can you give us a quick rundown on what the article the flawed social science behind Extinction rebellions change strategy Eine fees Ahmed speaks about just to contextualize it a wee bit I guess so I wasn’t just going to speak about this article I think I was just gonna speak about frustration I was having overseeing certain tactics and certain ways of speaking in relation to Criminal Justice System still being used particularly in the climate movement for me the two like clearest examples of that were Mass arrests as a primary strategy particularly in relation to a goal that isn’t necessarily like strongly connected to the criminal justice system and the second example of that which happens all the time is people trying to distinguish between what they’re doing and real crime gretelberg Twitter the other day of climate activism isn’t a crime or something like that like protesting for the climate isn’t a crime and you see it a lot with campaign groups that are trying to support migrants so often distinguish between like migrants or refugees and criminals and be like migrants aren’t criminals and activism it isn’t a crime which I think is really counterpartum active because actually activism is a crime and migrants are criminals and that tells you quite a lot about the criminal justice system and how you should be relating to it I find it really interesting to say that because there’s a book what about the rapist and I love this book because like rephrasing what we mean and how we speak about Crime and Punishment because there’s a very big distinction between what you’re describing there the reality of the Criminal Justice System versus what we’re trying to address which is an abusive power which is probably the most accurate language to use with regards to how we might view certain transgressions or quote-unquote crimes within our own spaces it’s a really really helpful way of rephrasing it and thinking about transformative Justice or even retributive Justice if people want to start rethinking how we go about you know abuses of power as it phrases it here then I think that’s a really interesting introduction yeah that’s really relevant to where I’m coming from as well the point of view that I’m coming from is from a sort of abolitionist perspective on the criminal justice system and I don’t think that every single social movement needs to be abolitionist in its identity but I think that it’s a really useful perspective to get a realistic analysis of the criminal justice system and so from an abolitionist perspective you distinguish between crime and harm and then once you do that you can see that lots of things that are harmful are actually not criminalized and lots of things that are criminalized are not harmful and then once you’ve sort of taken that on board it’s hard to come out and say oh protesting isn’t a crime we shouldn’t be treated like criminals because it’s so much more complicated and once you’ve understood the protesting a crime and there’s reasons for that and the certain forms of resistance do actually make you a criminal leads you to a place of solidarity with the rest of the people who are criminalized can I ask you before we dig deep into the article a bit more because I’m kind of new to this subject can you tell us in your words what is an abolitionist and also something that you said earlier that is sticking with me is accepting that being a climate Defender is a crime and if you accept that that gives us a framework and tells us something about the criminal justice system what does it tell us so what is an abolitionist so the Abolitionist perspective on criminal justice is pretty Broad and there’s lots of different abolitionist Traditions you might find a lot of different perspectives that come under the banner of sort of abolitionists but essentially its analysis of the criminal justice system and organizing in relation to Justice or harm or punishment or policing or prisons that takes the view that these systems What’s called the criminal legal system so that’s encompassing prisons police and the court system actually can’t be reformed and need to be completely abolished generally the abolitionist perspective comes from a historical analysis of those systems and looks at what point in time the current criminal justice system that we know today developed where it developed from what the aims of that system were and how that impacts how it operates today so sort of summary of what that would mean is that if you look at the history of the criminal justice system and I won’t go into all the details you can see very much that it was never designed to keep us safe and prevent harm it was never designed to create a more peaceful harmonious Society but it was primarily designed for was to keep violent Colonial systems in place keep slavery in place and then once slavery was abolished maintain the social relations that slavery had originally put in place and it was designed to protect property and protect buses from workers rising up and other kinds of social uprisings that came along with the violent implementation of capitalism the abolition perspective would be that like that’s basically still the role that the criminal justice system plays and the reason that it’s so hard to reform into do this thing that keeps us all safe and prevents harm in society is because it was never ever meant to do that so why would we be trying to reform that we should be abolishing that and finding new ways to prevent harm and there’s many many different ways of preventing harm that would be way too long