tv Democracy Now LINKTV October 6, 2021 8:00am-9:01am PDT
[captioning made possible by democracy now!] ♪ amy: from new york this is democracy now! >> i joined facebook because i think facebook has the potential to bring out the best in us. i'm here today because i believe facebook's products harm children and weaken our democracy. amy: facebook whistleblower frances haugen testifies before the senate, accusing the social
media giant of prioritizing its profits over the safety of its billions of users. we will air highlights and response. then to california to look at this weekend's devastating oil spill and the renewed calls to ban offshore oil drilling. finally, “becoming abolitionists: police, protests, and the pursuit of freedom.” we will speak with human rights lawyer, activist, and writer derecka purnell. >> for a generation of new black activists, didn't come from ignorance, or dismissal, or we just had enough. it is quite the contrary. we spent more than a decade organizing within the confines of the criminal legal system. amy: all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and
peace report. i'm amy goodman. facebook whistleblower frances haugen gave an explosive testimony before a senate subcommittee tuesday denouncing the social media company for prioritizing "astronomical profits" over the safety of its billions of users. haugen's testimony gave a rare glimpse into the secretive tech company, which she accused of harming children, selling division by boosting hateful content, and undermining democracy. haugen urged lawmakers to enact strict oversight over facebook before it's too late. this is frances haugen. francis: facebook wants you to believe that the problems we are talking about are unsolvable. they want you to believe in false choices, that you must choose between a facebook fully divisive and extreme content or losing one of the most important values our country was founded upon, free speech. that you must choose between
public oversight of facebook's choices and your personal privacy. that to be able to share fun photos of your kids with old friends, you must also be inundated with anger-driven virality. they want you to believe this is just part of the deal. i'm here today to tell you that's not true. amy: frances haugen's testimony comes after she leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal facebook documents. we'll have more on this story after headlines. the senate is expected to vote on a procedural step that would bring a suspension of the debt ceiling to a floor vote, even as republicans insist they will not support the move. minority leader mitch mcconnell told president biden earlier this week that democrats would have to pass the bill through reconciliation even though republicans could allow the measure to pass with a simple majority. senate majority leader chuck schumer blasted republicans' what he called a responsibility. sen. schumer: we can stop this
republican manufacturing debt ceiling crisis in its tracks or republicans can keep driving our country ever closer to the first default in american history. amy: on tuesday biden said democrats could move to reform filibuster rules to bypass the republican blockade on the debt limit, though conservative democrats kyrsten sinema and joe manchin have previously voiced their opposition to filibuster changes according to research. the national debt rose by 7.8 trillion due in large part to republicans and then president trump's 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the old troll rich. constituents of arizona senator kyrsten sinema are stepping up pressure on the corporate democrat as she continues to threaten passage of the sweeping reconciliation package that would expand the nation's social safety net and combat the climate crisis. on monday, karina ruiz, head of the arizona dream act coalition and a former volunteer on the sinema campaign, approached the senator on her flight to d.c. to ask her to support immigration reform as part of the
legislation. >> if you can submit the -- including citizenship for people to be protected, like me, and many others. can you commit to that, senator? amy: senator sinema mostly ignored ruiz, even as she went on to share about her father's recent death. after her flight landed, sinema was confronted by other constituents at the airport about what she wanted to cut from the democrats' build back better act. >> do you want to cut climate priorities? is it eldercare or childcare? amy: the state of missouri executed ernest lee johnson tuesday, after the u.s. supreme court rejected a petition to delay the killing, and despite pleas from lawmakers, activists , and even the vatican to spare johnson, who had an intellectual
disability. it was missouri's first execution in over a year and the seventh in the u.s. this year. in international news, taiwan's defense minister said tensions with china are at the worst in 40 years after china sent a record number of military airplanes into taiwanese airspace over the past four days. president biden said on tuesday that he spoke to president xi jinping and that both leaders agreed to adhere to an ongoing agreement between beijing and washington amidst the ongoing tensions. it -- the taiwan relations act directs the u.s. to recognize beijing, rather than taipei, as its diplomatic partner. the u.s. provides weapons to taiwan but does not take a position on its sovereignty. amnesty international says the taliban killed at least 13 members of the hazara ethnic group on august 30, shortly after the group took control of afghanistan. among the dead were 11 former
government forces and a 17-year-old girl. in other news from afghanistan, the wall street journal reports kabul risks facing major blackouts over the winter because the new taliban government has not paid its electricity suppliers. afghanistan does not have a national power grid, and kabul relies on imported electricity from central asian countries. the u.n. security council is meeting today to discuss the crisis in ethiopia and the recent expulsion of seven senior u.n. officials from ethiopia amid the mounting humanitarian crisis in war-torn tigray. u.n. secretary-general antonio guterres said last week he rejected the expulsion. this is jens laerke from the u.n. office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs. >> it is critically important that the humanitarian operation continues, and it does. we have a very high number of people in very urgent need in tigray, 5.2 million people are
