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State-Sanctioned Violence in the City of Good Neighbors

The Hawthorne Abolition Alliance asks, wouldn’t it be nice if we weren’t persecuted in our own city?

Photo: Instagram via @jasoncharleslucero

What is perhaps most insidious about state-sanctioned violence is its ability to slither around, causing irreversible trauma, while remaining virtually unnoticed. As 2020 has so unapologetically shown us, this violence can manifest itself in a myriad of ways: a Black Woman murdered in her sleep, over 200,000 avoidable Covid-related deaths, and the forced sterilization of migrant women under state custody. In Hawthorne, much like any other relatively small city, while this violence is lethal, it’s very subtle; in fact, if you blink, you might just miss it.

Everyday in our city, our Black and Brown neighbors are subjected to hyper-surveillance and harassment by Hawthorne police officers. From multiple police cars and unmarked helicopters monitoring community events, to having seven officers drawing their weapons at innocent people for “loosely matching a description,” there is no shortage of these interactions in our community. Many of us have internalized these incidents to the point of normalcy — but this doesn’t mean we can absolve their impact on our lives, no matter how hard we will it.

A couple of months ago, one of our comrades spoke at an event recalling his most traumatic interaction with the police. In his story there were no shots fired, no physical violence — just an officer asserting her power over a young Black boy by vehemently interrogating him. And yet, when this boy-turned-man shared his story with us, he could barely get the words out without breaking down and reliving the trauma of that moment.

Incidents like this happen every day in our city, and we’re forced to just push through it: no uproar, no protests, no justice. This violence takes many shapes and is consistently being reinforced by the culture of policing, which was created to protect the property and interests of the ruling class. We see this violence through low income families being forced to leave Hawthorne due to the constantly increasing rent, for which there are no regulations.

The violence is in allowing gentrifying developers to create cramped and unsafe apartment buildings, forcing 70% of the 90,000 Hawthorne residents to rent instead of having the opportunity to own a home. And the violence is in allocating less than 6% of the city budget towards parks and community programs, while allowing the police department to secure well over 50% of that same budget. What we want folks to understand is that even though this violence doesn’t appear to be as blatant as a shooting or beating, it is still violence, and it must be treated as such.

Photo: Instagram via @jasoncharleslucero

We started the Hawthorne Abolition Alliance (HAA) as a necessary first step towards combating the violence produced by the state. In the six months since our inception, we’ve talked to city council members and urged them to dramatically reduce the police budget- even compiling a list of demands that would make our communities safer. We also surveyed Hawthorne city officials running for office and created a comprehensive voter guide so that the residents in our city could see firsthand who is causing and allowing all of this harm to go unquestioned. As the Hawthorne Abolition Alliance, we owe our birth to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the incredible work community members and organizations have been doing in Hawthorne and all around the South Bay.

We understand that without the mutual aid work provided by South Bay Community Care, and the engagement and mobilization provided by Gud Neighbors and Ear to the Streets LA, we would not be able to actualize change in our city.

Hawthorne has a legacy of racism that still permeates to this day. From being a sundown town in the ‘50s, to serving as a border town between the white and Black communities during the 1992 Rodney King Uprisings, Hawthorne’s racism has not magically disappeared, but rather taken on new and more devious forms. We didn’t start the movement in Hawthorne, but we are working hard to continue the fight of the activists that came before us, and abolish the systems of control that we believe can no longer be reformed.

In 1966, a group of white men born and raised in the city Hawthorne sang, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” in one of their most popular songs to date. Today, in 2020, a diverse group of Black and Brown young folks that hail from Hawthorne raise the same question: wouldn’t it be nice, if we weren’t constantly being persecuted by our own city. If they spent more money on our humanity and less on our criminalization.

Wouldn’t it be nice, if we mobilized and built an autonomous collective independent from the state, with resources and genuine care for one another. Wouldn’t it be nice if we imagined a new Hawthorne, and gave actual meaning to the nickname created all these years ago: “city of good neighbors.”

Oh, wouldn’t it be nice.

If you’re interested in joining the movement in Hawthorne or supporting our efforts financially, please contact us by emailing email hidden; JavaScript is required.

All of our current projects, resources, and actions can be found on our Linktree at https://linktr.ee/HawthorneAbolitionAlliance