to go into that’s kind of a little posted explanation of an abolitionist perspective back to the article but also XR it’s not just XRS like just stop oil and in slate Britain there are quite a few kind of climate activist groups what is their take on the criminal justice system what do they think they can do XR into Lake Britain just up oil when I’m saying these groups I know these groups are big and decentralized and there’s lots of perspectives on the criminal justice system within those groups so I’m mainly talking about the sort of central organizing the leadership I’m primarily talking about Roger Alum and his crew of people because I know there’s been so many discussions within the movement I don’t want to Tire everyone with the same brush because a lot of what I’m talking about is discussions that kind of happened back in like 2019 and 2020 and I know there’s been people people working on it since essentially the sort of Roger Hallam Playbook seems to be that if you can get enough people involved in Civil Disobedience that gets them arrested it presents such a sort of logistical challenge to the system that the state will respond with more and more authoritarian responses and this will lead to the state sort of losing legitimacy in the eyes of the public and will lead to the movement gaining more and more support the hope is that members of the police force If you’re sort of nice enough to them within this will like cross over into your movement and stop defending the state and then things change and I’ve never seen or heard an explanation of like the in-between bit of that like the how things change it’s just sort of like if we can get enough people involved in this and enough people arrested enough people going to prison the percentage she gives us 3.5 of the population which is based on some research that’s very thoroughly critiqued in the article that I’m talking about it doesn’t acknowledge how extreme the criminal justice system myths now like there’s 82 000 people in prison in England and Wales alone right now the death rate in prison is close to like one person a day someone attempts suicide every three hours and that doesn’t cause there to be change so in the 90s and the in the 2000s there’s a massive increase in the prison population and it doesn’t just lead to systemic change the public have quite a high tolerance for extremely authoritarian criminal justice measures because those are mainly supported by the media and strongly by the two parties you know like even when we had corbyn as leader of the labor party we still didn’t have a progressive policy or approach to policing policing and the prison system and criminal justice was still used as a way to boost political popularity is still used as a way to distract when there was some sort of like political crisis for the labor party Kirsten is obviously ramping that up so yeah this idea that people going to prison causes some sort of crisis of legitimacy for the state I feel like anyone who had done any serious analysis of the criminal justice system like couldn’t possibly come to that conclusion so this is why movement’s an accurate analysis of the criminal justice system to succeed that also leads me to another question of what would you perhaps deem a more accurate analysis of the Criminal Justice System I think for me the problem comes when movements approach the criminal justice system simply in relation to protest and simply in relation to the way that protests or activists organizers or even trade unionists are treated rather than sort of looking at the whole thing and how it impacts on working-class people and people of color and migrants when you’re coming from that starting point of like thinking of the criminal justice system as a sort of inherently legitimate in the activities that it currently does the idea that police should be like out on the streets like catching criminals and doing their job and keeping us safe and prisons should be used for the real criminals like we need the spaces to lock those people out and then when it comes to movements then people are outraged that those tactics are being used on them and not being used on quote on quite the real criminals people in movements or organizing groups like come from that perspective active to start with and that creates a lot of problems in understanding how the criminal justice system works and understanding like the extent of the ruthlessness of this system a lot of activists like come into contact with the police for the first time and will be like totally shocked by the extent of the violence like the extent of how much being involved with the criminal justice system totally drains your resources your mental health the people around you and that’s because they haven’t sort of taken the time to be like oh what is this system like what does it actually do and often that’s because they don’t know anyone he’s like had any experience for the police like they don’t come from the sort of neighborhoods that are like basically occupied by the police they haven’t experienced that kind of harassment they don’t know anyone who’s been to prison like they haven’t had the experience of supporting a relative through the prison system and one of the really important points actually that these Ahmed makes in this article is that groups like Extinction Rebellion just stuff oil Sasha and I saw this in a sort of panel talk with just stuff oil last year at an event is they often will reference like the U.S Civil Rights movement as if they’re doing the same work they were like we’re