in urgent need of assistance. amy: according to a cnn report ethiopia used its flagship commercial airlines to transport weapons during the war in tigray. romania's parliament has ousted prime minister florin citu in a vote of no-confidence after less than one year in power. citu will remain as the caretaker prime minister and its likely the previous ruling coalion will eventually replace his government. romania has had a rapid succession of short-lived leaders over the past decade. in france, union leaders led a nationwide strike tuesday to protest low wages and planned reforms to pensions and unemployment benefits. workers are hoping to put pressure on the government of emmanuel macron ahead of next year's presidential election. this is a pensioner demonstrating tuesday in paris. >> everyone's purchasing power is going down, pensioners,
workers, and those unemployed. it is disgusting. billions of euros are there. but to pay salaries and hospitals and schools and decent public service. i'm here because of all of that, for the future of humanity, too. we can talk about the climate in a general way but if we don't change the system it is as useless as a fart underwater. amy: back in the u.s., some 1400 workers at all of kellogg's cereal plants went on strike tuesday as union negotiations have stalled for more than a year. the strike includes plants in omaha, nebraska; battle creek, michigan; lancaster, pennsylvania; and memphis, tennessee. a union representative says kellogg's is threatening to outsource jobs to mexico if workers don't accept the company's proposals, which include loss of premium health care, holiday and vacation pay, and reduced retirement benefits. workers are also demanding better wages. here in new york, the head of the sergeants benevolent association police union
resigned tuesday, hours after the fbi raided its manhattan headquarters. the home of now former union president ed mullins was also searched, though it is unclear what the target of the federal investigation is. the family of henrietta lacks, the rican amican wan whose ces were ten from hns hoins univsity hostal wiout he consent in 51, e suingnd demanng reparions anthe intellectu propertof thcells. theawsu denounc a racis medical systemnd auses the drug cpany ousing wh is own as e cell line thout their coent whilmaking llions odollars witut their coent. sevedecad ago it s scoveredhat lac' cel uld liveorever, lping ientistsroduce redies fo several seases, cluding the fit poo vaccin
and the s. postaservice s launch a pilotrogram t offesome banking services in four cities. customers in washington, d.c.; falls church, virginia; baltimore, maryland, and the bronx in new york city, can now cash pay checks and other types of checks up to $500 for a fee that's much lower than private cashing companies. the service, if expanded, could provide a government-run, more accessible option to the 14 million u.s. residents who are underbanked or unbanked. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. i'm joined by democracy now! cohost. good morning. >> good morning to our viewers and listeners around the world. amy: we begin with a devastating testimony of facebook whistleblower frances haugen. she testified for over three hours tuesday during a senate
hearing about how bombshell disclosures about the social media giant. ms. haugen: i used to work at facebook. i joined facebook because i think facebook has the potential to bring out the best in us. i'm here because i believe facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy. the company's leadership knows how to make facebook and instagram safer, but won't make the changes because they have put profits before people. congressional action is needed. they won't solve this crisis without your help. yesterday we saw facebook get taken off the internet. i don't know why it went down, but i know for more than five hours facebook was not used a deep and divides, destabilize democracies, and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies. it also means that millions of small businesses were not able
to reach potential customers, and countless photos of new babies were not joyously celebrated by family and friends around the world. i believe in the potential of facebook. we can have social media we enjoy, that connects us, without tearing our democracy apart, putting our children in danger, and sewing ethnic violence around the world. we can do better. during my time at facebook, first working as the lead project manager of misinformation and later, espionage, i saw facebook encounter conflict between its profits and our safety. facebook consistently resolved these in favor of its own profits. the result has been more division, harm, lies, threats, and combat. in some cases this dangerous online talk has led toiolence that has harmed or even killed people. this is not a matter of certain
social media users being angry or unstable or one side being radicalized against the other. it is that facebook is choosing to grow at all costs, becoming an almost trillion dollar company by buying its profits with our safety. amy: facebook whistleblower frances haugen testifying on tuesday. she went on to urge lawmakers to take action against facebook. ms. haugen: facebook want you to believe that the problems we are talking about are unsolvable. they want you to believe in false choices. they want you to believe you must choose between a facebook full of divisive and extreme content or losing one of the most important values our country was founded upon, free speech. that you must choose between public oversight of facebook's choices and your personal privacy. that to be able to share fun photos of your kids with old friends, you must also be inundated with anger-driven virality. they want you to believe this is just part of the deal.
