Professor Lester Spence argues America is facing two pandemics: COVID-19 and political policing.


Story Transcript

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

Speaker 1: We’re in a moment where you got a combination of a pandemic that’s in virus form, and then we got a pandemic in political policing form. Now, the virus form is still political, but when you have interaction, sorry about this. You got interaction between a pandemic that’s basically taken one out of 2,000 African American lives, and then you’ve got a policing dynamic, which has had not quite the same effect, but a similar effect on black bodies. I don’t know why I wouldn’t be here.

Speaker 2: You saw the first officer get charged in George Floyd’s murder, but the protests have only grown, and there was maybe a historic level of coordinated police repression across the country. That seems to have also only fueled protests. Can you talk about that?

Speaker 1: Yeah. For the first time, we’ve seen police not just go after protestors, but we’ve seen police actually on purpose going after journalists. Those are dynamics that you would normally associate with basically the politics of a Banana Republic. I think that’s what people are protesting. People are protesting the fact that increasingly, America acts as if it’s a Banana Republic. We’re well concentrated and political power concentrated in an ethno-racial capitalist state.

Speaker 2: In Baltimore, there was an uprising just five years ago. A lot of people feel like not a lot has changed in those five years. What do you think has been learned from these years of protests against these similar incidents and what is it going to take to actually change this?

Speaker 1: Well, the thing is people have been fighting against a combination of economic violence and political violence in places like Baltimore. That struggle isn’t just a five-year struggle. We already knew it was a struggle, but I think the thing that people are really beginning to focus on, although again, I think we knew that here in Baltimore, is that it’s really important to basically enact policies that defund the police and then that take the capital that’s embodied downtown and basically redistributing it. That takes a combination of traditional political means and not traditional political means, and then it takes a combination of basically elected officials, political parties, social movement tendencies, and then public policy. It requires it all.

Speaker 2: Baltimore is interesting because it spends most per capita of any large city on its police department. We’ve talked about this, it subsidizes large corporations to the tune of billions every year, while its schools are starved for heat and AC. Can you talk about that as well?

Speaker 1: We spend $500 million on police a year, right? The thing I’ve emphasized is that by comparison, for example, we spend maybe $40, $50 million on parks and rec. In the case of the police, it’s not even like the city has a lot of power that police has, is given to it by state politics, not necessarily local politics. What we have [inaudible 00:03:40] and then most of that money is spent basically defending capital. A significant portion is spent in this district, and then a significant portion of spent in the poorest district, the poorest area in the city where Freddie Gray was killed. As if we can actually see the money that should be going to parks and rec, the money that should be going to education, go to policing and defending capital. That’s kind of the struggle.

Jaisal Noor

General Assignment Reporter

Jaisal is a host, producer, and reporter for TRNN. With his expertise in education policy and systemic inequity, he focuses on Baltimore, Maryland. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio NewsDemocracy Now! and The Indypendent.

Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years.