following in their footsteps this is the the tradition that we’re organizing in the feed Ahmed makes this really important distinction of the fact that the U.S Civil Rights and even when people were being arrested it made sense because it was connected to the oppression like these were the people who were being harassed and arrested every single day that violence wasn’t new to them that was already happening to them and what they did was develop a collective strategy to resist it and to make it problematic for the people who were doing it so they were like oh you’re going to arrest us you’re going to meet this violence out on us we’re going to make this as disruptive as it possibly can be to you and we’re gonna make it look really bad for you so I’m actually going to quote a bit of the article if he’s Ahmed says these movements were designed to disrupt an existing highly visible regime of repressive violence which was actively engaged in violence against the subject communities at the heart of the movement and which already therefore lacked legitimacy in the hearts and minds of those communities both so they’re talking here about the U.S rights movement and about resistance to colonialism in India both were cases of resistance by people of color against systems of white supremacism in both cases disruption actions aimed at directly increasing the cost of repressive violence that those communities were resisting it’s such a different context and that’s why I would say that although Extinction Rebellion is seen as sort of antagonistic by the criminal justice system and is seen as confronting that system I actually don’t think it does I think the way those mass arrest strategies are designed legitimizes the system itself because it’s people who would never normally come into contact with the criminal justice system and because they sort of have this idea of say police and and the policing system is benevolent they can engage with it in this very like specific isolated way where it doesn’t actually show you anything about the criminal justice system and it almost like reinforces what is seen as a legitimate role of a criminal justice system you know the media effect for people who are on the side of XR is just watching that and saying oh these people are not criminals these are white middle class people why is why the police wasting their time arresting those it’s a totally different situation to say the protests after Mark Duggan was killed by the police that’s a totally different situation that is highlighting the violence of those communities experience every day and that’s those communities then standing up resisting that violence and critiquing it do you think there is still a necessity for climate activists or climate defenders in our current climate to still use some kind of arrest strategy in their work or just at least understand that part of protest is going to be a risk yeah I think that second one there’s always going to be arrest there’s always going to be police confrontation like the more effective you are the more you’re going to have to deal with the criminal justice system and the more the the dealing with the criminal justice system is not going to be coming from your end so I as you as you’ll see like XR they did that matching where they literally went and had themselves into police stations and then it moved into what everyone who’s done activism has experience like police spying harassment where the tools of this day are being used against you rather than you inviting it as some sort of strategy any movement anyone who’s involved in creating change needs to accept that if you’re going to be effective in creating that change at some point you are going to come into conflict with a criminal justice system and that’s going to be difficult and violent and it’s going to involve a lot of care and it’s going to drain a lot of resources it’s not that I think like no one should ever be arrested I can think of so many examples of actions where people have been arrested and that’s been either inevitable or useful in some way but is it useful for it to be antagonistic that I’m old enough to be able to say I was at the poll text demonstration where all the [ __ ] kicked off like I mean I I know what that feels like but do you think it is important that our protest movements are antagonistic more than just accept that this is going to happen I feel like I would need to do a whole lot more research into different movements and their impact to like fully answer that my instinct is that the antagonism is going to come from the criminal justice system eventually so it’s not necessarily A harm in starting from a point of antagonism but you know if you take for example like the black lives matter protests in Bristol in 2020 where the Colston statue was torn down like those protests are pretty antagonistic towards policing because they had a pretty clear analysis of the criminal justice system and I’m sure you could like debate a lot about whether that’s been impactful on achieving certain demands or campaign goals but you don’t want to be in a position where you’re at a protest and all this beautiful confidence and energy and assortment of power against the police and taking up space is occurring and you’re kind of getting in the way and being like no no no like don’t be antagonistic it’s not going to achieve our campaign goals I don’t know if I could like fully answer that but I think my criticism of XR is or you know just a boil or into labor and it’s not that they’re like overly antenna or confrontational