i am here today to tell you that's not true. these problems are solvable. a safer, free-speech respecting, more enjoyable social media is possible. there is one thing i hope everyone takes away from these disclosures. it is facebook can change, but it's clearly not going to do so on its own. my fear is without action, divisive and extremist behaviors that you see today are only the beginning. what we saw in myanmar and are seeing in ethiopia are the opening chapters of a story so terrifying that no one wants to read the end of it. amy: at tuesday's hearing the senate subcommittee chair, democratic connecticut senator richard blumenthal compared facebook to big tobacco. sen. blumenthal: big tech faces the big tobacco jaw-dropping moment of truth.
it is documented proof that facebook knows its products can be addictive and toxic the children, our children are the ones who are victims. teens today looking at themselves in the mirror feel doubt and insecurity. mark zuckerberg ought to be looking at himself in the mirror today, and yet rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership mr. zuckerberg is going sailing. his new modus operandi is no apology, no action, nothing to see here. mark zuckerberg, you need to come before this committee and explain to frances haugen, to us, to the world, and to the parents of america what you are doing and why you did it. amy: hours after the facebook
whistleblower frances haugen testified, facebook ceo mark zuckerberg responded in a message posted on facebook writing, "at the heart of these accusations is the idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being. that's just not true." he went on to write, “the argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. we make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content.” to talk more about facebook we are joined by two guests. in san francisco is roger mcnamee. early investor in facebook. mentor to ceo mark zuckerberg. he then went on to write the book “zucked: waking up to the facebook catastrophe.” and in los angeles, we're joined by jessica gonzalez. she is co-ceo of the media advocacy group free press and co-founder of change the terms, a coalition that works to hate online -- to disrupt hate
online. she's also a member of the real facebook oversight board. these were our guests leading up to the hearing. we thought we would have you back to see what you are most affected by, most surprised by. roger, let's begin with you. you know mark zuckerberg, you were his mentor, early investor in facebook. talk about how significant this testimony is, and can you explain what is this issue of the algorithm? how does it lie to what zuckerberg said. we are not trying to increase hate and anger? roger: there are two basic problems we are dealing with. one is the culture of american siness where ceos are told to prioritize shareholder value at all costs. it is a little like the excuse i'm just following orders, right? it absolves essentially all manner of sins. that is a big part of the
problem at facebook. essentially, think about the business this way. advertising is the core of their economy. they get that through attention. facebook created a global network whe people share things with their intimate friends. what happened was that facebook was the first medium on earth to get accessed -- get access to what i call the inner self, characteristics opeople they would only expose t their most intimate partners, friends, family. in marketing that is gold. it is not just valuable to traditional marketers, it is incredibly value to -- valuable to scammers and people doing otherwise things that are illegal. when you think about what facebook did, by connecting the whole world it brought the world of scams into the mainstream. when mark says something like, well, our advertisers consistently tell us they do not want to be by hostile content,
the problem is is that some of their biggest most important advertisers are the people who spread dangerous content. if you think about stop the steal, that was an advertising campaign. if you think about anti-, they are aertisers. -- anti- vax, they are advertisers. they created a network that is an uncontrolled commercial place that praise upon people's emotions. the best way to get people's attention is to trigger fear or outrage. the algorithms don't sit there going i'm looking for fear and outrage. they are looking for things that get you to reac it is simp a fact of human nature, human psychology that fear and outrage are the most effective way to do that. that is why frances haugen's testimony is so devastating. she is an expert in algorithm design. she is completely credible. the stuff she shared was
not her opinion. it was research created by the best people at facebook at the direction of facebook's management. when facebook comes out afterwards saying that she only worked there for two years and was not in any of the meetings, none of that is relevant and it is classic flexion by facebook. -- classic deflection by facebook. facebook's responses build her responsibility. if you sat there after the hearing, ask yourself, who did you find more credible? juan: i wanted to ask, one of the interesting aspects of the hearing was a both democrats and republicans on the senate committee were equally hostile and skeptical in terms of the role of facebook. excuse me for being somewhat skeptical about the potential for real action. on the one hand there would be
