list of councilpeople by ward, with email addresses; here is a map of the wards, so if you don’t know yours you can look for your street. This is a way to let your city government know that black lives matter to you, their constituent, who votes them in or out of office.

*

Dear [Councilmember]:

This week, two police officers in Baton Rouge, LA and Minneapolis, MN shot and killed two black men who had committed no crime. This is an important moment to insist on accountability and oversight for police in American cities: without it, Providence could be the next city in the news for police violence.

As a resident of your ward, I urge you once again to support community oversight of the Providence Police Department via the Providence Community Safety Act. Police officers doing their job fairly and responsibly will not be constrained by it, and it has the potential to prevent the pointless, tragic, wrongful injury and death of Providence residents–including your constituents–such as we have seen in other cities.

Please do your best for our community by supporting the Providence Community Safety Act.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address]

 

The Providence Community Safety Act

Providence community groups and leaders have drawn up a plan for an alternate history for the police and the public, and if you live in Providence, you can encourage your councilperson to support it.

Read about the Providence Community Safety Act (Spanish at the top, scroll down for English).

If you live in Providence, please write to your city council member and ask them to support and pass the Providence Community Safety Act. If you don’t know who they are, there’s a list by ward here, including email addresses to use.

The “Who’s my councilperson?” button doesn’t seem to be working, but you can zoom in and look for your street on this map to find your ward.

I wrote to my councilperson yesterday and if you would like to use the letter I wrote as a template, please write to me at my gmail address, publiclycomplex.