with the police it’s that when you engage in that kind of Confrontation and your analysis of the police is that essentially they’re like fine but they shouldn’t be doing that to you or they’re just some sort of like semi-relevant tools to a broader campaign goal then it’s unlikely to be effective yeah I think that the difference between Colston statue being brought down and an XR disruption is quite important and distinctive because I don’t know if I think XR or that’s sitting down on a road is necessarily antagonistic I mean it’s annoying and disruptive but it’s not kind of antagonistic to the state from the outside in the same way dismantling something which is a representation of colonial power is directly antagonistic my experience so far being around not going to an exile protest but like being at them has been that actually they talk to the police quite a lot they’re not that confrontational with the police they actually have quite a good relationship with them and that I find more scary than if they were confrontational this is a really interesting point because this never sat well with me and it’d be good to hear I guess more on this the way we actually interact with police right and the way we do quote unquote legal protests it was a weird relationship with it because I was going into a space where there was already an established Dynamic where it’s like oh yeah this is our contact we’re going to let them know where the March is going to go and then the one time that people got kettled was because they went on a second March it was very like impromptu basically they never sat right with me that like there was some kind of contact it was essentially okay by the cops like that never sat right with me but also the argument that was presented to me at the time was well we’ve got kids here we’ve got families here we’ve got school children here like trying to be safe but I’m like actually if anything the people that are keeping this safe are the stewards what are the cops there for with regards to safety like what role do they actually have practically to make this like a safer protest supposedly is it that or are you just trying to not have beef with cops right now is there value in just having quote-unquote peace relationship I mean like it’s it’s an interesting one and like I said like it never felt okay I mean it depends on the context you’re in right like I’ve been part of protests where it’s been sensible to give the police notice at a time because the aim your protest is getting a certain number of people into a space and uh doing a press release and like taking some pictures and that’s where your impact is coming from I generally am against communicating with the police and that was one of the big problems with XR and again this is one of the things that it sounds like has been taken on board in different areas of that movement and worked on but certainly in the beginning in the first couple of years they would communicate like we have all sorts of information to the police they’d like share their plans ahead of time and the level of information they were sharing was putting everyone involved with that movement at risk so yeah generally I would say that it’s more safe to not be communicating with the police particularly if the point of your mobilizations is to draw people into something that’s exciting and that’s energetic and that’s visualizing some of the change that you want to see those big sort of mobilizations in London where they’re part of a longer term strategy but it’s sort of moment of energy and it’s a moment of visibility and it’s making your movement attractive to people and attractive to who right there are like local anti-racism groups where I live in rural England that are very white LED and very middle class and have very good inverted commas and relationships with the police to the point of their lead campaign wanting to be making the first anti-racist police force yeah I mean that might attract more white middle-class folk but it’s not the rest of us are keeping well away who are the people you want who is that three percent who are you going to move it’s even worth it yeah I mean like they’re not at the Forefront of this crisis yeah but that’s really good question is it worth it because like what could it potentially do is there the opportunity to radicalize someone from a privileged background when they meet a protest and state violence and prison do you think they’re going to have more empathy with the rest of us who die in prison I mean I am someone who came to an abolitionist perspective really being involved in the climate movement coming into contact with the police and being like Oh my God this is awful I wonder what it’s like for people you have to deal with this every day so yeah that’s certainly potential for expanding people’s Horizons and I’m sure that everyone who’s ever been involved in left-wing activism has had to broaden their understanding of how the criminal justice system works and has been on a learning process I think was particularly frustrating about Extinction rebellion and into late Britain and just stop oil is that this learning has actually been done already and rather than listening to all the people who’ve been through this before and I’m trying to say like oh hey the strategy of mine will work very well or you know here’s some learning about the criminal justice system that we’ve learned from our movements or our life experience they’re just sort of lonely pushing ahead with it in the name of this crisis is so urgent we just have to