the alternative of actually breaking up facebook, breaking up this huge goliath. or of eveneeper reforms that addressed what youaised, the issue that was so brilliantly documented of the documentation of the self by the digital giant companies of our day of which facebook is only one of them. what direction do you see potentially going in congress to address what has been revealed here? roger: i think skepticism about congress is still appropriate, but as someone who works with congress all the time i took great joy in watching the hearing yesterday to see a republican senator reach out to the chairman and suggest that the two of them cosponsor a new piece of legislation to address one of the issues that came up, and then a second time a
republican talking about the national security aspect that ms. haugen talked about. the idea of people on live television coming together, that is not something we've seen from congress in a long time. i agree, there are a lot of reass to be skeptical. my perspective is, if i could get into that room i would say, listen, facebook is the poster child for what's wrong today, but the real problem is that in the united states we have abdicated too much power to corporations. we have essentially said we are not going to regulate them, we are not going to supervise what they are doing. in the process we have allowed power to accumulate in a highly concentrated way, which is bad for democracy. worse than that, we have allowed business models, surveillance capitalism, using surveillance together every piece of data
possible about a person, the construction of models that allow you to predict their behavior and recommendation engines that allow you to manipulate their bavior, that business mod which begin with google spread to facebook, amazon, and microsoft and is now being adopted through the economy. you can't do a transaction without people collecting data which they buy and sell in a third-party marketplace. that is, in my opinion, and i think she would agree, that that is as immoral as child labor. i would say listen guys, you are mad at facebook today, but the way to solve the problem for kids, for democracy, the way to solve all of these problems, and i'm sure jessica will talk about the civil rights aspects because they are humongous, but the way to do that is to end surveillance capitalism. if we cannot protect the rights of individuals, if you will, our human it on me, what do we have
-- our human autonomy, what do we have? juan: i want to bring jessica in to get her reaction, but also a w figures that i have dug up in terms of facebook users. in the united states about 200 million facebook users. in latin america, 200 80 million. more people in latin america are using facebook than in the united states itself. haugen mentioned what would happen in myanmar and ethiopia, the ethnic cleansing situations that were powered in some degree by facebook. ethiopia only has 6 million facebook followers, 6% of their population. me and mark, 40%. what did you find from the hearing about how facebook feels with integrity across languages and nations? jessica: as someone who has
worked quite a bit on this issue through the facebook campaign, we are calling out the disparities in how facebook is enforcing rules in english and spanish. i was very interested in the relation that 87% of facebook's investment in what they call integrity, the integrity of their system, is devoted to english despite only 9% of facebook users using and speaking english on the platform . another thing that haugen revealed is that facebook seems to invest more in users who make more money, even though the risk to users are not necessarily distributed based on income. of course they are not, right? we know in society and in our digital world in particular that women, people of color, religious and ethnic minorities are often disproportionately
targeted with bigotry. it was very interesting to hear her reflect and share the internal information that revealed facebook has not adequately invested to keep people safe across languages. it should come as no surprise they played a contributing role in the gi -- in the genocide in myanmar, responsible for the rise and authoritarianism in the philippines, bral, indiaand ethiopia because they have not implemented the type of mechanism, invested in the human personnel that is required to conduct content moderation. when i take that coupled with facebook's incredibly disappointing and disrespectful response, and i layer on top how
time after time facebook has refused to offer any transparency whatsoever pertaining to the most basic questions about how they moderate content across languages in non-english languages, i am horrified, i am disgusted, and there is a very racist element to the lack of investment across language. i think that needs to be addressed right away. going back to roger's point about the need to tamp down on surveillance capitalism, i think that is exactly right. the other thing that i thought that was really important that haugen said is that we need to think through new regulatory framework. i think the time is now for congress to pass a data privacy and civil rights law that limits
the collection of our personal data, that limits algorithmic discrimination, that provides greater transparency about what the companies are doing and what they know about the harms they are causing across the globe, and that really provides accountability to not just the american public, but people around the world. i think congress needs to act. i was encouraged by the real, legitimate questions that came from both sides of the aisle that was much less of a circus than other hearings we have seen about these issues. it seems like congress is getting more serious about this. i hope they act. i think your skepticism is totally valid and i want to lift up here that the federal trade commission has the authority to look into this more deeply right away. that should be imperative. that should happen right away.
