October 27, 2020; 23-ABC (Bakersfield, CA)
In the last few weeks, NPQ has covered a number of instances in which nonprofit groups have been threatened with withdrawal of crucial support for their communities as a result of voicing public support of the Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police movements. In the first case, we covered the Wisconsin domestic violence program to which local police refuse to refer clients anymore—a disgusting abrogation of duty—and in doing so, we discovered other domestic violence organizations had been met with similar reactions. In the story that followed, a community group from California had an expected COVID prevention grant withdrawn for similar reasons.
These cases never end at the moment when the nonprofit is strongarmed. These nonprofits, along with their colleague organizations, have to choose their responses. Below, we bring you a statement made by a group called People’s Budget Bako.
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Last week the Kern County Board of Supervisors made a prejudiced decision that impacted the county’s most at-risk population by denying over a million dollars of state funding simply because they do not agree with the way we choose to fight for freedom and equity. Without knowing much about our work or why we seek to defund the police, they labeled us as having a radical political agenda, and in doing so criminalized our organizers and the groups who support us. They conveniently left out that our movement to defund the police was birthed from and cultivated in a history of white supremacy and systemic racism within Kern County and abroad. They forgot to mention that we had several listening sessions with the community and have created a communal city budget that invests money and resources back into traditionally marginalized communities. Our plan was and will always be to divest from the Police so that we can take that money and invest in our communities. We want peace just like anyone else, but for us, that peace comes free of murder and systemic racism.
By labeling us radical and political, the Kern County Board of Supervisors joins the legacy of white supremacists (and the people of color who support them) that use fearmongering to discredit the work of Black and Brown organizers while erasing our very existence. Building Healthy Communities (BHC) South Kern took the heat but the truth is the campaign to Defund The Police here in Kern County was created and executed by our group: The People’s Budget Bako. By using BHC South Kern as a scapegoat, The Board of Supervisors seeks to turn our groups against each other, which is another tool of white supremacy. All the BHC is guilty of is caring about the safety of our community. The same members of our community who the BOS ignores year after year. To claim that “The good people of Bakersfield oppose defunding the police” is to reduce our community a monolith and to erase a significant portion of the Bakersfield and Kern County community, who, contrary to popular belief, actually feel LESS safe in the presence of Police. It also serves as an apt reminder that the Kern BOS are not actually working towards the improvement and safety for all of us who reside within Kern’s boundaries, just those that think and look like them.
As for the domestic violence shelter referenced above, not only have its partner police departments refused to work with it, but it had also had a $25,000 grant withdrawn. Subsequently, other donors chipped in with $97,000, but the money cannot make the shelter whole. Police organizations should sanction one another for this kind of bullying behavior, and we urge that they do so now.—Ruth McCambridge