do something something that you said earlier about having that arrest strategy that leads to the state becoming more and more authoritarian this is Roger Helen’s kind of take on things and that eventually that leads to more people being mobilized against the state because they’re becoming more and more authoritarian and one of the things that you said was what happens in between that and the change that’s going to happen that seems a little bit blurry another question in that is at what cost because while this is happening the impact of more and more authoritarian policing and state intervention isn’t felt on the people who have created this strategy anybody having a kind of mobilizing strategy that relies on the most oppressed being brutalized more is quite problematic they’re able to pick and choose when they get arrested but people don’t have that choice and so Wednesday does become and is becoming more authoritarian of course it’s going to invite our communities it’s kind of linking to an extent to like accelerationism and this idea that we’ll have more people on board if we have an even more Authority and even more violent even more oppressive State just doesn’t make sense because at the heart of it you’re hiring people and for what to like appeal to your white middle class demographics yeah I mean so it’s like do we want them and if we want them where users approach and endanger communities that are under siege there’s also within this thing if we’re gonna reveal the authoritarianism of the state is also the implication that somehow piano people are arrested it’s going to like totally overwhelm the system and it’s going to make it unmanageable it’s going to make this huge problem for the state which I just think again if you know anything about the criminal justice system it is so incredibly naive there are so many people in prison when the pandemic happened when the pandemic hit everyone in prison got put in solitary confinement for like a solid year and the prison population has been increasing and increasing and increasing for decades this huge underestimation of the willingness of people in power the willingness of the government to be just funneling money into the criminal justice system and how like politically beneficial that is for them is so naive it just frustrates me so much I just feel like if you did the minimal amount of research into this this idea that we’re going to overwhelm the system with 4 000 activists getting arrested it’s so absurd and that all this huge expansion of the prism system the level of violence and Devastation that the prison system meets out on the people who are in it or come into contact with it it’s so huge it’s so devastating the kinds of stories that you hear from people who’ve run in the present system I just don’t think that people who come up with these strategies of like oh we’re just going to get all those people arrested and overwhelm the system have any idea that our society is actually based on this level of violence and that’s what you’re confronted with and like they don’t care if they’re going to lock up 4 000 people no one cares about that like it’s easy to do imagine other tactics that you can pursue imagine the change that you could actually create with that level of support instead of like again like essentially wasting time energy and traumatizing people this is not like a practical thing to do either and it’s not worth it that 4 000 people who are also quite traumatized from going to prison are 4 000 people who won’t necessarily come back into the movement we’re losing our activist space which is a really big problem in the climate Movement we come don’t keep up with people dropping out with burnout and Trauma there are no yoga mats in prison no matter what they say exactly and that’s why you have to mention the impact on the people around you like how hard it is to have someone taken from your family and locked up for however long even just logistically like how much it’s gonna cost you to go and visit them your time off work your travel fees most people are locked up sometimes hundreds of miles away from where they live who’s going to be looking after the kids it’s almost always women who are left with the burden when people are locked up it’s always like the mum or the grandma that’s left with the kids the emotional labor that goes into that and then who that takes out of the movement yeah we certainly shouldn’t be underestimating the brutality and horrifying reality of the state thank you so much for listening this has been campfire stories brought to you by Breathe check out our socials where you can hear directly from our community organizers who are doing the work don’t forget to like share and subscribe to our Channel and keep up to date with our future episodes

Crime and Punishment

Episode 8 | Crime and Punishment Welcome to this episode where we’re discussing crime, arrest, abolitionist theory and its relation to the criminal justice system. Our discussion was sparked by this thought-provoking article: . We highly recommend giving it a read! Throughout the conversation, we return to the matter of arrest and criminalisation of marginalised communities, particularly relating to how certain strategies perpetuate cycles of violence and harm rather than challenge power. Together, we explore the history and meaning of abolitionism and the importance of a comprehensive analysis of the criminal justice system. This is just the beginning of a series of conversations on crime and punishment, so be sure to join us and share your thoughts.