the commission needs the budget and investment to start investigating this. amy: i wanted to go to senator amy klobuchar questioning frances haugen about how algorith may exacerbate the vulnerabilities of young girls with anorexia. sen. klobuchar: i'm concerned about content promoting anorexia and the like. do you think that the algorithms push some of this content to young girls? ms. haugen: facebook knows that engagement-based rankings, the way they pick content for young users, all users, amplifies preferences. they have done a proactive response where they take things they have heard for example can you be led by the algorithms to anorexia content? they re-created this experiment
and confirmed yes, this happens to people. facebook knows they are leading young users to anorexia content. amy: she also questioned about the role of facebook on the january 6 attack on the capitol. sen. klobuchar: on 60 minutes you said that facebook implemented safeguards to reduce misinformation ahead of the 2020 election, but turned off those safeguards right after the election. you know the insurrection occurred january 6. do you think facebook turned off the safeguards because they were costing the company money, reducing profits? ms. haugen: facebook is emphasizing a false choice. they said the safeguards that were in place before the election implicated free speech. the choices happening on the platform or how reactive and twitchy was the platform, how viral was the platform?
facebook changed though safety defaults in the run-up to the election because they knew they were dangerous. because they wanted that growth back after the election they returned to their original defaults. the fact that they had to break the glass on january 6 and turn them back on, i think that is deeply problematic. amy: they kept their algorithm secret about how this works, but they fully will know because they tamped down before the election on the re-shares -- you are a specialist on hate online. what has to be done in this case? jessica: listen, they not only need to turn these sfety protocols back on, they need to update their policies. they really need to invest in the human personnel necessary to moderate hate. another thing haugen said is even with the best ai systems they will only catch 10% to 20%
of hate speech. we need more humans across languages to protect the integrity and tamp down on lies, bigotry, authoritarianism, and violence budding on facebook. the other thing we've been asking them to do for years is to ban white sremacists and conspiracy theorists. haugen underscored yesterday that the same people spreading hate are prone to spreading lies. facebook knows who these people are. they have decided to leave them up. there is a pattern of abuse that facebook has overlooked. what haugen has shown us is that facebook had actual knowledge and extensively had covered up in a serial way the global harm it's causing and it needs to correct course immediately. juan: we only have a few more seconds, but if you could comment on the allegations by facebook that it catches 90% of the hate speech? jessica: they have said this
over and over again. yet haugen and the documen from facebook's own research indicates they are only cating 3% to 5%. mark zuckerberg has told this number to me personally. he has said this time and time again before congress. i saw the sec documents that haugen filed yesterday. he has also shared this with shareholders. this needs to be looked into. they are materially misleading the public and shareholders about their content moderation in hate speech. amy: jessica gonzales co-ceo of the media advocacy group free , press and co-founder of change the terms, a coalition that works to disrupt online hate.
amy: "working for the knife" by mitski. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org the quarantine report, i'm amy goodman. the oil spill 30 miles south of los angeles. as many as 144,000 gallons leaked. e pipeline is owned by amplify energy, texas-based, which did not report the leak 12 hours after the coast guard was first notified. investigators are looking into if the ship anchor punctured the pipeline. california governor gavin newsom declared a state of emergency as cleanup crews raced to minimize the environmental damage. beaches are expected to be closed for months.
