Across the United States, our news channels are plagued with stories of gun violence, and recent killings have opened up another tense debate around racial tensions, police officers and the use of force. Communities in the U.S. need support to tackle these challenges now more than ever, and we should take a moment to evaluate what is going on in our own backyards and work together to find solutions.
Urging support for peacebuilding in communities at home as well as abroad is one way to prevent future violence. Local organisations play a vital role in addressing these issues, and offer practical ways forward for us all.
Just recently, three police officers were killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after responding to a call regarding a gunman carrying an assault rifle in what was thought to be an ambush. Two men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot and killed during altercations with police officers in both Baton Rouge and Minnesota. In Dallas, Texas, five police officers were killed by a sniper. Stories like these happen every day, whether they are in the public eye or not. While these are only the most recent, racial tensions have been escalating across the U.S. over the past year.
Without peaceful intervention, the long term effects could be rifts within society, the loss of security from both sides, distrust, and more innocent lives lost. Rather than retaliate with more bloodshed, national and local organisations around the country are working hard to come up with peaceful solutions through open dialogue, training, community support, legislative efforts, and more.
One such organisation that is working to combat this problem is the Retaliatory Violence Insight Project (RVIP), which receives its funds from the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). This organisation takes a look at retaliatory violence – when someone (namely, a police officer) is put into a situation that puts them on the offensive in response to aggravation – and attempts to teach officers better techniques to deal with this, other than more violence, through hands-on, skills, and theory-based training. Currently, they’re partnered with police departments in Memphis, Tennessee, and Lowell, Massachusetts.
Baltimore United for Change (BUC) is a local level group that has taken steps to bring organisations and individuals together to make a difference in its community. BUC has performed acts such as raising money for jail support, providing a safe place for families to go, bailing out individuals, and hosting “Nonviolent Civil Disobedience” and “Know Your Rights” trainings. Their work has helped countless people in Baltimore avoid being subject to violence.
While preventing violence in communities is key, it doesn’t help those who have already fallen victim. Mothers Against Police Brutality (MAPB) is an organisation which aims not only to reform policing methods, but to provide justice for those who have been overlooked in the court system. What started as a group of mothers who lost their children to police brutality has formed into an influential coalition that challenges courts, investigations, and even our Congressional representatives. While based in Texas, MAPB has received a lot of national recognition and formed many partnerships to raise money for awareness, reform the police and justice system, and ultimately “help restore trust between police and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect.”
These are just a few of many local organisations and community groups across the country working to respond to the current conflicts and prevent further suffering. The recent waves of violence in the U.S. are not just random events, they are tragedies with deep roots in ongoing racial injustice in America and a growing militarisation of our police system. Hundreds of people have lost their loved ones to this senseless violence that takes away human lives, regardless of skin color. It will take effort by everyone to achieve a level of trust and peace in our communities, but local organisations like these are paving the way there.