Philly voted overwhelmingly in November to create a "Citizens Police Oversight Commission". CM Jones has a bill in committee which would define the CPOC, but unfortunately it falls short of true community control in a number of ways.
The Philadelphia Democratic establishment has refused to endorse District Attorney Larry Krasner for his upcoming re-election with the excuse that his policies are causing the gun-violence epidemic. Instead, many Democratic ward leaders will likely back longtime homicide prosecutor Carlos Vega whose biggest backer is Philly’s Fraternal Order of Police with donations of around $20,000. Racist FOP union president, John McNesby, is openly registering thousands of Republicans to become Democrats just to vote for Vega! In fact, the Republican DA candidate has said that if Vega wins, then he will drop out to allow Vega to win unopposed!
We remember Krasner ran as a progressive, political outsider in 2017 riding a wave of Bernie-fueled optimism flowing into the Democratic Party. Krasner spent his career fighting the District Attorney’s office including over 75 lawsuits against the police. Socialist Alternative strongly supported the demands of the campaign that elected Krasner but warned of the limits of relying on a DA specifically, and on one individual generally, to carry out the profound changes to the criminal justice system that we need. We called on his supporters to build an ongoing movement to change both the law and how it is enforced, and emphasized the need for political independence against the inevitable reaction around and within the Democratic Party.
Over the last few years, Krasner succeeded in carrying out moderate reforms on issues like cash bail and the treatment of juveniles. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), emboldened by Trump, greeted even these reforms with right-wing vitriol. At a key moment, Krasner signaled retreat through his opposition to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal request. Through 2020 and today, Krasner has so far failed to bring the revitalized Black Lives Matter movement through his office to transform the criminal justice system.
Instead, the Democratic establishment struck back - aiming to get “back to normal” and appease the right both inside and outside the Democratic Party. Krasner now faces the same forces that fellow Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called out in November 2020: “It’s your own party thinking you’re the enemy” that is “extremely hostile to anything that even smells progressive.”
Krasner is facing both an open revolt within his own party and the rising far right forces emboldened by Trump. Despite his personal, moral courage, a politician like Krasner needs the political resources and backing of an organization to lead the fight against the right. The only way forward remains building an independent political movement, funded by and accountable to everyday working class Philadelphians.
To this end, Philadelphia Socialist Alternative calls on Krasner to immediately hold an action conference to build an alternative to right-wing reaction, mounting a defense for his seat, independent of the Democratic Party which has so clearly shunned him. Such a conference should invite all working class Philadelphians, including rank and file union members and other activists. The conference must take up not only an immediate response to the right but also broaden this struggle including a demand to cut police budgets by at least 50% as a step toward Black and Brown liberation, and a demand for real democratic community control of the police.
The Philadelphia political establishment, represented by the two parties of big business, is united in its aims toward maintaining police brutality in Black and Brown communities. We reject outright the disgusting excuses of Democrats who cite the gun violence epidemic to back a right-wing District Attorney candidate. Police and mass incarceration don’t solve crime. If that were the case, the highly police-surveilled Black and Brown communities would see a reduction of crime, which has instead risen to horrific proportions. Rather, it’s the lack of good-paying union jobs, affordable housing, healthcare, and decades of austerity that have cut across social services for working people and driven many to desperation.
We need an independent party of the working class that can fight against racist policing and for Black liberation. Philadelphia activists and working people will need to build a mass movement for taxing rich corporations like Comcast, defund the Philadelphia Police Department and establish democratic community control of police.