we are joined by miyoko sakahshta, oceans program director at the center for biological diversity. if you look from huntington beach to the sea, you see a number of oil wells. that one is for the that because this catastrophe. explain what happened an what you think needs to be happening now. >> if i were to paint a broad picture i think there are three takeaways. i will point to ding offshore drilling off of california and everywhere. first, offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous, there is no safe way to dot. you look at the ocean and you see miles of coastline that are oil. the stench of petroleum is pervasive. there are 144,000 gallons of oil thatave poured into the water. this is more oil than the worst case scenario discharge from
that pipeline in the response plan. the second lesson is that there is no way. it is impossible to clean an oil spill. it is devastating. they are dead fish and birds washing ashore. oil is really harmful for birds. they cannot fly, they die of hypothermia, it destroys their insulation. it has poisoned fish and shellfish and fishing off the coast. at sea whales and dolphins are swimming through it and breathing the toxic vapors. the third key take away is really that california's offshore platforms are a ticking time bomb. whether it was this accident or another when they were waiting to happen. the oil platforms are more than 40 years old. they are old and decrepit and it is time to shut them down. they have outlived their inteed lifespan.
if you look at the 1978 environmental documents for these platforms, they were supposed to be decommissioned after 35 years. yet they are lingering on and need to be closed down. broad picture, this points to sounding the alarm for president biden and governor newsom, that they need to stop issuing new drilling permits and should require all of the platforms in california to be decommissioned. juan: how big is this problem? when you talk about the platforms, not just california, but the gulf of mexico where therare so many abandoned former drilling spots that no one is thinking 100 years down the pipe, 200 years down the pipe. what will happen to these cap ped wells or lines? how extensive is the problem along california's coast? miyoko: the problem is extensive. all of the platforms were built in the late 1960's, 1970's,
1980's and they are old and decrepit. i went on a fact-finding mission on a boat to inspect the various platforms off of california. we took zodiacs out and we went to platform elly, the one the pipeline is leaking from, and there is a cluster of platforms that we went around. as you look at them you can see visually they are rusted, aging, and have been battered by the sea, waves, and weather. we went out there with thermal imaging cameras to spo methane leagues and we noticed that a lot of the platforms were flaring. that is only supposed to happen if there isn accident, an upset at the rig. they all looked like they had -- like they should have been shut down years ago. there is a much broader issue.
we have offshore drilling platforms in the gulf of mexico, cook inlet, alaska that are all facing this. government reports recently have stated that a lot of the old pipelines out there have been in adequately regulated and not decommissioned properly. there are a lot of risks in our ocean. they really point to the fact that we need to stop issuing new drilling permits and decommissioned a lot of the stuff that is out there, phase it out. juan: are there any estimates as to what the cleanup cost would be to remove the dangers from theselatforms? miyoko: i am not familiar with what the cleanup costs are. they will be expensive. the truth is, is the damage to the environment that they pose is so great that at any cost we really need to be looking towards our future and not risking another major catastrophe.
we had the bp oil spilin 2010, and i don't think we learned the lesson tt should have been learned then. hopefully the huntington beach oil spill is another wake-up call that we really need to phase these things out. it is not only the oil that we can see that is a risk and is destating the coast, but also every day, all of these drilling platforms are contributing to the climate crisis. they are taking us in the opposite direction. california and president biden have climate goals that these are the opposite of. what they really need to do is figure out a plan for phasing out existing drilling and decommission all of these ticking time bombs. amy: we want to thank you for being with us. miyoko sakahshta, oceans program director at the center for biological diversity. next, becoming abolitionists we
will speak with author derecka purnell. stay with us. ♪♪ [music break] amy: i am amy goodman. we returned to the evolving discussion about abolishing police and the prison industrial complex amidst the disproportionate rates of police killings and incarceration of black people. a new study published on thursday in lancet estimates the national vital statistics system
failed to account more than half of the deaths from police violence over nearly 40 years. researchers from the university of washington found lack people were killed at a rate 3.5 times higher than white people. this comes after a series of police killings of african-americans last year prompted a racial reckoning, including george floyd in minneapolis and breonna taylor in louisville. many states passed laws aiming at reforming police, but efforts at overhauling policing failed to pass the senate and bipartisan talks over police reform broke down last month. we are joined by derecka purnell, human rights lawyer, abolitionist and writer. she is a columnist for the guardian and author of the new book, published tuesday, titled, “becoming abolitionists: police, protests, and the pursuit of freedom.”
