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Defend/Defund: A Visual History of Organizing Against the Police

Interference Archive


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A sweeping and poignant history of community response to the violence of white supremacy and carceral systems in the US, told through interviews, archival reproductions, and narrative.

In the summer of 2020, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade ignited a movement that led to the largest street protests in American history. Abolitionist grassroots organizers around the country unified around a clear demand: defund the police and refund our communities. While the majority of the country supported the call to reform the police, what followed was a backlash from mainstream politicians and the press, all but defeating the movement to end the continued violence against Black Americans.

Defend/Defund examines the history of how communities have responded to the violence of white supremacy and carceral systems in the United States and asks what lessons the modern abolitionist movement can draw from this past. Organized in a series of thematic sections from the use of self-defense by Black organizers, to queer resistance in urban spaces, the narrative is accompanied by over one hundred full-color images including archival materials produced by Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the Young Lords in the 1960s and 70s, CopWatch and the Stolen Lives Project in the 1980s and 1990s, and contemporary material from the Movement for Black Lives, Project NIA, and INCITE!, Defend/Defund shows how deep the struggles for abolition go and how urgent they remain.

In addition to full-color reproduction of archival materials, the narrative includes transcripts of interviews with activists, scholars, and artists such as Mariame Kaba, Dread Scott, Dennis Flores, Dr. Joshua Myers, Jawanza Williams (VOCAL-NY and Free Black Radicals), Cheryl Rivera (NYC-DSA Racial Justice Working Group and Abolition Action), and Bianca Cunningham (Free Black Radicals). Each conversation dives into the history of specific struggles with, and organizing against, police and police brutality.

In total, the publication shows how the modern Defund movement builds on powerful Black feminist and abolitionist movements past and imagines alternatives to policing for community safety for our present.