welcome back, congratulations on this book. you are a black mother and a black mother of two black sons. you were an advocate for police reform but are now what you would call a police or prison abolitionist. explain your journey. derecka: of course. growing up in the united states i had an unexamined commitment to relying and using police in our neighborhoods and community because they were the institution with the most resources. i had a ton of fears of police. even throughout those horrible encounters they were often the only option in response to violence. the book details that early experience. what happened was that i became part of the movement that started thinking more creatively about building a world without violence,
reduce our reliance on police. the book also describes a political journey of a generation that i am a part of that went for fighting for george zimmerman's arrest and imprisonment in the wake of murdering trayvon martin in 2012 to become a generation who is leading, i would say, the calls to abolish the incarceration state. documenting that political journey of a generation and my person political tourney of becoming an abolitionist. juan: you talk in your book about how your experiences in south africa contributed to your becoming an abolitionist. can you explain how and why? derecka: of course. 2015, 2016 the student movement were pushing and fighting for a 0% increase in their tuition.
the amount of oppression they were seeing from the south african government and south african university president, sending in private police, brutalizing them because they were demanding free education and decolonization of the university and the entire country. to see tm right folabor so that their parents and workers could get benefits from the university. to see them met with so much repression from black police, it clicked. yeah, diversity is not enough. it is not enough to hire more black cops, women cops, clear cops. that is not the problem with policing. police areent to manage inequality and stop people fighting for progressive change. juan: how do you respond to those political leaders, white as well as african-american, who say that the abolitionist
movement is not realistic. that's a majority of people in the black and brown community still want policing to protect them? derecka: i have lots of things to say to those people, especially the black ones who are dismissive of abolition as an outside edge o -- aggit ier. routing in black feminists like angela davis, just trying to clarify what we mean when we say abolition. the second thing i would say is there excited to point to statistics about black people using police in their neighborhood, but when we look at black people demanding more resources for education, jobs and their community, universal health care, those political leaders are not usually interested in using statistical support for black communities for those progressive causes.
what happens is that there is a devaluing and divestment in resources that black and brown, working-class people demand in their neighborhood and then they hold up one specific statistic that they are willing to pay for in order to call it public safety. when actually, i imagine, if we ask black and brown people all over the country, would you have more police or universal daycare? more police or education that is properly funded and culturally important? when you start asking more nuanced questions come the answers just in our communities, i think we should ask more than one question. amy: you are a rape survivor. people often bring up this type of violence when discussing the need for police and public safety. if you could talk about your argument that police are not the way to repaithis harm and get
justice in the aftermath of sexual assault and sexual violence? derecka: of course. not only are they not the solution, police contribute to sexual violence. after police brutality sexual misconduct is the second most reported complaint against cops. the people who they arrest, regardless of the reason of arrest, they put them in jails and prisons and make them vulnerable to sexual violence by people who work in jails and prisons. the police perpetuate sexual violence. in the few cases where they actually do and may arrest someone, you have usually women who are fighting to get their rape tests, rape kits tested. 20,000 to 30,000 rape kits are sitting untested all across the united states. that is an unfortunate step that police -- unfortunate step that police in addition to them not
being the solution is frustrating because people the most vulnerable to sexual violence are vulnerable to people who live in their homes, they are vulnerable to sexual violence of their neighbors, people who work in safe institutions. police are a part of the manifestation of that culture that are sexually violent. if we want to reduce our reliance on police we have to reduce the amount of rape culture that is so prevalent in the united states. juan: could you comment on what has been happeni in congress and in terms of legislation around police abuse and police reform? clearly there was a lot of expectation last year into the beginning of this year that there will be substantive change, but so much of it has fizzled out in terms of the refusal of congress to be able to reach some kind of real, new legislation. what do you think needs to be done by those advocating
abolition or systemic reform? derecka: the first thing i would want to say is my deepest empathy is to the family of george floyd who was given so many promises by joe biden a other progression all leaders that they would achieve police reform in the name of the person they love. it is heartbreaking to watch politicians use families of victims of police violence to champion legislation that would not have even saved the lives of the person they lost. i am always just so sad that families are used in this way to push an ineffective political agenda. the george floyd act was touted by president biden and congressional leaders as an attempt to eradicate i.s. in policing. -- eradicate bias in policing. but george floyd was stopped by derek chauvin over the alleged use of a counterfeit $20 bill.
unemployment rates are through the roof, we were facing a massive crisis, food insecurity was at its peak. instead of getting people resources and making sure that we were protected, we lost our jobs, homes, health care, instead they chose to invest in police. when someone called the cop on george floyd he was met with the level of brutality that police regularly and routinely use in black communities. the idea that you could train is woefully insufficient. abolitionists are interested in reducing the reason why people need police in addition to reducing the incarceration state . which means at a national level sweeping legislation to make sure people have not just food or housing security, but quality investments in those institutions. and while we fight for student
debt cancellation, universal health care, why we fight for universal childcare and daycare so that people in vulnerable situations can go to work, go to school, choose to have work that gives them dignity and excitement. that is the kind of work we are fighting for. i believe that is within our reach. amy: i want to go to chapter eight of your book about the climate entitled "we only want the earth." on the 16th anniversary of hurricane katrina in august, hurricane ida left thousands without power, many stranded in louisiana in its aftermath. i want to turn to a clip of the new orleans police chief shaun ferguson at a news conference for emergency preparations. >> we are prepared to assist in whatever recovery efforts we have to assist with after this, but also anti-losing. we will not allow any looting throughout this process.
we will be out there to enforce that. as i am asking, begging, and pleading hunker down now as we will have to hunker down in some -- down at some point ourselves. amy: that was the new orleans police chief. if you can respond to what he said and talk about the issue of the climate and how it relates to abolition and what we've seen along the border. the whipping of haitians in del rio, texas. derecka: of course. the climate continues to heat because of global capitalism. one thing that will happen is there will be a mass displacement of black and brown people all over the world. once that displacement happens, the police are going to be the number one response to punish them, to whip them, to incarcerate them. abolitionists and climate change are indispensable conversations we have to have alongside each other. i learned from critical
resistance in the aftermath of hurricane katrina when the city was devastated, the first thing built was a jail that was used to arrest people. when we think about the jails in puerto rico, they are positioned at the periphery of the island so that when the hurricanes happen they are immediately flooded will stop we have people incarcerated who suffer massive flooding, they are vulnerable to drowning, disease, vermin. if you look at any of the historical patterns of people who are migrating and emigrating to the u.s., who are fleeing climate catastrophe, they are met with border patrol and ice. the police are going to be the default response to mitigate the impacts of climate change and racism. juan: i want to ask about the aftermath of the michael brown killing back in 2014. arguably a key flashpoint in the
development of the black lives matter movement. seven years later, what do you make of whatever reforms, changes occurred in ferguson and with the ferguson police department? derecka: they are an organization still fighting to put pressure on the ferguson police department to implement weak reforms that came as a result of the consent decree that was put in place under the obama administration. seven years, you have people in ferguson still fighting to eliminate cases of people who have outstanding warrants for nearly a decade ago. you have a few black elected officials in ferguson now, which i think could be a step forward because many of them are trying to figure out how to reduce the level of violence, but the police are still there to serve the purpose of policing, enforcing evictions, taking in people who live in that community, doing it may be more nicely, maybe more brown people
are doing it, but the day-to-day function of the ferguson police department is the same. it is not that we just have to fight the unconstitutional policing that is taking place in the country, as we see in ferguson much of the policing is completely constitutional. i am grateful that long after the cameras left there are people in those neighborhoods who are fighting to limit the power that the ferguson police department has. amy: we are speaking in new york. it is clear that the next mayor will be a former police officer who really has rejected the idea of police abolition. in the last seconds that we have, your response? derecka: of course he does. black political officials running for office get to say that i'm black and i'm a part of law enforcement. i understand both sides. of course they create more legitimacy for the police to do bad things to harm people. i asked people not to be full by
it took us four days to get here, not because it's a long trip, but because we had to wait for the weather to clear up. look at the weather again. we're in the middle of the atlantic, north atlantic. we're in the faroe islands. there are 18 different islands. they're part of denmark, but they're their own country. 49 000 people live here, in the faroe islands. everyone seems to know everyone. it's a very small, close-knit community. on this specific island, there are four adults and four kids. lots of animals: 450 sheep. they have sheep